Sunday, 27 May 2012

Al Hamra Review

kafta yoghurt

Occasionally I have sat down at a restaurant and thought I should leave because I feel it is not going to be a good experience, which is exactly what I felt when we sat down at Al Hamra I at 31-33 Shepherd's Market n Mayfair.

The outside tables were set-up for 6 people and there were four of us and our waiter started to move us toward and table where two people were already sitting, but there was no gap between the tables and I said no, as this was not Wagamamas. The waiter moved us towards an empty table without a smile but with a look of disdain as if to say who are we to decide were to sit.

From there it went down hill. The spirits were being charged at £7.50 and I asked if they were single or double measures and our waitress didn't know, but also didn't offer to find out. Whilst looking at our menu we noticed a small note on the front cover of the menu saying there was a minimum spend per person of £25 excluding drinks. Now I appreciate with outside tables that they don't want people to take up seats to have coffee, but what a cheek to say a minimum spend. It meant you had to have a starter and a main course, because there was only one dish, Dover sole, that was more than £25. There was a discussion about whether we should leave or stay, but we decided to stay. A plate of crudities was brought to our table which was colourful and fresh. We thought it was a nice gesture, until much later when we got the bill we saw that we paid £2.50 per person as a cover charge for this, oh this also included some flat bread.
kibbeh maklieh
We ordered three starters, falafel (ball or patty of chickpea deep fried), kibbeh maklieh (ground lamb meatball with spices) and fatayer (spinach, pine nuts and onion in a pastry) The falafel and kibbeh where warm and tasty with a nice hint of spice, both had a crispy coating from the deep frying and were not greasy. The fatayer pastry was soggy and you could only taste the onion in the filling as the spinach and pine nuts were tasteless.
I ordered samakeh harrah (baked trout with tomato sauce) and my friends ordered kafta yoghurt (spiced diced lamb with yoghurt), kafta antabieh (spiced ground lamb on a skewer and bbq'd) and veal escalope. The trout had been filleted and was moist, tasty with a wonderful pinkness to the flesh, but the sauce was totally overpowering and destroyed the delicate flavour of the fish. The veal escalope was over cooked and too dry and my partner said it was very bland. The kafta antabieh was well cooked with wonderful aromatic flavours. The kafta yoghurt was also tasty and the lamb was fresh and well cooked.
veal escalope
After we finished our meal the dishes were left on our table for about 30 minutes and we ended up moving them to the spare two seats on our table. Eventually the staff got the hint and removed them.
kafta antabieh
The staff were miserable and standoffish. At one point I went into the restaurant to use the toilet. I asked a member of staff were the toilets where and he just ignored me. I politely but forcefully asked him again telling him not to ignore me and he just pointed to some stairs, although his colleague did apologies. The only saving grace, regarding the staff, was our last waiter, he was very polite and witty, but by then the damage done.

The restaurant must be doing something right because it's been established since 1984, so you can't argue with it's longevity, especially for a restaurant in fickle London. Just because they are located in Mayfair, a very expensive part of London, doesn't mean you can treat people like something the dog dragged in. We all agreed we would never go back as there are much better Lebanese restaurants in London, whose food and service is much better and at cheaper prices. Our total bill came to £196 for 3 starters and 4 main courses with no wine, but with 10 beers and 2 barcardi and cokes, which we all felt was far to expensive for what we received. There is a better middle eastern restaurant around the corner from Al Hamra, calledSofra where the food and service are much better.

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