Lebanese food in the evenings at Chateau

Chateau on the High Rd is now open in the evenings. The café-restaurant on the corner opposite what used to be our police station has evolved from a place which did fabulous cakes and preserves, to a cafe which served fabulous cakes and a selection of innovative and interesting salads, now to a café-restaurant which serves fabulous cakes and interesting salads during the day and delicious Lebanese food during the evening.

At 6.00pm Chateau transforms. You could be on the Corniche in Beirut with the delicate aroma of fresh spices wafting from the kitchen bringing you the authentic taste of the Paris of the Middle Least. Owner Anette is originally from Finland but her three chefs are from Lebanon and the creative fusion is brilliant. The range of savoury dishes we tasted were pure Lebanese home cooking – indeed they have Arab customers come and eat after work for a taste of home – but the desserts show Anette’s influence. She’s taken traditional Lebanese puddings, which are very sweet, and given them her own twist, less sweet, more subtle.

It’s a sharing style menu. We started with Mutabbal beetroot, Mouhammara, stuffed vine leaves and  Babagannoush with hot pitta bread and a Fattoush salad. The amount of chopping and grinding which goes in to these dishes must take hours. Anette’s mantra is ‘no compromises, no shortcuts’.

Photographs above: Left – mix of dishes; Above right – Mutabbal beetroot; Below right – Mouhammara

Mutabbal beetroot was my favourite – home smoked aubergine, beetroot, lemon, garlic and pureed tahini, combining to create a creamy dip with a delicious flavor, new to me, in which none of the flavours I knew overrode any of the others.

Mouhammara is roasted pimento peppers and walnuts with pomegranate molasses; the walnut ground so the texture is gritty, so you can still tell what you’re eating. Again, I’m familiar with the ingredients but the sum of the parts was new to me and really interesting and tasty.

Babagannoush tastes more obviously of its main ingredient – aubergine, with pepper, tomato, garlic and lemon juice.

Stuffed vine leaves If you’re used to the supermarket variety, think again. The ingredients are the same – vine leaves, rice, parsley, lemon and olive oil, but freshly made vine leaves are soft, not brittle or chewy. According to a Syrian customer who was there when we were, they were the best he’s ever had. The key, apparently, is the quality of the leaves.

Fattoush is a finely chopped salad of mixed leaves, cucumber, pepper, tomato and onion with sumac dressing, which is the perfect accompaniment to the other dishes.

Chateau is the perfect places to bring vegans and celiacs as there are ten vegan choices on the savoury menu, several more options for vegetarians which involve cheese, and many more gluten free options. There are two desserts on the menu, but the fridge is stocked at any given time with 10 – 12 gluten free desserts ranging from fruit tarts to triple chocolate cake. It’s not however a place to come if you have a severe nut allergy, as although there are dishes without nuts, it’s a small kitchen which sees a lot of nuts.

We moved on to meat dishes.

Photographs above: Left – Chicken taouk; Above right – Meat Kibbeh; Below right – meat dish

Meat Kibbeh is lamb and beef, hand rolled with pine nuts to make a crispy exterior, served with a cucumber Tzatziki. Again a delicate combination of flavours and textures.

Lamb Kofta, a meat patty, with parsley and minted yoghurt.

Chicken taouk, very simple but delicious fried chicken, tender and tasty. Serves with aioli sauce, after which you won’t want to kiss anyone who hasn’t eaten with you. Head chef Pierre Kossaifi told me the trick with this is to freeze the garlic the day before, to take the bitterness off it. Then you blend it with sunflower oil, a hint of olive oil and lemon juice.

Lots of parsley, olive oil, lemon and garlic in everything, but all in a fine balance, nothing too strong. The Lebanese use cinnamon with meat too, whereas Europeans tend to keep it for desserts. Anette buys her meat and vegetables locally and goes to a Lebanese wholesaler for the spices. We chose a Lebanese wine to go with it, a Merlot from Chateau Cana, in south Lebanon – the biblical Cana where Jesus is supposed to have made water into wine. I trust he did as good a job as the current wine makers.

We could have chosen seafood, either a mixed seafood dish or a sea bass fillet with harissa sauce and ground nuts, or grilled prawns with a herb dip. We chose instead to head for the puddings – Tiramisu or Rose cream Ashtalieh.

Photographs above: Left – Rose Cream Ashtalieh; Centre and Right – Chateau cakes

Rose Cream Ashtalieh is the hands down winner, not least because it’s something you can’t get in every other restaurant in Chiswick. Caramelised pears in a rose jelly and cream infused with the flavours of rose and pistachio, with Anger hair and little bits of dried pink rose petals and green pistachio nuts sprinkled over. I wasn’t sure what Angel hair was. Spun sugar and tahini is the answer. Sesame and cashew nuts ground to a fine powder and combined with sugar, made the same way that candy floss is. The overall result, a light dessert which I suppose is a Lebanese version of our Eton mess, though not as sweet and with more subtle flavours.

Chateau is open every day at 213 Chiswick High Rd, Chiswick, W4 2DW, serving brunch from 8.00am – 4.00pm, a range of salads from 12.00, drinks and cakes at any hour of the day and sharing platters of Lebanese food from 6 – 10.00pm. The only evening it doesn’t serve Lebanese food is Sundays, when you can still pop in for cake and coffee until 10.00pm. The vegetarian sharing plates, salads and desserts are all £6.00 each; some of the seafood and meat dishes £9 and £12.

Chateau is part of The Chiswick Calendar Club Card scheme. Anette’s current July offer is 20% off food in the evenings after 6.00pm Tuesday – Thursday, or a free bottle of house wine every Friday for parties over 4 with a minimum spend of £50.

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See also: Profile of Anette-MegyaszaiChateau café-restaurant owner & founder

See also: All our current Club Card offers