Lebaneat Yarm,

48 High Street,

Yarm TS15 9AH

Web: lebaneat.co.uk

Phone: 01642-784500

APRIL, as TS Eliot nearly said, is the coldest month, particularly if you are eating out. There were a cruel, record-breaking 13 days of air frosts last month, beating April 1970 when there were 11. As we can currently only dine outside, last week’s review in this space contained so many references to teeth chattering that another of our intrepid team of eating out reviewers cried off for fear of hypothermia.

With a deep depression forecast for the first weekend in May, we decided to eat in and dream of warmer climates – like the Middle East, where the average April temperature is 18 degrees.

Lebaneat’s website says it is “the most beloved and top rated Lebanese restaurant in Durham and the North-East”. How many other only slightly loved and poorly rated Lebanese restaurants there are in the district, it is difficult to tell, but it has two branches in Durham itself and one in Yarm.

I struggled to get the rest of Lebaneat’s website to co-operate. The dropdown menus didn’t drop down to reveal the food menu, and when I clicked the “place your order” button, the screen became covered in conflicting menus. JustEat was far simpler.

It revealed that Lebaneat’s menu is grill orientated and extremely extensive with an impressive array of vegetarian, vegan and halal dishes. Many items come gluten free for an extra £1.50, and most dishes have names that fill the mouth with letters leftover from a bad Scrabble hand: Moutabal Baba Ghanoush (grilled aubergines), Farrouj Meshwi (chargrilled chicken), and even Foul Moudamas (boiled broad beans).

As we arrived to collect our order, an envelope of sun setting was keeping the last of the brave diners warm before it dropped beneath the roofs on the west side of Yarm high street and the temperature plummeted. Inside was a big kitchen, a score or more of people hard at work.

We’d ordered for 7.05pm, and it was ready to the minute.

Our first course was a mixed starter of eight dishes on a compartmentalised plastic tray (£7.20). It was a good selection of dips – hummus and cream cheese – plus some hot and cold tastes: a falafel, with a crunchy outside and a fluffy middle, a stuffed vine leave, the ghanoush, and a sliver of the squeakiest halloumi known to man – you could feel it polishing your teeth as you ate it. The tastes were quite delicate, although there was some mint in the vine leaves and a kick of heat to the spicey potatoes.

The portions weren’t large, but it was enough for two people, and anyhow, Theo, our son, had his own Sambousek Cheese – cigar-shaped pastries filled with feta cheese. In some places, these can be all flaky pastry, but they were well filled. Again, the taste was delicate, but they came with a fabulous garlic sauce.

In fact, we got a tower of plastic pots filled with accompaniments: a rather insipid tahini sauce, a good tomatoey chilli sauce and then the garlic.

For her main course, Petra, my wife, had selected a lentil soup (£6), served with Lebanese flatbread. I couldn’t understand this, as lentils to me are usually very bland, but this was really good: thick and golden, and rich in taste with a touch of pepper. In the tower of pots were some crispy onions which added a crunch to the soup.

Grandma had the chargrilled lamb chops (£14.95), which the menu billed as “spectacularly succulent.

Her tinfoil tray was attractively lined with a Lebanese flatbread, which was a bit crunchy around the edges, and there was a red onion, a green pepper and a red tomato in there, along with five-and-a-half chops.

She also had burgeoning polystyrene container of good chips, but “kizzened” might have been the most accurate description of chops. They were very black down the bone, but the meat itself was moist, tasty and enjoyable.

When she struggles with a fish finger sandwich, she was never going to manage five-and-a-half chops, so Theo and I added a couple to our mixed grill. At £21.95, it was the most expensive item on the menu. It didn’t say how many people was aimed at, but at least three could have feasted well on it.

We had skewers of lamb and chicken koftas, cubes of lamb and chicken plus some chicken wings, all of it well cooked – dark, but still succulent. Plus there was a huge pile of shawarma chicken – shavings of marinated chicken.

We, too, had a flatbread, plus some chargrilled vegetables and a portion of chips.

I’d also ordered a Lebanese salad – finely chopped lettuce, cucumber, tomato and onions with a few spices and plenty of fruity pomegranate sauces on top – and so, with the variety of dips keeping each mouthful fresh, we were extremely well fed.

Indeed, even as we finished, we looked forward to the leftovers the following evening.

We finished with the mixed dessert (£7.95) which came on another compartmentalised plastic tray. There was a slice of chocolate cake, two small baklavas (pastry with honey and walnut) and two knefehs (noodles with syrup and sweet cheese), which looked like shredded wheat.

The cake was something and nothing, but the baklavas and knefehs absolutely oozed with sticky sweetness. You couldn’t really taste the honey or the syrup, nor the walnuts or the cheese, but the mouth filled with a pleasant, seeping sugariness.

With the next night’s meal already in the fridge, and with a couple of unopened garlic sauce pots still in the tower to go with it, this was an interesting and good value meal consumed in the comfort and warmth of our own home – we’ll be tempted to a little of the Levant again while eating out in the frozen or rain-lashed wasteland is so dependent on the uncertainties of the English weather.