Sunday, May 10, 2009

16. The Lebanon: Al Rouche

Al Rouche
44 Preston Street
East Sussex

01273 734810

After too long away from the ethnic eat scene, Badgerman and I searched out the Al Rouch Lebanese restaurant in Preston Street, one of Brighton’s famous ‘food alleys’. We were drawn to look for a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean restaurant as after a couple of months of overseas-visitor-induced excess, we craved fresh, unadulterated, satisfying food.

Al Rouche is a modest looking establishment that seats approximately 40. We were met with courteous friendliness and took our pick of seats, as we were the first of the Saturday lunchtime trade. We chose the £10.95 lunchtime set menu (minimum two people) that came with a delicious and quite adequate starter mezze plate pictured left. We happily tucked into the houmous, tabouleh, moutabal- grilled aubergine pate, stuffed vine leaves, sumbouska- a cheese, onion and mint pastry, fatayer- spinach samosas, araysess- pita bread stuffed with minced lamb and kalaje jibne- pita and holoumi cheese and kebbeh- a tabouleh and meat, rugby ball-shaped, fried dumpling. All tastes and textures in this well-prepared dish complimented each other, but we thought the aubergine moutabal and araysess were particularly appealing.

Licking our fingers and remnants off the starter plate we waited a few short minutes for the main courses. My Ablameh, minced lamb with aubergines, onions and tomatoes served with plain rice looked deceptively simple (pictured right) but it was a delicious mixture of layered tastes. It reminded me of the best home cooking- satisfying, nutritious and yummy. Badgerman was equally pleased with his Mixed Grill of lamb, chicken and minced meat skewers serves on turmeric rice (pictured left). Again they were well cooked and deliciously spiced.

The manger encouraged us to try a dessert but we might have well exploded, (“…just a petite wa-fer M’sieur…?”). We did, however, have the Arabic coffee: thick, dark and delicious and served in small, handleless cups which was excellent and had me, not a big coffee drinker reaching for a second cup.

The regular menu was full of wonderfully tempting dishes all reasonable priced. Judging by how quickly Al Rouch filled up on a sunny Saturday lunchtime it looks a quietly popular place. All customers were greeted warmly and made to feel valued and obviously enjoyed their food; everything that I saw come out of the kitchen looked good.

Our bill with drinks but excluding tip was £32.50.

Ambience: 3
Food presentation: 3
Food quality: 3.5
Service: 4
Value for money: 3

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