Al Salam

 

Tel: +44 (0)1865 245710
Address: 6 Park End Street, Oxford, OX1 1HH
Cuisine Type: Lebanese

Lebanese culture has been gradually getting more attention in London and the home counties in the last year or two, with hostilities in Beirut providing an interesting focus for gastronomes to consider. Here is a country bombed almost to oblivion by all and sundry which is now offering the world a taste of its good side.

Oxford has followed London’s example and now has itself a Lebanese restaurant in the shape of Al Salam, west of central Oxford and a little way from the dreaming spires. It offers a lively and large selection of “hors d’oeuvres” and about half as many main courses, so this place is particularly good for those with an inclination to try many dishes in one sitting, with a tapas format of small silver platters providing the mainstay of the meal.

Between us we sampled moussaka which, unlike Greek and other varieties, comes sans mince. The fried aubergine, chick peas, tomatoes and spices were gooey and chewy in equal measure. Maqaniq, or fried cocktail sausages served the Lebanese way, were fine to try but Sujuq, small slices of Armenian sausage, were far more friendly for the palate. Various salads were bland but filling and a Lebanese red wine (yes, they do make wine!) offered a taste as subtle as petrol but we found it rather easy to drink.

The pudding menu consisted of a platter held in front of us for our perusal. It held a selection of home-made pastries including one deliciously fattening affair involving angel hair and a filling with the consistency of creme brulee. Lebanese coffee at £1 per espresso cup was less pleasant than it might have been but mint tea offered all the aromas one might expect from such a beverage.

Vegetarian options are clearly indicated on the menu and the clientele appeared to be a mixed bunch of families and students enjoying a good variety of middle eastern cuisine. Good value food and an authentic taste of the region’s offerings.

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