A hidden gem with some seriously-seductive credentials, Levant is a bar and restaurant fronting traditional Lebanese cuisine, unique entertainment and a hearty list of bespoke cocktails. Never one to shy away from a bucket load of baba ganoush, I ventured into Central London to experience Levant’s wares for myself. And the rest, is history is below.
Tucked away down a side street near to St Christopher’s Place and Marylebone High Street, Levant has a relatively low-key entrance, with just a few outside tables and subtle signage being the main clue to its whereabouts. But once you’re in, you’ll certainly know about it. Laden with dull candles and nods to the Middle East, you’ll get a real flavour of Levant even on the way in. Once you’re downstairs you enter into the venue through the bar, which though as not as big as the restaurant space, has seating around the perimeter and plenty of space to dance once the cocktails take hold. The separate restaurant area somehow perfectly balances a massive space with a really intimate ambience. As you’d expect, the décor centres on reds, golds and other deep colours, with comfy seating and bigger tables for larger groups around the edge of the space.
I’m a big fan of Lebanese food, partly because I genuinely love the cuisine, but mostly because I'm a slave to food envy - so a sharing, multi-dish feast is my absolute ideal. Luckily for me, Levant did not disappoint. They do have á la carte options, but the real jewels in their crown are the ‘feast’ menus. We went for the ‘Mashawy Feast’ for two (£36 per person), which promises a range of cold starters coupled with warm traditional breads (think baba ganoush, hummus, pickles – all the good stuff), followed by a mouth-watering selection of fried lamb, sautéed potatoes, crisp salad and several other complementary treats for the main. The food was perfectly spiced, well-seasoned, and there was plenty of it. The dessert followed tasty suit in the form of a selection of authentic sweets, Turkish delights and fresh fruit, all served with a palate-pleasing pot of rose mint tea. Drinks-wise, the ‘Levant’s Twists’ are equally as delicious; special shout out goes to the bespoke ‘Rihana’, a hefty mix of vodka, apple liqueur, fresh lime, apple juice, basil and caster sugar.
Buzzing and positively pulsing throughout – we visited on a Friday night, and both the restaurant and bar were busy with couples and groups the whole evening. Though the tables aren't communal, there’s a definite convivial vibe going on at Levant, very much helped along by their unique entertainment in the form of their superbly-skilled belly dancers. Half way through the meal, the music is cranked up and four buxom beauties descend onto the restaurant, authentic outfits and expert belly-shaking-skills in tow. I spent the first few minutes mentally choreographing my moves should I be pulled up to join the dancers (this is not a gangly skinny white guy’s natural habitat, I can assure you), but along with the rest of the crowd, really enjoyed the performance. Though the girls look ultra-glam in their traditionally-skimpy get up, there’s nothing seedy about belly dancing when it’s done properly. Lots of clapping, lots of amateur shaking and plenty of fun – it’s a really lively accompaniment to dinner, and also sets the tone for a rowdier evening to come once you’re done eating.
As I said, I’m a big fan of this type of cuisine, and with that have been to a fair few restaurants where they’ve missed the mark. Levant is not one of these. The service is blinding (hats off to the friendly servers), the food is gorgeous and the entertainment is unique, and loads of fun. You can find yourself hard pushed to find a non-pretentious, good restaurant in this area of town – which is why Levant really is a cracker to know about (you thank me later).