I was excited to find a recently opened pastry shop next to my house, and so I went to taste a sample of their products. The lady that helped me there was very friendly and the items were nicely displayed in the shop. I chose some treats for my breakfast and headed home to devour them. I started with the croissants. They were pleasantly crispy and flaky, yet very heavy on the butter, which was a shame. Then I tried the flutes with thyme, which were crunchy and surprisingly not oily, but I would opt for the ones with the cheese next time. As for the sweet confections, the chocolate sable was good. However, the soft and fluffy madeleines were my favorite, and it was difficult to stop myself from eating them all in one go. I think that I would return to try other delicacies they have to offer, as well as their bread.
Felicie (French Eaterie) – Mar Mikhael
I actually saw the sign of the name of this restaurant being put up from where I was comfortably seated at the neighboring “parlour of sage”. I was excited when I read “French Eaterie” and placed it at the top of my list of new eateries to try out for lunch when it opened. First of all, I would like to point out that we were warmly welcomed and shown to a table, and that our waiter was great. It was very clear that he cared, and he put in so much effort to make sure our order was correct and that we had everything we needed. This was in contrast to the other waiters who looked like they were on a coffee break behind the counter. I would like to also praise the manager who came to our table twice to ensure all is well because they have opened their doors recently, and then asked for my feedback taking into consideration my honest comments gracefully. While we were waiting for our order to arrive, I looked around at the decoration. I liked how the bottles were used for that purpose, as well as how jars and other products were put on display along the length of the wall. My favorite part of the meal was at the very beginning; the bread, butter, and olive tapenade. The bread was warm, the olive spread was tasty, and that ball of butter with herbs was delicious. As a starter, we ordered one of their galettes. It was fine; not out of this world but also not bad either. For my main dish, I ordered a burger–honestly, if I weren’t pregnant with zero immunity, I would have tried something else. I did enjoy the flavor of their candied onions with the meat and cheese, but at a point I encountered an unpleasant chewy chunk within the patty. I also thought that the bun (especially the top part) was too thick and I had to remove it midway through eating the platter. As I previously mentioned, the friendly manager showed interest in what I had to say and seemed dedicated to improving their dishes. I genuinely wish Felicie the best moving forward.
Paul – Ghazir
Paul makes me feel comfortable. I like the ambiance and the friendly service. I love that their fresh bread and pastries are part of their decoration. If you are a breakfast person, like me, Paul is a great place to head to. They have a selection of items on display, as well as an additional menu featuring breakfast “formules”. First, our drinks arrived. I ordered the hot chocolate which reminded me of homemade mixes which was nice, although I do prefer mine a tad more dense and chocolatey. I had one of the pieces of bread in the basket (with their creamy butter and right-amount-of-sweet jam), and I found it a bit tough to bite into. However, the olive bread in my sandwich was very soft and delicious, along with the cheese within it. As for the croissants, I like how crispy and flaky they are. Breakfast at Paul is something that I really enjoy and I will surely keep coming back for more!
Blu – Mtayleb
Chocolate cravings? In the mood for chocolate, cakes, and the like, we happened to spot Blu as we were going up the winding road home. We decided that this time we would pass by. The lady assisting us was friendly and tried to be helpful. However, the lack of training was apparent because she was not knowledgeable about the ingredients within the cake pieces and had to keep asking for information from another lady on the phone. We ended up choosing a variety of items to try and headed to the car. For me, the humble mini cupcakes were my favorite to nibble on. They were fluffy and moist, and it was difficult to stop myself from devouring all the bag’s constituents. As for the cookies, the thicker ones were better than the regular chocolate chip cookie encasing an Oreo cookie; I felt that the latter was a bit dry. Yet, the double chocolate chip cookie was the best one in that box because it was extremely chocolatey, for hiding inside was more melted chocolate. Considering the second box with the cake pieces, my first comment would be about the chocolate tart crust; it was tasty but did not crumble delicately beneath your teeth. In addition, the chocolate eclair was pleasant and not too heavy although the pastry cream inside was also chocolate. In general, the chocolate used in their cake pieces was creamy and rich. I did end up feeling overly saturated with sugar when I had tasted everything; although I am partly to blame for that because of wanting to steal a bite out of all the goodies we had bought.
