513 Uxbridge Rd • Hatch End • HA5 4JS • 020 8428 9973
Reviewed by Lisa Botwright
Aesthetically, Lattakia is a restaurant of two halves. As I enter, the interior looks serene and modern, almost Scandi-minimalist with its neutral colours, but when I look up it’s a different matter. A mass of gorgeous Lebanese lamps are scattered across the ceiling and their brightly coloured glass twinkles invitingly…
Just as inviting is the friendly manner of the staff. Having ushered us to a cosy table by the window, our waiter chats knowledgeably through the menu, and when my husband and I hesitate indecisively, offers to put together a couple of mezze platters so that we can try a little of everything.
Our chosen bottle of white arrives promptly, along with a delicious-looking amuse-bouche of pickled vegetables with a trio of dips (garlic, chilli and sesame). The crunchy, sharp flavours, mixed with the creaminess of the dips, wake up our palate perfectly. Soon after, a dish of the restaurant’s signature flatbread arrives, warm from the oven, all round and pillowy until I break into it eagerly and it flattens in a waft of steam.
The waiter has selected six dishes for our first course, three from each of the hot and cold selection of starters on the menu. It’s all artfully heaped (in that trendy, slightly haphazard, but inviting way) on a large platter. We dig in happily to home-made Hummus, Motabaal (aubergine dip), Tabouleh (a herb-y salad with bulgur wheat), Falafel, Kibbeh Levantine (patties of spicy ground mince) and two types of Rekakat – they’re savoury filo pastry parcels, a bit like spring rolls – one cheese and one meat. We’re faced with an astonishing amount of food, yet everything tastes so fresh and light. There’s a hint of cumin here and a touch of cinnamon there, and the lemon juice and mint bring it all together and make it sing. Absolutely delicious.
For a midweek night, it’s pleasantly buzzy in here, with an even mix of couples and groups. I find it no surprise that the restaurant’s busy. The food is reasonably priced, and tastes deliciously home made – simple, and authentic. Lattakia also lends itself perfectly to the kind of relaxed, casual, convivial dining that makes chatting with friends around a table such a pleasure. The emphasis is certainly on making the guests feel welcome. Somebody on the next table has a birthday, and endearingly, all the staff come out to sing; even the chef saunters out of the kitchen.
Perhaps he needed a break after working so hard on our main course? Our next platter has arrived, sizzling enticingly, fresh from the grill. It’s a generous selection of no less than five different chicken and lamb dishes from the menu: Lahma Meshwi, Shish Taouk, Lattakia Kofta, and Chicken and Lamb Shwarma, all accompanied by salad and a dish of fluffy white and wild rice. (I sigh with rice-envy – why can I never get mine like this at home?). The meat is very tender, and is elevated sumptuously by the individual flavours of the marinade. Our favourite is the first dish from the list I’ve mentioned – the big, plump cubes of lamb are so moreish.
Leaning back in our chairs a little later on, contentedly savouring our coffee and sticky Baklawas, we gaze around the room and comment on the open kitchen at the far end. We both agree it’s a really good sign when a restaurant is happy to have their ‘nerve centre’ on show, and it certainly looks calm and organised in there. When I mention this to the waiter, he says, “We want to show everyone we care what we’re doing.” And it strikes me that I couldn’t sum up their ethos better myself.