Ruth Allan picks her way through the best of this eccentric Lebanese restaurant
Jandol Lebanese restaurant and tearooms has been open on Stockport Road since last June – and it’s an Instagrammer’s heaven. Strictly speaking, you’re not allowed to take pictures inside, but this relative newcomer is so shiny and flamboyant, it’s hard to obey the rules.
Egg pudding, slumped in its own juices for too long, reminds me of myself after hot yoga
The business was an established Lebanese sweet wholesaler before they opened in Levenshulme, adding a restaurant and some truly out there touches. Chandeliers swing overhead as plastic horses stand to attention below. Artificial grass – food for the horses, perhaps? - sprouts from every surface while mountains of nougat and jars of sugared almonds form a colourful backdrop. It’s the perfect location for Paris Hilton’s wedding … or the Grand National. Or something.
Jandol’s Facebook page claims to sell ‘baklawa for your bigness’ – and there are trays of the stuff everywhere alongside éclairs, ‘luxury fruit scones’, date pastries (maamoul) and fruit tarts wrapped in lashings of golden cellophane, or displayed in one of the chiller cabinets that circumnavigate the room. Over the sweet counter, a large sign looms: ‘NO PHOTOS’.
Ignoring the sign, I start snapping the house pickles (£2.50), some in brine, some in vinegar, moving onto cold and hot starters. Everything is great value; the vegan mezze especially so, at £8, for hummus, mouhammara (crushed walnuts and wheat with spicy peppers – nothing smooth or processed here, you can taste every corner), melting-soft loubieh (green beans, slow cooked in a garlic and tomato sauce) and a gentle aubergine stew.
My friend reckons the chefs use more oil and garlic than she’d ‘dare use at home’. I wish I could say the same - but nothing’s overwhelming or oily. Flatbreads are hot and bountiful, and sides like green-bellied falafel with a simple tahini sauce (£4), or labneh, lounging under a slick of oil and dried herbs (£2.50) are brilliant.
Salads are another strength. Tabbouleh is a lesson in citrus zing, while crisp, oily wafers of fried flat bread give Jandol’s fattoush (both £4) an edge. It’s almost impossible to stop scooping more onto my plate; the key, I think, is the thin, crisp bread and generous handfuls of flat leaf parsley, mint and coriander.
And… the good stuff stops just as the main course begins.
Worst offender is the cold, old shawarma lamb (£9). I wish I’d had the lamb chops (£9) or the lamb and okra stew (bamieh with lamb, £8.50). Our vegan main – heavy peppers, stuffed with mushroom and onion bulgur mash - doesn’t ooze freshness. It is, however, a meal for two at £6.
A watery cheese bourek squirts me in the eye (£4), while the neon Turkish Delight (£3.50) is another no from me. Go for pistachio or rose flavour if you must. The baklawa (£2.50) is better. As promised, it will add to your bigness.
There are more sweet things for dessert such as ice creams, cakes and tiramisu. Egg pudding, slumped in its own juices for too long, reminds me of myself after hot yoga. I go for an ok pear tart in the end, which comes without the promised cream (all cakes are £2.50).
So. Some bits are great (hummus, salads, drinks) and some aren’t (lamb, bourek). Drinks are good too –the cardamom tea (£3.50 for two) is a subtly refreshing choice. We don’t try the Arabic and British-style coffees, salted yoghurt drinks or homemade lemonade - but I come away with a warm feeling about Jandol. Seemingly unaware of the creeping homogeny that social media gives rise to, the restaurant is a genuine one off - and long may it shimmer.
Jandol, 861 Stockport Road, Manchester M19 3PW Tel: 0161 225 5502
Follow Ruth on Twitter @RuthAllan
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Pickles (7) mezze (8) falafel (8) labneh (8) lamb (3) peppers (5) Turkish Delight (6) Baklawa (9) Pear cake (7)