Comptoir Libanais offers an all-day dining experience serving home-style Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine. The food is healthy, fresh and honest, brought to you by friendly team members in a relaxed environment. Comptoir is open all day long for breakfast, lunch, afternoon mint tea and dinner. Find your nearest Comptoir in Broadgate Circle, just next to Liverpool St station.
You had quite a rough start in London, tell us a bit about yourself and your journey in opening your first restaurant.
I came to London when I was 18 with just £70 in my pocket – I had to spend my first night sleeping in Victoria train station! I loved London from my first day so decided to stay. I always dreamt of setting up my own restaurant showcasing the best of Middle Eastern and Lebanese food, culture and hospitality. I was working up to 16-18 hours a day doing 2 jobs, including as a waiter and barman. I learnt everything I could about the trade and took on any task I could. Eventually, 4 years later, I had saved enough money to open my first restaurant in the West End but always had a dream to open a relaxed, colourful canteen style eatery which I later named Comptoir Libanais.
Comptoir Libanais, what did inspire you to start it? What is unique about it compare to your other restaurants?
Since I was a little kid I have been serving people food with a smile on my face. I used to make sandwiches and homemade lemonades at home then run along to the local stadium and sell the food and drink to hungry football fans on a match day. That was my first foray into hospitality. When I moved to London, it was so apparent to me that practically every other cuisine was catered for on the high street: Thai, Italian, French etc. I thought “why not Lebanese?”. That was when I knew that I had to do my best to educate and inspire the Western world on this wonderful, healthy and fresh food that I felt was being kept a secret. The food at Comptoir is so nutritious and has lots of different elements to it: great for vegetarians as well as offering some tasty grilled meats; there are colourful salads and a variety of hot and cold mezze that’s perfect for sharing. I am always excited when the guests who came into Comptoir Libanais for the first time came back again and again.
How do you select the menu for the restaurant?
I travel a lot to Lebanon and all over the Middle East which really inspires me. I want the food at Comptoir to be authentic and I always play around in the kitchen, mixing different ingredients together and taste everything! The best thing about Lebanese food is that you can be experimental and it always comes out great!
What is your signature dish that everyone has to try?
I love food and everything about it. This is a question I can never answer, however, if you’re new to Comptoir then go for the Mezze Platter. It has a selection of mezze dishes in one, including falafels, baba ghanuj, lentil salad etc. It’s our most popular dish as gives such a variety of flavours in one dish and is perfect for sharing. Another firm favourite of mine though is our Fattoush salad. It’s the queen of Arabic salads and is so fresh and healthy I eat almost every day. It contains baby gem lettuce, cherry tomatoes, fresh pomegranate seeds, radishes, red onion and Lebanese croutons, mixed in a sumac dressing.
What would you say has been the most memorable experience while developing this business?
All the amazing people I have met along the way! I have built up such a great team of hardworking, passionate and dedicated people who are constantly learning and evolving. For me, my team is my family. I also couldn’t have opened even one restaurant if it wasn’t for the encouragement and enthusiasm I have had from our guests. Without them my life would be very different!
What are your future plans?
I am blessed to be doing something that I love doing, therefore I will carry on spreading the love of Lebanese cuisine and culture across the UK. I dream that one day, Lebanese food will be as popular as Italian food. I cannot wait for this day to happen….
Twitter: /Comptoirlibanai /tonykitous
Facebook: /lecomptoirlibanais /tonykitous