Having your restaurant absolutely rammed on a midweek evening must make Yara the envy of other local restaurants. But it’s a simple matter of hospitality. Cook food well, serve it in generous portions – and don’t take the piss over pricing. And that’s exactly what Yara does. It’s excellent Lebanese/Syrian food; portions are exceptionally generous and two of us came away absolutely stuffed for less than fifty quid, including drinks.
There was a creamy moutabal, a hint of smokiness from the charring of the aubergines and flavour spikes from tahini, garlic and yoghurt. Tabbouleh was almost a classic – mainly parsley, with little more than flecks of bulghur wheat and dice of tomato & onion. Lots of lemon in the dressing made it almost too sharp – but this was bang-on for us. For a hot starter, there was lahembajeen – crispy pastry, topped with a smear of lamb, onions and a hint of pomegranate molasses adding a little sweet/sharp. First time we’d had the this and it really was a belter. And, of course, we took an order of pickles – straight out of the jar, of course – turnip, pepper and red cabbage. The crunch works so well with the softer textures of the other dishes.
As for mains, we ended up ordering very similar looking dishes – rice mixed with “stuff” and topped with aubergine. Maklubeh was the one with lamb – lovely tender flavoursome lamb – it was the better of the two. Kabseh was the chicken one. Interestingly, the dish originates from Saudi where it was popular with Syrian and Lebanese workers, who then brought it home. For me, it needed the chilli sauce that we’d hung on to from the starters.
The staff seemed to have been victims of their own success. Service was not the sharpest, although no-one was hanging about, and there was a well over 20 minute gap between starters being finished and mains arriving. We forgive them that, simply because of their otherwise full understanding of the word “hospitality”.