The Village (Lebanese) – Paddington, London
THIS PLACE HAS SINCE CLOSED DOWN!HALAL STATUS Fully Halal
Having recently opened in October, The Village is a Lebanese eatery that’s located down the road from Paddington Station, and not too far from Hyde Park, on Craven Road.
With traditional breakfast dishes available as early as 9am, this place offers plenty of other options, which include freshly-made bread and pastries courtesy of the restaurant’s large brick oven.
But what really sets this place apart from the rest in town, is the lengths to which they’ve gone to in transforming their basement into a cellar-like restaurant, with all the features and ornaments carefully selected to try and capture the look and feel of a “Lebanese traditional village”.
They’ve done an incredible job too, with not just a stunningly designed private room for 25, but also a pair of cosy little, brickwork-arched seating rooms they refer to as “caves”, with brass hand bells hanging outside for use in alerting the waiters.
In fact, judging by the humble decor of the 37-cover ground floor in comparison, as well as the simplicity of the menu, not only will you be taken aback by such disparity, but the elaborate arrangement downstairs ought to create quite the first impression. Just check out our video below which captures the beauty of The Village.
First time we’ve come across this selection of malt drinks. Have to say, they were quite something, with the distinctly sweet and nutty taste of the malt, while coming through first, always managing to remain in the background with the individual flavour of each beverage.
Of the three, we found the apple and the pomegranate to be more prominent than the peach. The balance achieved was so good in fact, that these have to be one of the best off-the-shelf malt drinks we’ve had. Don’t forget that name: Mezza!
An elegantly presented plate of Hummus which, truth be told, looked better than it actually was.
While its creamy consistency was beyond question, we did find it rather bland and lacking in flavour, in spite of the olive oil and chick peas. Perhaps some lemon or a touch of seasoning might have done the trick.
But there was no questioning the execution of this rich and beautifully textured Moutabal, whose deep and satisfying smokiness was expertly tempered by the hint of tang in the background.RECOMMENDED
As a matter of fact, we’d go so far as to say that these have to be some of the best we’ve had in quite some time.
The tightly packed rice filling in these smartly presented packages was moist and full of flavour, with a lingering touch of the sour therein.
And a generous plate of 10 too at just £4.95! Yup; we’d recommend these all the way.
Along with some tender mushrooms, the fried potatoes in this simply made Spicy Potato dish was mildly spicy, with most of the flavour coming from the addition of the fresh fenugreek herb. A delightful little starter really.
Despite The Board, which was quite literally a long plank of plywood, being precariously elevated on upturned glasses to provide a sense of theatre, this was easily The Village’s most ambitious item and pièce de résistance.
Now, this was perhaps the longest thing to a pizza we’ve ever had, let alone reviewed. Around 3½ft in length, and dough that took some time for Chef Mohammed to roll-out by hand, this comprised of four sections, with each one containing a different topping.
Cooking in their spectacularly large brick oven, this came out piping hot and looking ever so appetising.
Our collective favourite was definitely the Lahme Baajin, or lamb mince, which was lightly seasoned, but quite delicious. The Cheese too was a good contrast to this, turning out soft, oily, and with a light piquancy to it – nothing too pungent. The Thyme/ Zaatar – the latter made-up of a number of dry and toasted spices and herbs – made the end section of the bread where it was applied a wonderful crispy affair, with oil evidently used to base the surface. Perhaps the weakest of the four was the Keshek, which, if you don’t know, is a dried yoghurt to which was added some very subtle flavouring.
May not look like much, but taste-wise, this rustically made and prosaically named ‘Meat, Tomato & Onion’ was full of flavour and very satisfying indeed.
And it needed to be as well, given the sparseness of ingredients on which this oven-baked dish was going to live or die.
The absolutely moist and tender chunks of roughly cut lamb had become beautifully infused in the juices and flavours of the caramelised onions, peppers, tomatoes and chillis (the last ingredient wisely suggested by the waiter and gleefully accepted by us), thanks in no small part to both the iron skillet in which everything was cooked, and the incredibly high temperatures achieved in said oven.
While the green chillis aren’t exactly part of Lebanese cuisine traditionally speaking, we believe the addition of these really provided a lovely kick to the whole thing.
Again made in a hot iron plate, this dish itself is straightforward enough, being essentially a thick omelette with a generous inclusion of sujok, or Turkish sausage.
With the spiciness of the Sujok imparting some heat, this was, despite its simplicity, a well made omelette.
But being included as a single-item main dish, and that too for £7.50 in spite of its size, just doesn’t sound very ambitious.
This carries the same reservation as the above, along with the question: Aren’t these Kafta Arayes more a side dish than a main?
The mince meat filling was thinly spread, quite compact, and relatively dry. Encased in a crispy and equally thin layer of bread, the kafta itself wasn’t without flavour, though subtly so. But, is it worth it at £6.00?
The Village offers a number of these which vary from day to day, with a select few available regularly, one of which includes this Moussaka.
This is essentially an aubergine based one which, as with all the Daily Dishes, comes with a side and a rice dish.
In this case, we ordered plain rice with a plate full of fattoush – the latter being toasted pieces of crispy bread combined with a mixture of greens and vegetables.
Our biggest gripe was with the rice, which turned out luke warm, thereby betraying a definite reheated texture. And as a result, we also felt that there needed to be far more of the sauce to compensate for its dryness.
The fattoush, on the other hand, was the redeeming factor here, being fresh, crunchy, and quite enjoyable in its own right.
However, the chicken, despite having a good flavour to it, not only looked dry on the outside, but was also the same on the in.
What’s more, the side of rice we ordered, in this case one with mince mixed through it, was so poorly reheated that it turned out luke warm and utterly dry.
All this detracted from the fact that the large chunks of carrot appeared to have been well executed, with the mushrooms and roasted potatoes floating in a lightly spiced gravy sauce, which, though more in quantity than the Moussaka, was nonetheless not nearly enough to serve as a remedy.
And similar to the above, the side of Tabouli was easily the winner here, being vibrantly fresh and zingy.
A very interesting dessert this Halawet el Jeben, which comprises of four cheese-based segments that have an almost soft, gelatinous-like texture to them.
But, while there is some sweet syrup added to the plate, we did think that more of this was needed to bring the entire thing together, especially given that those cheese segments were quite thick and pasty.
A nicely saturated and subtly flavoured Almond Cake, with a crumbliness to it which made it a lovely little finale with the hot teas and coffees had below.
This wasn’t a bad Rice Pudding either; quite delicious in fact, with the rice having a nice bite to it, and the fragrance of the rose water meandering through gently.
Of all the three desserts, if you’re looking for something sweet, then it’s the Almond Cake. If you prefer something low key, then we’d recommend this Rice Pudding.
Of course, we couldn’t but leave without downing some Lebanese Coffee and English teas.
And hot beverages are certainly worth it if you’re holed up in those “caves” downstairs. It just adds to the atmosphere!
- NO/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
- DISABLED FACILITIES
But this restaurant calls itself a "Lebanese traditional village". As such, we found the main menu - the heart of any restaurant's offerings - to be somewhat lacking in options, resulting in us having to opt for a few of their 'daily dishes', premade earlier in the day, and merely warmed up. In fact, there were some dishes included as mains which we thought were more sides than anything else; and yet, priced as mains, despite their portion size.
The Village certainly has all the ingredients in place, including a unique interior, to make quite an impression, provided their menu can be tweaked to match the ambition and scope of said interior.
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29-31 Craven Rd, Bayswater, London W2 3BX.
T: +44 (0)20 7723 7101 | W: thevillagepaddington.co.uk
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 09:00-21:00