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Fayrouz review: If only every neighbourhood restaurant could be like this affordable gem

This is an absolute darling of a place, with the added bonus of being BYOB

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Address: 117 Cork Street, The Liberties, Dublin 8
Telephone: 01 556 0404
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Cost: €€

When my 21-year-old daughter asked me recently about a good spot to celebrate a friend’s birthday, somewhere that’s more about the food than expensive cocktails and flashy surroundings, Fayrouz immediately came to mind. It is such a lovely spot to drop in to, equally good for a relaxed dinner or for celebrating with pals. And it has got the added bonus of being BYOB, with no additional charge for corkage.

It is an incredibly sweet room, a little haven away from the bustle of Cork Street, which has lost so much of its character over the years, although the aroma of roasted barley from Guinness still hangs in the air, fondly reminding me of the time I spent working in the brewery and, a few years later, studying in NCAD.

The menu is impressively broad, focusing on the Lebanese food Palestinian owner Akef Odwan and his head chef, Ahmed Ziyadet, love and grew up with. Hot and cold starters lead to grilled meat from their customised chargrill, and speciality dishes include kabseh – rice with slow-cooked lamb, and an impressive selection of vegetarian options. Flick to the back of the menu to get the mezze options.

It has to be Beirut mezze (€20) to start, which gives us a wonderful snapshot of the starters. Plates and wooden boards land on the table along with hummus, fattoush, olives, halloumi, kibbeh and stuffed pitta bread. It is a feast. The pieces of pitta bread in the fattoush are crispy, fried perhaps, and hold up nicely against the lemon and olive oil dressing, with chopped cucumber, tomato, mint and parsley, topped with pings of sweetness from pomegranate seeds and molasses.


Water is topped up as we need it. Service here is just lovely

The hummus is smooth and not too heavy on garlic. There are a few types, one notably with tiny pieces of grilled lamb on top, which is very tasty. The kibbeh, hot, with flavours of cinnamon coming through, are light and crumbly, with a bit of lemon squeezed over. Arayes lahme – triangles of pitta bread stuffed with spiced, minced lamb and oven-baked – is delicious, again with notes of cinnamon. Halloumi, that fascinating cheese with its styrofoam energy, is laced with golden marks from the grill.

We’re drinking a light Syrah, which goes beautifully with our food. Water, which was brought to the table with a sprig of mint in the bottle when we arrived, is topped up as we need it. Service here is just lovely.

The mixed grill (€21) is a no-brainer, I adore Middle Eastern grilled meat. A board arrives with searing hot skewers just off the grill. There is chicken with grilled tomato; lamb that has been marinated in 14 spices including nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon and cardamom and threaded on a skewer with charred onions, and a very delicious spicy kofta. There is of, course, salad and hummus with all of this and yet more pitta bread.

There will always be the tiniest bit of space for dessert, which as well as baklava includes some intriguing-sounding options

Lamb bamya (€19) is a dish I grew to love when I lived in the Middle East. I had always hated the slimy quality of okra, or lady’s fingers as this vegetable is sometimes called, but when it is cooked assiduously with tender chunks of lamb in a spiced, multilayered tomato sauce and served with rice, it is a great dish. Try it.

We are well fed, but there will always be the tiniest bit of space for dessert, which as well as baklava includes some intriguing-sounding options. Our waitress suggests halawet el jibn (€8), four sweet cheese rolls, which initially look like banana laced with golden syrup and chopped pistachio. The roll, which has quite a dense texture, is made with semolina and cheese and scented with rose water, and is filled with a soft cream cheese. It is considerably less sweet than I had expected.

Fayrouz is the sort of restaurant you would love to have in your neighbourhood. The sense of community comes through in everything they do, in the friendliness of the service, in the attention to making sure everyone is well looked after and in the wonderful food that is coming off that blazing grill. BYOB (open every day except Monday) can sometimes attract a rowdy crowd, but the atmosphere here is far from boozy. The diners seem to respect the ethos at the very heart of this restaurant. Dublin 8 has a special place in my heart, and Fayrouz is a very special place in Dublin 8.

Dinner for two was €68.

The verdict This is an absolute darling of a restaurant.

Music Classic hits from the 1950s through to the 1980s

Food provenance Lamb and chicken (not free-range) from Emamou Foods, vegetables from Veg-Ex Ltd, bread from Irish bakery Safra.

Vegetarian options Impressive selection with vegetarian Lebanese mezze, spinach pie, vegetable bamya, mujadara, falafel, cauliflower steak and salads.

Wheelchair access Accessible, including a toilet.

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes a weekly restaurant column