Occupying the location of Ladurée on Wadi Abou Jamil in Beirut, Quartier Chic the latest Brasserie to open, owned and managed by Maroun Batal. Mr.Batal used to manage Cocteau for the last decade or so. Nestled in a beautiful old Lebanese house, the bistro feels like a fine-dining restaurant serving upscale food choices.
The first impression puts a smile on your face, a nice terrace, well lit and colorful while you walk into the old house; shocking! I expected to see an old house, to have a view on the road, to feel the stones... unfortunately, the restaurant feels like a box. No windows, no view, no stones, no experience; it’s a box that could have been created anywhere. Beware, it’s claustrophobic. I’m sad to have experienced indoor seating when the outdoor one is a masterpiece of design.
The decor is about white walls decorated with black designs inspired by the Cocteau of Sodeco. To the left is the bar, mirrors on the right side to make the space look bigger, and a view on the open kitchen; why do we need to see the kitchen anyway. Even the floor has been changed... nothing to preserve the authentic feel of a Lebanese house. When Cocteau Beirut won a design award, this one will surely not. Lounge music plays in the background.
The things I liked: Mr. Batal is always on duty, making sure every detail is attended to. Peugeot pepper mill. Fine Sambonet cutlery. Riedel wine glasses. Wine is served in a carafe. Butter served in a mousse shape covered with a metallic cloche. Ironed white tablecloth. Generously filled plates, French bistro style.
Nine waiters to handle this small space when six would have been enough; it doesn’t fit them! They stand in the corners, walk around the tables, stare at you and make you feel uncomfortable. The vibes are too heavy at “Quartier Chic”. Too dimmed, close to dark, complicated music, non-smiley waiters.
I ordered the warm vegetables: a simple plate made of mushrooms, green beans, artichokes, cauliflower, broccoli, mange-tout and edamame. A simple and non-complicated plate served at a good warm temperature. I liked the vegetables freshness and crunch. Every bite leaves a lemony kick in the mouse. My mum had the quinoa salad, a mix loaded with flavors and zesty explosions.
Meat came next: good quality meat. I ordered spinach on the side, simply spinach with no taste, the cream spinach came mashed like a purée and the potato purée could have been smoother and creamier. Fries are frozen but crunchy. Looking at the plates I would say that the chef has no significant added value; Ingredients brought from the market with no creation to talk about.
The minuses: The restaurant is too pretentious. The menu is way too complicated. Bread is chewy and undercooked. Food is average. Waiters are brusque. Too many waiters roam around your table sucking your oxygen.
Thank you for offering us desserts; an appreciated gesture. Two thumbs up chef! Good quality, rich and passionately baked cakes prepared with love. Way better than the food, desserts are upscale and gourmet. The pastry chef seems to be a master. I loved the tart alcazar, adored the molten chocolate cake flowing smoothly and crunching like butter biscuits. Dark chocolate ice cream sorbet you have to try: tender and giant sticky macaron. My favorite remains the tart alcazar, its load of ripe bananas and creamy filling. I appreciate how the crust remains crunchy.
The comeback of Cocteau Sodeco: bistro food served in a fine-dining ambiance. I’ll come back to sit outside.