Beirut Star


IT’S early Tuesday evening in a house with an empty fridge, a cold oven, a celebration underway, and an uncomfortable expectation on me. Apparently, I was supposed to have organised some special food.

Ah, this may have slipped my mind. And it’s now 5.00pm. Did I mention, it's a Tuesday. Suddenly I’m thinking very, very hard. At 5.05pm? Still thinking. But also now cursing high-maintenance lockdown meal restaurants who all need days of notice, even if there is a slot available, and just do weekends anyway.

Moving swiftly on to 5.10pm and I'm flicking very rapidly through my phone. At 5.20pm? Even faster flicking. 5.25pm, boo-yah, problem solved. At 5.26pm I impart this great news.

The reply: “Did you just say we’re having kebabs – on my birthday?” At 5.50pm I’m standing in the doorway of The Beirut Star in Govan explaining across a table laden with wipes and gels to a chef tending a glowing charcoal grill that a) I definitely did order a meal 2) No, it really didn’t have chips 3) No, it definitely did not have a collection time of 6.50pm 4) Yes, it absolutely should be ready to pick-up at 5.50pm.

Ever had that awful feeling you may be at entirely the wrong restaurant? Eventually, I find a confirmation email and in a Chamberlain-esque gesture brandish my phone across the table with the collection time glowing triumphantly on it. Silence. Then, ah, this meal we are cooking just now, comes the reply. Phew. Now we’re all pals.

At 6.10pm I’m walking back into the house with the birthday kebabs. I don’t want to give the ending away too early but somewhere around 7pm my family will be saying, quite genuinely, as we sit back from a table strewn with the smash and grab of dishes well tackled that this has been the best lockdown meal we have ever had. By far. And we’ve had a few.

Were they kebabs? Yeah, but very proper ones. Farruj msahab first though. A golden crisp and boned and actually whole baby chicken (not portions as so many dodgy places do) lemony, seasoned with herbs, flakes of oregano still visible, crackling magnificently apart to be be piled on plates with that sumptuous butter rice.

Spinach lamb, randomly ordered, now looked at in surprise but the meat carmelised and all fully loaded with the flavours of garlic and coriander and somehow still succulent and juicy. Hummus beiruti with fresh parsley and oil and beans, then very good falafel too that we all dive into dipping and crunching and commenting upon.

There’s a tub with a creamy, chilli-ish paprika-ish dressing, a full dish of smoked aubergine baba-ghanouj, another full serving of a vibrantly green and crunchy fattoush; toasted bread chunks in the salad and pomegranate. Lots more. Sticks of those little purple salty savoury Lebanese pickles, onions seasoned and dusted with herbs, a full mixed grill I didn’t even, ahem, realise I had ordered. And hunks of succulent lamb mashawi, genuinely properly marinated and therefore moist and herby; seared chicken chunks from the grill; a chicken shawarma that somehow manages to have the faint fragrance of cinnamon and even a hint of nutmeg. And all of it accompanied by those large, thin, puffy Lebanese breads.

We finish off with slices of cool fresh fruit. Just apple and orange – but simple and refreshing.

Why was this so good? At one stage we were eating chicken from the charcoal grill prepared in three different ways. Because every single thing had an individual flavour and was, somehow, by someone, prepared with care.

How much did I pay for all this? Well, I thought I was ordering the set meze; those mixed hot and cold mezze for £27 and expecting tabbouleh, labneh, kabees, those punchy Armenian sausages, the fabulous little borak pastries I have had before. But when the dust settled I realise I had ordered instead the set menu at £38. Oops. Plus some other dishes. Hey, doesn’t matter. Worth every penny.

Beirut Star

450 Paisley Rd West

Glasgow G51 1PX

0141 427 7277

Menu: Proper stand-up Lebanese restaurant with a deep, wide charcoal grill and a serious commitment to preparing all those fabulous meze with full-fat flavour

Price: Charcoal grill dishes hover around the £11 mark, meze much cheaper, though a special occasion demanded a £38 set menu.

Food: A charcoal grill that is used with skill and care meaning moist, seasoned and full flavoured whole baby chicken; juicy, caramelised lamb. Great flavours. Very good all round.