If I want to recall a restaurant from my childhood days, it has to be Le Relais. A restaurant, one of the first to open in Kleiaat, that we used to come to on a weekly basis with my parents. If you spend your summer in Keserwan or simply live in the region, Le Relais Kleiaat it is. This famous restaurant is not only an eatery, but a bread producer known for its unique products around the country's supermarkets way before Wooden Bakery and Moulin D'Or even existed.
Le Relais, nestled in the heart of Kleiat on the way from Bickfaya towards Faraya, is a cafe trottoir and restaurant serving a large selection of Lebanese and international plates, which have been on the menu since day one.
As you sit, a basket of bread immediately lands on the table. That one I remember well. The warm balls of fluffy French pain au lait, sprinkled with sesame, alongside a bag of Lebanese bread, the small version, wrapped individually for the table. Next to that, green olives and Lurpak butter.
I'm a fan of Le Relais' square bread, their fluffy, flavorful buns and their precooked pizza dough that many of us buy for a quick snack for the kids.
While Nostalgie music was playing in the background, I took the time to browse the menu. Starters, salads, snacks, pasta, pizza, fish, meat, poultry, plat du jour and desserts. I loved the fact that owners were there, attentive and making sure everything was meticulously taken care.
Before reaching the food, I couldn't but notice the service and the head waiter, who believes he's the king of his castle. Shouting at the waiters, busy and in a hurry while taking the order, playing with his teeth while looking around instead of focusing on the customer... We spent our time hearing his complaints and comments while he shouted at Anthony and his friends.
The lunch experience was enjoyable, the food was good:
- Croque Monsieur: Two square bread sandwiches cut in half, filled with melting cheese and ham and toasted to a crunch. What makes it unique is the basil leaves, which add flavor and aromas. The four sandwiches are served with slices of tomatoes and shredded carrot on the side. I loved the crunchiness of the bread, the richness of the cheese, the quality of the ham and the aromas of the basil leaves, but I found this sandwich to be a bit dry. It would have been amazing with some fresh cream or a dip on the side.
- Salmon quiche: A large portion, a round tart filled with cheese, salmon chunks, cream and dill on a fresh, flaky dough. The dough is exceptional. A flaky and airy savory dough that crumbles under the teeth in style without having sweet notes and without absorbing the cream filling. An enjoyable experience which starts with the crunch of the firm dough while the inner filling, moist and creamy, melts under the palate. All was great, except the temperature, which was just warm and hinting at coldness in the middle. The plate is decorated with slices of tomatoes, a lemon quarter and a lettuce leaf.
- Escalope Pojarsky: A triangular escalope heavily loaded with shredded ham, cheese and béchamel sauce. A crispy, fried border over a thick layer of tender chicken and a generous filling that's really good. I loved it! But the side orders are bad, if I may say. Too much mayonnaise in the coleslaw and uncooked French fries. The escalope is so good that it covers up the other imperfections.
- Napoletana Pizza: You might say it looks like a Mankouché or that the dough is too thin, but you can't deny how great it is. A pizza the exact size of the plate is constituted of a thin dough, like the one of a Lahme Beajine, tender and firm with crunchy borders, topped with melting cheese, ham, tomato sauce, green olives and fresh mushrooms. I really loved it, its texture and juiciness. But I'm still waiting for the spicy olive oil to date...
I wasn't expecting to eat food that good. It's not a fine diner and not a restaurant, but a fully fledged cafe with generously filled plates, tasty offerings and a pleasant ambiance.
I'd focus on the waiters; a bit of training, a bit of finesse, stop shouting, understand the menu and know the difference between Tabasco and chilli oil, learn that Badoit is a sparkling water and I'm sure the place will run like magic.
The unacceptable: It's a shame to find Shisha at a renowned restaurant like Le Relais. It really saddens me...
After that, dessert. Le Relais is also famous for their ice cream and their Chocolat Mou as well as the Banana Split. The Chocolat Mou is indeed tasty with its chocolate ice cream that's not too sweet. Stir it well and enjoy.
Enjoyed my time and will be coming back for more.