Angelina – Beirut
Going to Angelina for brunch made me feel like an excited child about to open a gift on Christmas day. I thought about what I would order, and of course about the pictures I could take there. After we parked the car, we enjoyed the stroll on our way to the famous French restaurant and patisserie. When we arrived and went in, we were greeted by friendly waiters, lovely painted sections of white walls, and mostly brown furniture to balance the brightness. After we were seated and readily provided with a high chair, it was time to order. Being a brunch kind of person, I wanted to taste a variety of their breakfast offerings. Angelina provides different breakfast set menus, an egg menu that starts at 9 am and an additional a la carte menu that goes on until noon, after which there is a brunch menu and lunch platters that begin to be served. We were still in time for the breakfast menus, and opted to feast on Angelina breakfasts and Eggs Benedict platters with smoked salmon. The waiter took note of all the order mentally, including our choices from the options provided for the Angelina breakfasts. Yes, no jotting down anything on a piece of paper, and no inputting the information on a tablet, and our order turned out perfectly fine; no mistakes here. As the food arrived, I had to take photographs of the constituents while they were still in their pristine condition; although, I have to admit that sometimes I slightly annoy the company I am with, who comply despite their hunger. We started with the bread and butter, as well as the selection of croissants and jams; I liked their zaatar croissant. I especially enjoyed the Angelina hot chocolate that I had chosen. It was thick, creamy, and satisfying, and weirdly, it tasted as good (maybe even better) when it turned colder. Let’s just say, if you feel like drinking a chocolate bar, this comes very close to gratifying that need. Then the eggs made their debut. Zooming in on the Eggs Benedict; it was wonderfully appetizing when the hollandaise sauce merged with the bright orange goodness that cascaded from the poached eggs when they were cut open. The eggs seated on hidden smoked salmon and the whole combination of the platter is indeed delicious (all hail the creator of this dish). Another easier, yet delicate way to have your eggs done is the soft-boiled method, and for the eggs to be great, they have to be boiled just the right amount. As I was breaking the shell of the egg, I awaited the oozing of the runny yolk down the sides, creating a tasty mess. I was not disappointed, the anticipation had not gone to waste. I dipped the toasted sticks of bread into the core and reveled in the momentary happiness of the simpler things in life.
Another source of joy for me is pastry. Angelina has a patisserie section filled with appealing confections on display. We ordered the staple “Le Mont-Blanc” signature piece, as well as the “Duchesse” and “Bianca” to take home with us. Honestly, I preferred Angelina’s Salted to their Caramel; their pastry is a tad on the sweet side for my taste. However, I would like to note that the great service also extended to their patisserie; the lady that was there was polite and friendly. Moreover, the waiter was knowledgeable about pieces that Angelina had previously had and the components of each dessert, when I inquired about them. I left Angelina knowing that I would be returning to enjoy their breakfast once again.
Fred French Bistro – Achrafieh
I would not go back to Fred French Bistro because if you are looking for a French bistro there is a better one that I know of. On a positive note, I thought that the interior was nice, with its stone walls and arches. Also, one of the walls was divided into a grid encompassing different painted plates; I thought that was a pleasant artistic feature. We commenced with bread and butter, served in a basket. For a starter, we ordered the home smoked salmon salad. The only thing that had a fresh taste in that salad was the salmon; it was like they had removed a ready-made cold salad from the fridge, and added the salmon on top of it as a cover-up. For mains, we ordered the fish and filet (steak) platters. The fish was overcooked and dry, and the vegetables and sauce failed to moisten it. As for the meat, well, it was delicious and tender. However, it was comically small (especially for the price tag); I would call it a bite which could easily fall under the starters’ section. We then ordered the creme brulee for dessert, which was good, and it came in an interesting glass vessel. Honestly, apart from the cuisson of the meat, our taste buds were left unsatisfied.
Couqley – Dbayeh
If you are looking for a French bistro in Lebanon, without even thinking this is the place that I will recommend. I love Couqley. The ambiance and the service is great, but the real star of it all is the food. First, you are greeted by bread peeking through the cozy checkered blanket they are snuggled in. Then, after trying not to fill up on the bread and butter, the dishes that you ordered begin arriving. The salmon tartare is really well-seasoned; you feel as if all the ingredients balance each other perfectly. The organic honey vinaigrette is the perfect dressing for the grilled shrimp salad, with its fromage frais and strawberries (another really flavorful salad you can order is the goat cheese salad, with its apples and oranges). It is now time for the item on the menu that prevents you from trying anything else to replace it with as a main dish: Couqley’s Steak Frites. A round of applause, please. The sauce that rightfully smothers your steak and demands your attention is truly delicious. I am so glad they are generous with it because even after your steak is done, you now need it to soak your fries in it. Then, when you think you are absolutely full to the brim, you have to have the final act: the dessert. The pain perdu with its scoop of vanilla ice cream is indeed the perfect finish. The bread is extremely moist, and with the melting vanilla and caramel syrup; they all merge into a spoonful that would satisfy any sugar addict. Little did I know, that this time when I went to Couqley, I would get an extended grand finale and encore. As, I was leaving, I spot the French mastermind behind these perfectly-balanced flavorful creations; chef Alexis Couquelet. I backtrack to ask him if I can take his photograph, and although he was on his break, he was really sweet about it. You can see the evidence above. That made my night.