The food here needs little introduction. Everyone is familiar with falafel, hummus, tabbouleh, and shawarma. But
Beirut has so much more. There is a mix of upscale fine-dining restaurants and hole-in-the-wall snack bars; be sure
to try both. Mezyan in Hamra is an experimental, but still largely traditional, mezze spot (try the chicken
liver in pomegranate sauce); Burgundy delivers fish dishes that draw on the chef’s experience working in
French Michelin-Star restaurants. Both offer a spectacular selection of Lebanese wine - or arak if you feel
Breakfast in Beirut is kind of a big deal and some restaurants stay open exclusively for the morning hours.
Tawlet (‘table’) has a rotation of local cooks from around the country (grandmothers and housewives, in
particular), and offers an all-in-one platter; you get to sample the likes of labneh, eggs awarma, and manoush
(flat-bread baked with goat cheese or zaatar) at once. You can also shop olive oils and honeys in-store, too.
It’s hard to beat a falafel snack for lunch, and as locals will tell you, the best is from Sayhoun. If at
first you are confused because two Sayhoun’s are sat next door to each other, don’t be. Each is owned by
one of two feuding brothers who claim their recipe is ‘the original’ – still faithful to their father’s falafel mix
from Palestine (who opened the original store). Put their pride to the test and get one wrap from each… For research
purposes, of course.
Beirut is full of excellent spots to wash down a Negroni (or arak) after a long day of sight-seeing. The rooftop
lounges: Iris Beirut in Downtown and Capitole (a favourite of the late Anthony Bourdain) offer
stunning views over the city and Zaitunay Bay. Here, you can mingle with Beirut’s well-off locals, and swap stories
of escapades with government officials (or pop stars) over a martini. Both bars require guests to be smartly
dressed, so button up.
However, Beirut’s stand-out bar (and the one we think Rake readers will appreciate the most) is
Anise in Mar Mikhaël – with a touch of the old-world, the bar serves classic and unique raki-based
cocktails in a setting that reminds one of the many Harry Cipriani outposts around the globe. For something similar
in West Beirut, head to Salon Beyrouth.
If you are looking for something particularly unique, however, might we direct you over to the Mayflower Hotel in
Hamra? The hotel’s bar, The Duke of Wellington, was opened in the 1950s (when Lebanon was riding a wave of
Anglophilia, for some reason, and ‘pubs’ were the in-thing) and resembles a British pub, complete with chesterfield
sofas and antique pistols. The décor hasn’t changed one bit, and still attracts all types – from journalists to
civil engineers – remaining a link to Lebanon’s mid-century golden age when Brits were, apparently, very hip.