St. John’s Wood was a place I had never visited before, it was just a station I passed through on my way home everyday, until I was invited to try Yasmeen. Hidden in the back streets of a high-end residential area resides this beautiful restaurant serving the very best Lebanese food. The Lebanese cuisine is all about freshness and flavour without the added heat aspect that you tend to find in indian food.
The atmosphere was lovely, with peaceful surroundings. You almost forget you’re sitting in a restauraunt in Zone 2. There is the option of sitting inside a lovely well lit restaurant or in alfresco dining is more your thing, there is the option to also sit outside. Luckily enough, there is a canopy shielding from the unpredictable weather in London – so you never have to worry about the rain.
If the setting isn’t enough to make you want to visit, then be sure to know that the food here is incredible. As we were seated, we were brought over an appetiser of pickled chillies, olives and pickled gherkins. I’m a huge fan of pickled chillies, in fact I actually enjoy eating them on their own – so they went down a real treat.
We were brought out an array of starters, by that I mean it felt like Iftar during Ramadan all over again. I didn’t know where to start, what to eat next but all I knew is that I needed to try everything – even if my stomach wouldn’t allow me to.
The hummus was the first starter to be brought out with some fresh pitta bread that was all hand-made that very morning. The hummus was incredibly smooth and creamy, nothing like I have ever had before. I went to another restaurant for a friends’ birthday a few days after visiting Yasmeen and their hummus was not nearly as tasty or smooth. Hats off to the chefs!
Next up was Tabouleh, which is a salad made up of parsley, crushed wheat, tomatoes, onions, lemon juice and olive oil. Very fresh and was a real winner around the table, but it wasn’t to my taste purely because I am not a fan of parsley. Followed by the Fatoush, which is mixed salad made up of lettuce, tomato, mint, sumak, olive oil, lemon and croutons. Fatoush was definitely my favourite. It tasted really fresh because of the mint and lemon but also had a lot of flavour from the dressing.
The grape vine leaves were particularly interesting. I have seen them before in other restaurants but never had it before, so it was finally my chance to give it a go. The leaves were filled with rice, tomato and parsley mixed. I would have preferred them if they were warm, but I wasn’t a huge fan of them being cold although the flavour and texture was all there. My sister absolutely loved them, so it was just down to personal taste.
We were then brought out a platter of various hot starters apposed to cold. The platter contained Fatayer which is pastry parcels filled with spinach, onion and pine kernels, cheese and meat sambousek (similar to what I would call a samosa) which were just pastry parcels filled with minced meat and cheese. There was also some crispy vegetarian spring rolls and falafel covered in sesame seeds. Everything on the platter was tasty, but the falafel and meat sambousek were my favourite. My mum agreed with me on the falafel.
To accompany my starters, I ordered a glass of fizz as I always find it is the perfect light drink to start a meal before jumping into the cocktails later on.
As we came to the end of our starters, we took a well needed ten minute break before we even though about digging into the mains. The waiters and waitresses that served us regularly checked up on us to ensure everything was okay and confirming we were well alcoholically hydrated.
One of the waitresses that served us had only been working for Yasmeen for one week yet she seemed so passionate about the food and Lebanese culture. Even though she had worked as a waitresses previously, I was particularly impressed about how she was so knowledgeable about what each food was, what was each contained (without looking at the menu) and what the best drinks were too.
Once we were ready for our mains, out came this beautiful mixed grill with chicken cubes, meat cubes, minced lamb sheesh kebabs and lamb chops, served with yellow and white rice.
I was utterly blown away by how soft and succulent the meat was, not forgetting how well marinated and flavourful. Just enough spice with a little touch of heat too but nothing that someone who doesn’t eat chilli couldn’t handle. It took me back to my younger days when my mum used to do a barbecue in the garden with all her indian spice marinated meat, shame we don’t get enough sunshine throughout the year for her to carry on doing them.
After a heavy yet delicious main, we were presented with a light milk dessert which was very similar to something my mum makes at home with rice-flour but it was equally as delicious. It was a bit of a shame that they had run out of baklava as I was really looking forward to that for dessert, however it means i’ll just have to visit Yasmeen again for round 2.
Brilliant authentic food, amazing service, lovely serene atmosphere, hats off to Yasmeen. I would also like to thank Yasmeen for kindly extending the invite out to my parents too, who throughly enjoyed seeing what I get up to when reviewing restaurants.
Until next time…