Where’s Tommy Cooper when you need him?

dav

It’s hard to imagine how the restaurant chain Comptoir Libanais could brandish its Lebanese identity more blatantly other than by chaining Terry Waite to a radiator in a side room and keeping him hostage.

Its recently-opened Birmingham restaurant – one of 23 in this country and the Netherlands – could hardly be more kitsch.

There’s garish stained glass, lots of tiles, hammered metal table-tops, displays of gaudy bags and boxes and paintings of various famous people wearing a fez, including a young Queen Elizabeth II.

I sought out a picture of the headgear’s most famous wearer Tommy Cooper but, alas, there could find none.

Comptoir Libanais

Which is regrettable for I was hoping the comedic magician might be able to wave his wand and transport me somewhere that felt more authentic.

This city’s branch of is located in Grand Central, a shopping mall that seems to me to represent the greedy Fourth Circle of Dante’s Rings of Hell.

A spare hour between business meetings – and a rumbling tummy – led me to the restaurant on a late afternoon for I fancied something light, fast and simple.

The lamb kofta fattet that I ordered ticked the boxes.

It was light if that word can be used to signify an ungenerous portion. And it arrived super-fast.

It was also simple – simply rather dull.

Comptoir Libanais

Under-seasoned small lamb kofta lay in a pleasant tahini and yoghurt sauce that added much-needed moisture for the meat was dry.

There were toasted shards of flatbread, but I found only one strand of the promised “crispy” onion (the correct word is “crisp”, for pity’s sake) in the earthenware bowl.

A sprinkling of tired fresh herbs and diced tomato did little to enliven things.

It was a dish that I ate with little enthusiasm as I contemplated the places that I might have visited had I not been too lazy to walk – places that are independent and a whole lot more authentic.

Comptoir Libanais

Morosely, I finished a glass of roomana – a pomegranate and orange blossom soft drink of such sweetness that I feared for my teeth.

Comptoir Libanais’s menu ticks a lot of boxes – mezzo, salads, tagines, grills and blah blah blah.

But, then, I’m guessing there’s been a major input from fez-clad accountants anxious to maximise their investment by ticking a whole lot of predictable boxes.

There are restaurants in Birmingham serving similar food that are way ahead, I think.

Comptoir Libanais

Unit 29, Grand Central, Birmingham B2 4BF. 0121 667 3160.

https://www.comptoirlibanais.com