Al Hamra

31-33 Shepherd Market, London, England, W1J 7PT, United Kingdom

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Al Hamra is a long-established Lebanese restaurant in Shepherds Market, and tonight it was completely packed. The menu is very lengthy, and we ended up sharing some fairly standard Lebanese dishes. Of the starters, a smoked aubergine dip was enjoyable, while slightly spicy lamb croquettes were tasty and well seasoned.  Falaffel were a little overcooked, and I have had much better hummus than this (12/20 overall for the starters).

The main courses were much less satisfactory. My quail was cooked a bit too long, and although a lamb dish with hummus was reasonable, a sea bass was shockingly over-cooked, while okra with tomatoes was a greasy mess (10/20 for our mains). A little baklava at the end of the meal was reasonable, though some pieces were a little dried out. At least the Chateau Musar 2001 is tolerably priced here (£38 compared to a retail price of around £16) but service was functional rather than friendly.

Overall this was a significant drop in standard from my last meal here, and I have adjusted the mark down to reflect this. I still have yet to find a Lebanese restaurant serving food remotely as good as my Lebanese friends cook at home.

Below was my impression after a meal in June 2003.

A very reliable Lebanese restaurant where you can try the usual wide range of mezze style starters that characterise this cuisine, as well as some less common dishes on a very long menu. The Mayfair location is lively and has character, though the high class call girls that made this location famous are sufficiently discreet not to be noticeable.

Grilled meats at Al Hamra are much better than is usual, and service is slick. Desserts such as baklava are good. This was felt to be authentic by my Lebanese foodie friends.

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