With over ten branches in London, Maroush is fast becoming one of the most recognised names in serving authentic Lebanese cuisine in the capital.
Situated in Vere Street, a side road in the heart of the West End amongst all the department stores and retail shops, this Maroush branch manages to leave an impression with its grand façade of burning fire torches and blue fluorescent lights. The decor of the interior however is not as trendy or edgy as the suggestive blue lighting, but the high ceiling in the dining area is bright and spacious. Tables can be pushed together to accommodate more seats, and with the mezzanine level too, this venue becomes a good choice for big groups of diners.
Disappointingly, the atmosphere here lacks the authenticity this popular restaurant chain is known to carry. Despite its big name and grand entrance, the vibe here feels a little dull and tired. Most of the staff seem uninterested and the service overall is slow and inattentive. The crowd comprises mostly tourists and shoppers due to its proximity to Oxford Street, with a few local workers nipping in for a quick bite after work on a school night. The restaurant can get quite busy, but the staff does very little to relate and interact with the diners.
With the reputation as an upscale Lebanese restaurant, be prepared to pay a little more for your favourite dishes and an additional £2 cover charge if you choose to sit on the mezzanine level. The meal starts with a wide selection of cold mezze and hot mezze. A plate of houmous (£5) is just enough to share between two, and the texture is a little on the thick and dry side. Tabbouleh (£5.25) - parsley salad mixed with tomato and mint dressed with lemon juice - is a fresh zesty choice. Popular hot mezze dishes include grilled halloumi cheese (£6.50), falafel (£6), and soujok (£6.50)- spicy Lebanese sausages sautéed in lemon juice. If you prefer something heavier, there are also a handful of lamb dishes from the Maroush Specialities selection (£6-£7.50).
Lebanese cuisine is well known for its grilled meat, and the menu here proudly presents more than twenty main courses, with a wide selection of chicken and lamb dishes (£13.95). The shish taouk is a popular choice of marinated chicken cubes, charcoal grilled on skewers, and served with creamy garlic sauce on the side. For lamb lovers the lahem meshwi is an alternative with lamb cubes, but if you prefer long strips of minced lamb, try the kafta meshwi. Warm bread is served on your plate one at a time by the staff so it stays fresh and warm throughout the meal. Unfortunately this service can become quite impractical at busy times; you could be left waiting for a long time before the bread basket comes around again.
The servings of main courses are quite generous, and there are also a few vegetarian choices such as aubergine or green bean stews. The complimentary salad is a bowl of uncut vegetables that looks more decorative than appetising. Peppers, carrots, cucumbers and even onions are presented whole, which is a little odd: be prepared to put your tall white chef’s hat on as there’s a lot chopping required when you attempt to share this bowl of salad amongst a group friends.
Most of the desserts are sweet and nutty, with pistachio being one of the favourite ingredients in Lebanese puddings. Ossmallieh, baked vermicelli mixed with syrup and crushed pistachios - is a good choice if you prefer something creamy and sweet. Baklawa (£3.50), the traditional Lebanese pastries in bite sizes, fail to deliver that moist combination of crispy pastry layers with nuts and syrup.
Maroush has quite an extensive wine list, with a good selection of reds, whites and few roses. A small glass of house wine starts at £4, or £20 for a bottle. If you prefer something non-alcoholic, all the fruit juices make a good choice and they are freshly squeezed from the fruit bar next to the kitchen. For some reason they apparently only serve bottled water here so be prepared to add another £3 to your bill when your request for tap water is inexplicably turned down.
The Last Word
For a restaurant that carries a big name of its kind, the overall experience fails to meet the high expectations. Despite some of the signature dishes successfully delivering authentic Lebanese flavours, it's a little hit and miss. Best try one of the others.