Beirut has always been lauded as the Paris of the Middle East and known for its delicious cuisine. Despite the sometimes difficult political realities, the Lebanese still are the world’s greatest hosts and know how to serve fantastic food. Over the years I have come to love Beirut like home and every time I go back, I cannot wait to visit old-favourites and make new discoveries. The following list is the result of my many visits and adventures.
Falamenki (Damascus Road, Sodeco). Delicious Lebanese food! Lots of Mezze to satisfy the many cravings! Plus, I love the beautiful location and traditional flair. It has a lovely green open-air courtyard (which is a true treasure in Beirut), you can play Tawla and smoke Nargile.
Tawlet (12 Rue Naher, Armenia St). Tawlet is much more than simply a restaurant; all the produce is organic and locally grown, the cooks and menu changes on a daily basis and always come from a different region in Lebanon. Profits are used to support the local farmers and cooks. The restaurant itself reflects the fresh and healthy food, with a large tables to share and beautiful light. They also have a weekly farmers market Souk el Tayeb. Also, over the years Tablet has come to include a number of fantastic food projects and initiatives, for further information check out their website!
Casablanca (Rue Dar el Mreisseh). Always a must when I’m in Beirut. In fact, this place is definitely among my ultimate, world-wide favourites. The food is the perfect mix between Lebanese, Mediterranean, American and Asian. The result is real yummy food. The menu always includes raw fish, gyoza, organic vegetables and salads. The restaurant itself is beautiful too, overlooking Beirut's corniche and the Mediterranean sea.
MEAT the FISH (Mar Maroun Street, Saifi Village). Perfect for dinner! They have a small menu that changes regularly, usually daily with a focus on fresh fish and one or two meat dishes and fresh salads. I love coming here and have an array of the different delicious dishes. Great cookies and cake are served too.
Motto (Rue de Madrid, Mar Mikhael). A fairly new addition to the Beirut food-scene, which sees itself as an incubator for food talent in Lebanon. Each week different chefs (aspiring and known) cook a set menu inspired by different cuisines. You may have Indian, Moroccan or Italian. You get to pay what you think is fair and enjoy a delicious meal!
Oslo (Mar Mickael Street, Gemmazye - Mar Mickael). A delicious sweet treat - ice cream! Also, some of the best cookies and cakes I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. Added bonus, the beautiful store.
You must also have Manouche while in Beirut. Manouche is dough that is traditionally covered in the local thyme concoction called Zaatar. Other classic variations are Zaatar with labne and vegetables, lahme bilajien, which is minced, spiced beef with a dab of chilli and squeeze of lemon, or haloumi cheese. Be adventurous and try different flavours throughout Beirut.
I’ve been lucky enough to stay at the Albergo (137 Rue Abdel Wahab El Inglizi), which is a truly beautiful hotel. Expect it to be pricey, but worth every penny. Beautiful rooms, perfect location and helpful staff. They also have a great rooftop terrace which is perfect for a drink above the bustle of Beirut.
There is plenty to see in Beirut - including the controversially restored down-town and the still eerily empty Hilton Hotel, destroyed during the long years of the civil war. One of my favourite spots is the Sursock Museum (Greek Orthodox Archbishopric Street, Ashrafieh), which re-opened after a long renovation in fall 2015. The museum has a long tradition and history and beautiful tells local history. They also have a great cultural programme supporting local artists and their craft.
For some shopping, a stroll through Gemmayze and Mar Mickael is always a good idea - new stores are always popping up. I love to pass by Zaarura Edition (268 Gouraud Street), where they sell etchings made by local artists and students. I always visit Plan Bey (Armenia St), which sells beautiful pictures and posters of old Beirut (though a tad overpriced!). And I pass by Paper Cup (Agopian Building, Pharaon St), which has a fantastic selection of magazines (and a large selection of non-fiction books) and where you can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. My favourite magazine is The Carton, about food, culture and the Middle East - three of my favourite things!
Then there is the antique market in Basta, where you can find everything from trash to treasure. For unique collection of oriental clothes and furniture visit Orient 499 (Omar Daouk St, Hammoud Building, Mina El Hosn).
To discover your own treasures, make use of the fantastic Zawarib “Welcome to Beirut” Maps, which are made by a group of locals, who walk through Beirut to find the newest and nicest treasures Beirut has to offer.
Updated March 2016