Reviewing Lebanese restaurant Beit Beirut in Woking
PUBLISHED: 12:39 25 February 2019
Having served their street food at some of the county's leading food and drink festivals, two Lebanese brothers have launched their own restaurant. We visit Woking's new kid on the block, Beit Beirut
Running a restaurant is ALWAYS a challenge (well, if you want to do it properly!). But it’s perhaps especially tough when Christmas and New Year have just flown by and the ‘I must escape my house to eat vast amounts of food’ bug is at its lowest.
So, venturing out to a restaurant I’d never previously come across, somewhere near Woking Station, wasn’t perhaps high on my must do list to start 2019.
When I was asked to review a Lebanese restaurant in Woking, I’ll be honest, I’d presumed it was going to be Jeitta, which is found on the Church Path stretch of town including Boz’s Fruit & Veg and Cellar Magneval and has been around for some time.
The address sent through, however, didn’t quite match. This was a brand new kid on the block.
Beit Beirut may be new, having only opened in the autumn, but there’s a foodie heritage at play here that’s already deeply connected to its hometown.
Possibly best known to Woking Food & Drink Festival visitors as Shawarma Box, which offers Lebanese dishes as street food, Daniel Ajab and Rabih Ajab have established their new Lebanese restaurant in a former Italian.
World of wine
When I visit with my wife, Sylviane, on a cold mid-week January evening, Woking feels a touch like a ghost town (well, it is bang after the fireworks after all) but the welcome we find is warm.
The first thing that strikes me is the epic wine wall. When I enquire about their selection of Lebanese wines, it turns out that everything on show is just that. I like this place already.
If you haven’t tried it before, Lebanese food plays perfectly with the rising interest in ‘social dining’ experiences such as supper clubs. ‘Tapas’-style dishes offer a central point for the table’s conversation to swirl around. Explosions of flavour to dip into, excite, refresh and enlighten.
The dishes (hummus, tabbouleh, falafel etc) may have become staple offerings at the house parties of the well-travelled, adventurous and hipster across this ‘Green and Pleasant Land’, but there’s a very good reason for that – they’re delicious.
It’s admittedly very quiet when we visit, but then High Streets around the country are still basking in peace and quiet after the madness of Christmas so it’s understandable.
In our excitement talking about the new business, we slightly lose track of the dishes flying out the kitchen and in no time at all our table resembles a veritable rainbow banquet.
There’s chilli spice, there’s smokiness, there’s the freshness of vegetables, biting flat breads and velvet hummus. The tabbouleh sings and the selection of hot mezza (kibbeh, sambousek, fatayer etc) dances.
One day I’ll ask a professor of gastronomy how such a motley mix of intense flavours finds such a happy middle ground, but time and time again I find that it does.
Mains arrive in the almost unnecessary – but still thoroughly enjoyable – form of a mixed grill of lamb and chicken, with more flat breads and freshly cut salad, as well as moreish garlic and chilli heavy sauces. We’re ready to burst but there’s no rush, and we savour every moment. Every bite is a potential talking point.
It’s not fine dining, but it’s fun, delicious and there’s a passion at Beit Beirut that runs through the team and has an easy appeal.
It seems as good a time as any to launch an independent restaurant in Woking too; skyscrapers are being built which will take urban living to whole new heights in the town and Woking Food & Drink Festival has created an insatiable appetite for foodie adventures that’s yet to be sated by the current restaurant offering.
Having learnt from the streets, Beit Beirut promises to bring the party (with belly dancing, shisha and taste sensations that are perfect for sharing) to the scene. It’s like a holiday at home.
Need to know
Beit Beirut, 14 The Broadway, Woking GU21 5AP; beitbeirut.co.uk
What we ate
• Mains: Beit set menu of cold mezza, hot mezza, mains and desserts for 2 (with a few additions!), £25 per person
• Drinks: Château Kefraya Les Bretèches Red, £19.95
• The best restaurants in Surrey - Whether you’re looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here’s our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs