Le Comptoir [Mezze] (Moroccan, Lebanese) – Kensal Green
If there’s one point that Comptoir Mezze’s (very soon to be rebranded Le Comptoir) shopfront manages to conspicuously convey, it’s that they endeavour to serve “authentic” Moroccan and Lebanese cuisine.
Having won Time Out’s Love London Awards in 2016, it has consistently received Tripadvisor’s “Certificate of Excellence” from 2014 to 2016.
The restaurant has taken full advantage of its street corner location by creating a semi-secluded wooden patio outside with seating for around 20.
It appears as though full advantage has also been taken of the entire range of the chocolate-coloured spectrum for the restaurant’s decor. While the darker tones dominate its exterior, softer and lighter hues are used alongside the earthen tones of beige, taupe and cream, which, in conjunction with Moroccan-inspired ceiling shades that caste atmospheric shadows across the walls and ceiling, create a soothingly moody ambience.
With a total capacity of 70, which includes 48 on the inside, Le Comptoir also offers an al fresco experience in its Moroccan Garden during the summer months.
According to its owners, the restaurant is renowned for its traditional North African Berber tagines.
The best of these attractive trio of juices was the Apple, Mint & Lemon. A beautifully balanced beverage that had a refreshing mintiness to it while delivering a lovely tangy kick with every given sip.
The second was certainly the Strawberry, Vanilla & Mango. Nicely concentrated, with a thick and lushness consistency, whose delicious fruitiness was essentially defined by the strawberry and a hint of mango. Very well made!
As for the Comptoir Mixed Berry, then its pleasant, mellow citrusy taste, underscored by the sharpness of the berry, made this a cool and refreshing choice.
The only real criticism we managed was that all three could and should have been served properly chilled.
The initial flavour of lemon, which emerges almost immediately, eventually makes way for the subtle smokiness of the aubergine.
This was a Baba Ganoush that was done well without being anything memorable.
It was served with thin slices of naan bread that were firm in texture.
This Chicken Pastilla (or Bastila) is, essentially, a super-miniaturised version of a ginormous dish that’s traditionally reserved for über special occasions, such as weddings, where its prepared large enough to feed well over a dozen people, it not more.
Now, if these are anything near as good as Comptoir’s, then FtL would really appreciate a kind invitation to any traditional Moroccan weddings with plans of serving up one of these beauties!
In any case, this particular one had us immediately standing to attention as soon as we drove our knife into its thin, multilayered, über crunchy pastry encasing, and towards its über generous chicken filling.
What we encountered was an undulating roller coaster ride, whose strong and subtle spicy peaks and troughs combined with a variety of sweet and savoury bends and turns to create a fully immersive taste and textural experience!
The first thing to come through was the spicy cinnamon. This was quickly followed by the distinct sweetness of the sugar powder along with the caramelised onions, before slowly giving way to the spices folded through the softness of the shredded chicken therein, which had a deeply rich and umptuous meaty flavour that kept us thoroughly enthralled right till the very end.
Could this be an early contender for our end of year FtLion Awards?
The falafels’ interior were slightly on the dry side, but meaty in texture and full of herby flavour.
As for the luminous pickled beetroot, then these worked as an effective counter to the gentle flavours of the falafel precisely because it wasn’t as intensely pickled as it could have been.
Absolutely bang on with the cooking of this Grilled Haloumi Steak.
Soft as you like; zero rubberiness that one will often find with most equivalent restaurants; gorgeous dark griddle marks across the top that leant a touch of smokiness that made way for a lovely sweet aftertaste – almost as though it’s been brushed in something sweet.
The pastry was thin, delicate and flaky, whilst the cheese and spinach filling smoothly textured.
The chilli dip had a fruitiness to it that complimented the gentle cheesiness of the parcels adding just enough heat to lift this to a superior level.
It was accompanied by a black olive, diced pepper and lettuce salad.
Yes Yes! Another expertly made Calamari with a superb, light crispy exterior with a touch of heat to it, and a tender interior with just the right amount of chewiness.
Moreover, it came with the same chilli sauce as served with the Cheese Briouat.
The smokiness of the purred aubergine in this Zaalouk was distinct and apparent without being overpowering.
It’s consistency was decent enough with some texture to it making it a well balanced spicy dip.
With its symmetrically-layered and colourful assortment of rustically presented meats and vegetables, this really was a ‘Royale’ tagine.
Piled up high was an absolutely tender combination of chicken, lamb and kebabs, juxtaposed with chunky, firm pieces of carrots, courgettes and butternut squash, along with soft potatoes, that were all topped with soft, caramelised onions sprinkled in cinnamon.
In addition, the simple bowl of gravy accompaniment is meant to be emptied entirely over the contents of the tagine so as to fully hydrate the cous cous.
Needless to say, the plethora of flavous, textures and aromas were seemingly endless.
The barbeque grilled kebab, though soft on the inside, managed to retain a crispy exterior, with the smokiness being clear and apparent.
And while the beautifully tender chicken practically fell apart, the lamb in this particular pot was, on account of it being leaner and less fatty, superior in quality than the lamb used in the tagine below, with a marination that delivered a spicy-sweet aftertaste.
A wholesome, hearty dish which, given the generous portion, was superb value for money at just £13.95!
Although the lamb was, despite flaking apart and coming off the bone at the merest touch, slightly on the fatty side, its layer of masala-cum nutty marination was, nevertheless, flavourous and well spiced.
What’s more, the same masala was also present in the broth and, thus, continued to be cooked giving it a more intensified flavour. Hence, although one Lion preferred said broth to be sweeter, the partially caramelised prunes played their part in imparting some much needed sweetness to counter the harshness of the caught at the bottom of the clay pot.
As such, the strength of flavour achieved in this Lamb tagine was unparalleled, with the almonds providing textural contrast.
If you’re looking for an unabashed tagine that packs a punch, look no further.
As for the Chicken tagine, then this was, arguably, a pinch of salt less from being a perfectly seasoned and, therefore, the best of the trio of tagines on the night.
Hence, whilst the breast and leg were as delightfully tender as those in the Royale, and the large potato pieces cooked just right, this wasn’t enough to stop two Lions considering the dish to be slightly on the salty side.
And though the remaining one believed the gentle sourness of the preserved lemons coupled with the pungency of the green olives to be a sufficient counter, on the whole, has this beautifully presented tagine, with its lovely herby-cum-lemony flavour, come with cous cous in place of the well made bread, it would have crossed the road first to take the chequered flag.
Actually, Le Comptoir recently opened the UK’s first Moroccan vegan restaurant Comptoir V.
This one was comprised of 3-layers of nice and fluffy pancakes, with slices of strawberry and nutella sauce as fillings, and all covered in icing sugar.
It was good without being anything outstanding where the freshness of the strawberries worked well against the sweetness of the chocolate.
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
- DISABLED FACILITIES
Surprisingly, this restaurant is a relatively unknown one within London's Halal restaurant scene; but one that deserves far more recognition for its uncompromising flavours. In fact, one of the starters, viz. the Chicken Pastilla, could just be in the running for our end of year awards, it was that good.
Note also that Comptoir Mezze will soon be renamed and rebrandedLe Comptoir.
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