Leila's Authentic Lebanese Cuisine

Opening a Lebanese restaurant is a brave venture in a country where, triggered by government propaganda, negative sentiments about the Middle East are running high. So kudos to Lebanese-Estonian owners for swimming against the current with the 2018 launch of Leila’s Authentic Lebanese Cuisine, located on a quiet backstreet in District 6. With Lebanese and Syrian cooks in the kitchen, Leila’s is indeed an authentic restaurant using traditional recipes and spices (most plates are abundantly dressed in parsley, sumac, thyme, and lemon juice).

Here's the bad news though: Leila's dishes are a bit overpriced and still a work in progress. On the positive side, I enjoyed the hummus with spicy lamb mezze (hummus lahmeh), and the labneh, which is a creamy, strained yogurt. Also good is the kibbeh, a deep-fried Levantine classic of bulgur and minced meat spruced up with herbs and studded with pine nuts (its Turkish version, içli köfte, might be more familiar to Hungarians).

The biggest letdown at Leila's is the Lebanese beef kebab (kafta), which is dry, undersized, and expensive for €11. You’re better off with the shish taouk, a juicier and nicely charred skewered chicken with fries and a white sauce. Of the salads, both the parsley-dominating tabbouleh and the fattoush, drenched in pomegranate molasses, were too sour for my taste. On the dessert front, the chef’s surprise is the halawet el-jibn, a light treat of cheese dough stuffed with cream. It's very tasty, but I wish the portion was bigger.

As with other Middle Eastern restaurants, here too, sharing plates with a larger group is the way to go. Note that Leila's does serve alcohol, including Hungarian wines and beer.