A night in with take-out, a boardgame and the Nintendo Wii is hardly your conventional 21st birthday celebration but I suppose, we were never conventional to begin with anyway. At the request of the birthday girl, we did away with the restaurant bookings and bus rides to have a mini Lebanese buffet delivered right to our doorstep.
Hungry House is every students dream - a collection of takeaway menus on one website so food a click away. The best part of it all is that payments can be made by card (which solves the issues with liquidity that we always seem to be facing) and the website also offers 10% off orders occasionally. The chosen Lebanese restaurant was one that had already been tried and tested by our boys and came highly recommended.
Nina's Taza Express
322 Burdett Road
London E14 7DL
We left the ordering in the capable hands of Dominic, who seemed to know his way around the menu pretty well - and he ordered up a storm. A variety of Mezza dishes, the Lebanese equivalent to tapas covered every inch of our dining table.
Wark inab b’zeit - vine leaves filled with rice, tomato, mint, parsley and onion, cooked in lemon juice and olive oil. At first glance, we thought that the parcels had to be unwrapped before eating but upon closer inspection, we realised that the vine leaves were soft and edible. This was definitely something new for a lot of us and the mix of flavours did leave us quite bewildered as we struggled to identify the ingredients. Tangy and minty, this definitely makes for an interesting dish. While we all enjoyed it, it's perhaps not for the less adventurous.
"How do they make potatoes taste this good?"
Batata Hara and Fried Vegetables - potato cubes sauteed with garlic, coriander, sweet pepper chilli, topped with fried vegetables.
Kibbeh Shameyeh - Deep-fried lamb meatballs mixed with cracked wheat and onion, filled with sauteed minced meat and onions. With their crisp, slightly flaky exterior and warm filling, the meatballs reminded me somewhat of the yam puffs one gets at dim sum restaurants. I liked that they didn't just consist of meat, but a nice crumbly mixture of ingredients.
"Who knew falafel could be so crunchy?"
The classic falafel - deep-fried bean and fine herb croquettes served with tahine sauce.
Bastorma - thin slices of smoked beef fillet covered with special spices.
Maqaneq - home-made Lebanese mini sausages flambéed in butter and lemon.
We were introduced to Halloumi Cheese (featured in the picture, behind the meatballs and potatoes) which I immediately took a liking towards. Mild, with a hint of smokiness from the grilling, it was the perfect accompaniment everything else. We also enjoyed the Foul Modammas (boiled broad beans seasoned with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil) and Jawaneh (charcoal-grilled marinated chicken wings served with garlic sauce).
It just goes to show that with the right company, you don't need a fancy restaurant or an elaborate night about town. Of course, good food doesn't hurt either.
Happy birthday, Anu!