Restaurant Review: Sands Restaurant (Lebanese), Bristol

Sands Restaurant was quiet when we arrived, early on a Friday evening, but became busier as the evening progressed. The whitewashed walls and vaulted ceilings of the basement rooms provide a cozy setting with modern furniture and white tablecloths providing a modern, unfussy look. A glass atrium lets in natural light from above (or gives a view of the stars, at night). Service is friendly and efficient.

For drinks Pete tried the Lebanese Almaza beer whilst Matt and I enjoyed Sands’ homemade still lemonade, lifted by the addition of fresh mint.

We ordered a selection of mezze as a shared starter.

Moussaa’at Batinjan
This cold dish of baked aubergines and chickpeas with tomatoes and spices was delicious, the spices bringing out rather than masking the wonderful strong flavours of the produce.

Zahra Maglia
Not usually a fan of cauliflower, I loved the small hot pieces of fried cauliflower topped with sesame oil, parsley, garlic and lemon juice. A light coating of flour before frying gave a light crispiness to the florets and the flavours were light and fresh.

Sujiq
These tiny maroon Armenian sausages were spicy with just the right kick of heat. Very moreish.

Sfeeha
My favourite choice were these little square pastries filled with a seasoned minced lamb and topped with pine nuts. The lamb was practically pureed and so soft and moist, with a wonderful delicate flavour.

Kellaj
For me, this dish, consisting of 4 slices of baked Lebanese flatbread sprinkled with grated halloumi cheese and then grilled, was the only slightly disappointing starter. I wish we’d ordered the grilled halloumi pieces (Jibna) instead.

With the starters we were served three circles of Lebanese flatbread called Khobez. Light, fluffy and soft, these were truly superb and we ordered three more to enjoy with our mains.

For our mains, Matt and I both had the Kharoof Mahshi, a slow-baked lamb shank with garlic and herbs served with rice. The lamb was so tender it fell off the bone. The meat and the sauce were meaty and savoury goodness. The rice too was tasty, almost a dish in it’s own right.

Pete ordered the Kafta Khash Khashi, what I’d call koftas, topped with a spicy tomato sauce. The waitress made a mistake and he was served the plain Kafta dish without the sauce. He decided not to ask for it to changed since he liked it well enough.

Despite being stuffed, Matt and I couldn’t resist sharing a dessert and, since we couldn’t decide on one, we went for the Mixed Sweets platter which included a pistachio and walnut Baklavva, Ataif – mini pancakes filled with cream, pistachios and rose water and Usmalia – baked vermicelli pastry filled with lebanese cream and drizzled in rosewater syrup. Lebanese cream, by the way, is simply whipped cream flavoured with rosewater. The baklavva was nothing special but the Ataif were light and delicate and the Usmalia was an absolute revelation. I’d only previously come across the vermicelli pastry packed tight into a solid layer in pastries similar to baklava, not served as individual fried strands held together only very lightly by the sticky rosewater syrup. Magical!

Not being a fan of nuts or rosewater, Pete declined a dessert and had a latte instead.

The bill, including service, came to a little over £90 for the three of us.

I recommend the restaurant highly and would certainly like to visit again next time I’m in Bristol.

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