‘Where’s Martin?’ contest turns into a tale of the unexpected

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

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We had lots of entries in our ‘Where’s Martin’ contest, offering a bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (from Marlborough, New Zealand) to the reader who could name the location shown in a series of fantastic photos from a fantastic place below I visited last week in the line of duty.

The close-up shots of the cuisine (one of the world’s most famous, I said) gave up plenty of clues, leading many readers to believe I was in the Middle East. Several entrants suggested Dubai, knowing I was going to be there for Dubai Duty Free’s grand 30th anniversary celebrations – but they were all wrong.

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Alex Gauthey of LS travel retail opted for Turkey (the country not the dish) given the beautiful handicrafts displayed on the pics; SSP’s Nick Inkster also put his powers of deduction to work, concluding “the only Arabic (cuisine) country I can think of with £ currency is Lebanon”. Good try Nick, but no cigar.

NJoy electronic cigarettes’ John Kammerman thought I was in Manila (I haven’t figured that one out yet), while Nuance India’s Jay Acharya said confidently: “You were at a Comptoir Libanais outlet in London. Bluewater, maybe? Hope that helps you reach Dubai, safe & sound and in-time! Look forward to that bottle of Cloudy Bay.”

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So was anyone right? Not quite. But Jay was close, very, very close. The fantastic food, environment and handicrafts were indeed courtesy of Comptoir Libanais Lebanese Canteen, a brilliant downtown restaurant operating in several London locations as well as the Bluewater shopping and leisure centre in Kent, England.

But this Comptoir Libanais is not in Bluewater, not in downtown London and certainly not in the Middle East.  It is in London Gatwick Airport North Terminal, having opened in October, courtesy of The Restaurant Group.

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It’s a courageous choice by the airport company to run with a distinctive regional cuisine in a terminal more often associated with traditional UK fast food options.

More importantly it’s just fantastic. I am hard to please when it comes to airport food but I gave it my first ‘5 plane’ rating on our new airport consumer review site Airpinion (www.Airpinion.com), which goes into full launch in 2014,  so good are the food, drinks, environment and service. The surrounds are marvellously authentic with Lebanese handicrafts such as embroidered bags, Harissa tins and silver mint tea pots all around the restaurant (many for sale)

As I note in my review, the fresh lemonades are to die for: Roomana (pomegranate & orange blossom, Leymona (lemon & lime), Toufaha (a brilliantly fresh mix of apple, mint & ginger) and Roza (rose syrup, lemon & lime). The range of fresh juices, cocktails (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and other drinks is as good as you’ll find anywhere. Plus there’s a good selection of beers (including a Lebanese brew and non-alcoholic beers). Whites and red by the small or large glass and bottle include two Lebanese offerings.

 

You just have to try the delectable Baba Ghanuj dip (smoked aubergine, tahini and lemon juice with pomegranate seeds) on its own as a dip or with one of the amazing wraps. You can have a burger (falafel and halloumi, chicken kofta or lamb kofta) and even a Lebanese breakfast.rsz_comptoir_2

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Prices are good – £6.95 for a Chicken Kofta wrap; £8.95 for a lamb and prune tagine;£9.95 for a moussakhan roasted chicken marinated in pomegranate molasses and cinnamon; £6.20 for a 175ml glass of Lebanese wine or £4.80 for a Pinot Grigio.

It’s great to see an airport daring to be different in its food & beverage offer and I’ll be intrigued to see how Comptoir Libanais develops.

Back to our competition – a bottle of New Zealand’s finest Cloudy Bay goes the way of Nuance India’s Jay Acharya. Now Jay, how do I get that to Bangalore?

Footnote: The Restaurant Group Commercial Manager Dave Wells writes: “Martin, we were delighted to read about your visit to Comptor Libanais at Gatwick.

“It was exciting to get the opportunity to open the Gatwick restaurant in October, and we opened a second branch in Heathrow T4 last Monday.  It’s early days but both restaurants are performing well and finding an appreciative audience. 

“We’ve worked closely with both airports, and with Chaker and Tony at Comptoir Libanais, to refine the offer for airport customers, so it was great to see you blog your compliments for the offer, food, service and experience.

“I hope you’ll fly from T4 soon, and take another opportunity to sample our mezze, tagines, koftas or lemonades!”

Post-script: Peter Marshall of industry filmmaker Marshall Arts International wrote to me after I published Jay’s victory, pointing out that he had identified the exact location having dined there last week (“Food good, non-alcoholic beverages excellent, a quality and welcome addition to Gatwick F&B!). The trouble is Peter, you did not e-mail me as requested but posted the answer on the Blog feedback form. Lucky I did not make it ‘live’ or everyone would have got the answer right… but seeming it’s you, I’ll also award another bottle of Cloudy Bay. 2013 is closing in expensive style…

CB Sauvignon Blanc

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