Yasmeen is a Lebanese restaurant, aiming to create an authentic Lebanese experience for those looking for home away from home, and those looking to explore another culture. I went along for my first taste of Lebanese food – here’s the verdict.
The friendly team at Yasmeen decided to give my friend Linda and I a full on introduction to Lebanese food – we ate so much! We had a selection of hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, a main from the grill and a traditional dessert. The Hummus and Moutabel (mashed smoked aubergine) were both stand out – they tasted so fresh and were actually really flavoursome for something that could so easily be bland! I’m not a fan of aubergine at all but the Moutabel was amazing!
My favourite hot hors d’oeuvres were the Falafel, Kibbeh and Yasmeen Makanek. I often find Falafel dry, especially when it goes cold but Yasmeen got it spot on. The Kibbeh (crushed wheat and minced meat) is a bit like a meaty version of falafel so that was a thumbs up too 🙂 The Yasmeen Makanek is a twist on a Lebanese classic – lamb sausages with a tasty tomato sauce. The rest of the starters were nice as well but a lot of it was fried – and non-fried, cold starters often doused in olive oil! – so, having them all together was a bit too oily for me. We had the privilege of previewing one dish which isn’t yet on the menu – a salad with red onions, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, pomegranate seeds and pomegranate molasses. I do hope it makes it onto the main menu as it is, as it was beautiful, perfect for summer! We also had some other salads, which looked more like works of art – top marks for presentation. For the main, we shared a Mixed Grill and a Kastaletta (we were already stuffed from the starters!) which included skewers of chicken, lamb and minced lamb. They were all juicy, tender and well seasoned but my favourite was the minced lamb. For dessert, how could we say no to some Baklava?! For those of us who have a sweet tooth, it doesn’t get much better 😉 We also tried a traditional Lebanese Mouhalabia, a pudding made with grounded rice, milk and rose water, topped with pistachios.
Unfortunately, for both Linda and I the rose water overpowered the dessert so we could only manage a few bites. Perhaps we are just not used to the taste so don’t take my word for it – try it yourself! Overall, the food at Yasmeen was good – you can tell that they use high quality, fresh ingredients. I was more impressed with the starters than the main but I suppose it is quite difficult to set yourself apart with a dish like the Mixed Grill, as delicious as it was!
The obvious accompaniment to my first authentic Lebanese meal was, of course, some Lebanese wine. We had the La Dame Blanche Kefraya, a light, sweet, fruity white wine which I highly recommend. There is an extensive wine list with both Lebanese and international wines, plus a short cocktail list along with the usuals. If you do want to try a wine, the staff at Yasmeen all know their stuff so your best bet is to ask for a recommendation.
The small team at Yasmeen are like a family and you can feel that vibe in the restaurant. We had a good chat with a few members of the team, and learned more about the Lebanese community in London. We also found out that one of Yasmeen’s customers travels all the way from Nottingham for a taste of home away from home! The restaurant is in St John’s Wood rather than central London, so it is quite quiet and doesn’t get too busy, even on a Friday evening. If you like to eat in restaurants where you can barely hear the person opposite you then this definitely isn’t the place for you. But for a quiet, intimate meal with welcoming, passionate staff, it’s an excellent choice.
The Fine Print
Hors d’oeuvres cost between £6 and £8, mains are around the £15 mark, side dishes are £4 and desserts range from £6 to £8. The portion sizes are pretty generous so these prices are not too bad, especially for such a high end area of London. There is a range of wine for every budget with glasses starting at £5.50 and bottles starting at £23, and cocktails are around £8 each.
Yasmeen is a brilliant local restaurant welcoming London’s Lebanese community who want a taste of home and other cultures alike. If you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth a visit however, with a wealth of Lebanese restaurants across the capital, it may not be worth a long journey across the city. For an authentic taste of Lebanon in relaxed, warm surroundings, Yasmeen is a North London gem.