Two weeks back, my husband and I trekked to the other end of London to dine in trendy Wimbledon Village. I don’t tend to go South of the river very often but the promise of Lebanese food at Layla was enough to tempt me to make the hour and a half journey.
As we set foot inside the restaurant we were amazed with the look and feel of the place. The decor at Layla quickly transports you to the enchanted world of the Arabian nights, with its exquisite chandeliers, draped ceilings and its intricate wooden frames. We quickly forgot we were in cold, wet London and left our troubles at home.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by a friendly waitress who showed us to our table and gave us our menus. After the long journey to Wimbledon, we were both parched and went straight for the wine list. We were both impressed with the large selection of wines available, including a fruity red from Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley that was offered by the glass and by the bottle. Seeing as we were in a Lebanese restaurant, it was only right that we ordered this. And we were very glad that we did. It was delicious. My husband and I spent the rest of the night telling each other how good the wine tasted with every sip.
The menu at Layla is very similar to that found in other Lebanese restaurants in London, including a number of my favourite dishes, such as jawaneh (spicy chicken wings in a garlic and coriander sauce) and sambousek (pastries filled with mince meat). Since we were here to carry out a review, we settled on a mixed mezze platter and some sujuk, spicy Lebanese sausage. We didn’t have to wait long for the food to arrive, which was beautifully presented. The platter contained a good selection of hot and cold dishes, including cheese bourek (crispy filo fingers filled with cheese), kibbeh (cracked wheat filled with minced lamb and pine nuts), falafel (broadbean and chickpea croquettes), as well as a selection of dips and tabbouleh salad. The platter also came with a basket of traditional Lebanese bread. It was all delicious, including the falafel, which I am not normally a fan of. We both really enjoyed the sujuk too, especially the addition of fried onions and peppers. A great start to our experience at Layla.
For our mains, my husband ordered the lamb shank, while I chose their chicken shawarma. I have to be honest and say I wasn’t very happy with the chicken dish. I was expecting tender chicken pieces cooked slowly on the rotisserie but instead found the chicken to be tough. My husband’s lamb shank, however, was amazing. Really succulent, melt in your mouth lamb that was falling off the bone. The dish came with vegetables and a scrumptious serving of Lebanese spiced rice with vermicelli.
Half way through our meal, the lights dimmed, the music went on and we were treated to a wonderful performance by a belly dancer. It was a fun atmosphere, which got all the diners conversing with one another, with some even joining in with the dancing.
For dessert, we ordered walnut atayef, Lebanese pancakes that were stuffed with walnuts and drenched in syrup. The pancakes came with a side of clotted cream known as ashta. I have never tried these pancakes before and at first glance I began to worry that they would be too sweet. I was wrong, they were in fact some of the tastiest pancakes I have tried. Crunchy on the outside, with a soft nutty flavour inside that went perfectly well with the pillowy cream. We also tried their karabeej halabi, a shortcrust pastry filled with pistachio and served with a slightly sweetened meringue cream. We were very impressed with both desserts.
All in all, my husband and I had a really good evening at Layla. The restaurant is perfect for both couples and groups seeking good food and entertainment. All the waiters are attentive and friendly and the decor is chic. Layla also has a lounge bar at the front of the restaurant for anyone looking to pop in for drinks and enjoy the live music on offer. The lounge even has its own menu with a selection of hot and cold appetisers and wraps. We will definitely be returning with a group of friends so that I can sit in one of their booths!
Disclaimer: My husband and I were offered a free meal at the restaurant, with two glasses of wine. However we were under no obligation to provide a positive review in return. All the opinions on this post are my own.