85 Fort St
(09) 367 6882
Monday - Friday
7am - late
Saturday - Sunday
5pm - late
It’s busy, so the rumble of voices is the first thing I noticed about Beirut as I walked down the shared space that is Fort St. I saw the bar first through a large doorway, almost like a little lane of its own. The sight of it made me want to come back for an after work drink. It’s a cool bar.
Inside, it’s very dark, and slick and cool. The chairs are a cognac-coloured leather, the walls and ceiling are black, textural. The kitchen is an open galley, and you can see head chef Jacopo Cristi working at the pass with his cool top knot. He looks calm.
The staff at Beirut are wonderfully led by Louise Peel. She is an absolute pro and knows her menu and wine list inside and out. It’s a lovely menu, not too long, interesting. What’s lovelier is seeing the way Executive Chef Javier Carmona has twisted and tweaked each ingredient to make this interesting-sounding menu spectacular in reality. Traditional Middle Eastern ingredients are taken to an entirely new place.
Start with the smoked labneh. It comes in a deep bowl, framed with flat bread, topped with date puree, citrus-burnt ghee and crispy chickpeas. You will need more bread because you won’t want to leave any of that labneh in the bowl. Keep whatever’s left over for the Bubba, a very smoky burnt aubergine dish with housemade Turkish black sujuk sausage, toasted sesame and black cabbage. It has an incredible depth of flavour, by which I mean it’s yum, through and through.
The beef basturma with torched and pickled cauliflower is a highlight. Fiery basturma spices and the acidity of pickle are balanced with a creamy puree and perfectly tender beef. The goat is meltingly good and served with sweet ginger olives and a burst of freshness from raw radish. These main dishes are large and very rich, be warned, share.
To lighten things up, I’d recommend trying one of the house brewed “shrubs” – a traditional fruit-based drink mixed with apple cider vinegar which lends a refreshing, surprising flavour. The wine list is lovely, with almost everything available by the glass, and there is a selection of craft beers.
The desserts are such a joy, exotic flavours twisted into combinations that fil me with child like glee. A tart buttermilk ice cream with delightful explosions of turkish delight ice, topped with slender sticks of meringue and freeze-dried plum. Fairly floss with clotted cream and apricots. This is why I warned you about the size of those large dishes, you need to save room.
Beirut is a great spot, well-executed and completely unique. I appreciate the drive to be different, particularly considering one of our local gems, Ima, is just down the road and it’s Middle Eastern, too. Beirut fits right in here precisely because it’s different – as slick and polished as you’d expect from the group who brought Mexico, Orleans and Better Burger to the city, with a menu that shows passion and creativity. It’s beautiful.