Leila (Lebanese) – Dubai
If you’re looking for an authentic Lebanese restaurant in Dubai – look no further than Leila.
With its flagships well established in Mirdif City Centre and Downtown Dubai, Leila currently boasts four branches across the UAE.
Hence, given its reputation of serving healthy, traditional Lebanese food “with a twist of today’s trends”, as well as the growing number of fellow Britons choosing Dubai as their annual holiday spot, it was only natural that we accept their kind invitation to review their menu.
First impressions are so very important, so the customary bread with side-olives was certainly a good start.
Unfortunately, the bread turned out to be stale and rock hard to the point of being simply unsuitable for consumption! Swiftly moving on then to the beverages…
The Peach Melon was an interesting one. It made for a pleasant change to the customary strawberry and mango combo one tends to find readily available across Dubai. It was refreshingly tasty.
The Minted Lemonade, on the other hand, was a case of either innovation gone wrong, or an isolated case of way too much mint being added this time round. If it was by design, then it simply didn’t work given that the mint overpowered everything from here to London!
On a positive end note though, it was good that both were 100% freshly made.
This is a case of appearances being deceptive. As simple as this looks above, it turned out to be surprisingly tasty.
The apple vinaigrette really gave this salad a solid kick bringing everything to life. At 200 calories, it was most certainly healthy. Our only quibble though was that this dish wasn’t as well balanced as it could have been.
The main culprit here was the pepper – cut far too large to the point that its naturally strong flavour somewhat overpowered the rest of the elements – which detracted from what could have otherwise been a really good Fattoush.
This cold starter was a good one though. The vine leaves married nicely with the fragrant rice and vegetable mix, making this a pleasant start to the meal.
Alas, the addition of absolutely bland droppings of meat brought absolutely nothing to what was otherwise a pleasantly made hommous. What made matters worse was that we only had the aforementioned inedible bread to make something of this.
Also comes with pine nuts as an alternative to said droppings!
These were a tasty little treat. The lightly spiced potato squares were crispy, and the garnish of the sweet and thinly cut fried onions gave this an extra textural dimension.
Could have done with something like a nice minty-yoghurt dip to offset the acidity though.
On its own merit? These fried mince dumplings had great texture but wasn’t properly spiced or seasoned.
Add plain yoghurt to these and you have a mixture of… well, a flavour void! As such, this bland dish was eventually consumed with our mains as a nibble on the side.
Overdone nuggets resulting in a hard, crunchy exterior and dry interior isn’t going to win plaudits anytime soon. And so it was in this case.
As for the chunky chips, then these poor anaemic specimens were undercooked.
To make matters worse, they came with a sickly tasting tartar sauce that didn’t exactly ease our growing fears.
Having said that though, the above concoction turned out to be the best thing on the day! Sweet vermicelli noodles along with sweet pastry halloumi cheese and glazed grapes on the side certainly worked, but only if you managed to convince yourself that this was actually a dessert, rather than a starter! With all that sweetness though, it goes without saying that the cheese was, unsurprisingly, lost in translation.
“Why does everything come with fries?” was the question we were deliberating over by the end of the evening! At least give one the choice of fries, rice, or bread, we concluded.
Looking past such a contentious point, however, the pestro aubergine was certainly different. Different in the sense that this was supposed to come with prawns. Now, although it did, it was only a measly solitary one, which wasn’t to be found in the pestro as advertised. So, let’s play Where’s Wally at this point. Can you spot this poor lonely little prawn that somehow lost its way to the sea?
As to the pestro itself, then as much as we don’t want to use the word bland again, we have to say that this was exactly that with meat cubes that were perhaps there as some sort of textural contrast since they brought nothing to the dish in terms of flavour. What is more, serving something wet with fries instead of rice, or even some bread to mop things up in the end, just doesn’t make sense in our universe!
And so we come to that which is as quintessentially Lebanese as anything Lebanese could get – the mixed grill, handsomely accompanied by a barely edible salad and vegetables, along with more fries!
Lebanese meat dishes can be a thing of beauty if done well, and depend a lot on the freshness of the ingredients along with a combination of subtly spiced marinades, and a chef who knows how to handle a hot grill.
In Leila’s case, both the chicken and the beef seemed unmarinated, and underseasoned. On the plus side, however, the meats were of good quality, and this was shown in their tenderness
The kafta kebab on the other hand was well made, and tasted great in comparison to the rest of the dish.
With a small dollop of horribly tasting ice cream hidden underneath a strange, sugary mass of what looked like candy floss, all topped with a layer of grated pistachio nuts, we barely touched it!
- CHILD SEATING
We should also make special mention of the service, or lack thereof. There seemed to be very little concern on the part of the waiters to the point of indifference. At no time did any one of them come to ask how things were with us, or if we wanted anything. It was a case of: ask and you shall receive!
In fact, despite being invited down, it was obvious that the staff and management (?) had absolutely no clue of our arrival.
What's also funny is that although the menu clearly differentiated between Starters, Mains, and Desserts, in practice this was all but forgotten as everything, aside from the kitchen sink (and that terrible dessert), was casually plunked in front of us to devour and, presumably, get the hell out!
This place flatters to deceive in more ways than one. It flatters because the decor is really very nice and welcoming. It deceives because of all the above.
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Arabian Ranches Palmera 2,
Dubai, United Arab Emirates