Tucked around the corner from Kensington High Street is Randa, a fine Lebanese Restaurant which is part of the Maroush group of restaurants. Started in 1981 by Marouf Abouzaki who left war-torn Lebanon for London, The Maroush Group now includes 16 restaurants, ranging from the fast food operations of Beirut Express on Edgware Road to the more upmarket establishments such as Maroush on Vere Street and Randa. All the Maroush restaurants aim to serve authentic Lebanese food the traditional way, and at Randa, the menu offers a standard staple of Lebanese goodies. The selection includes a variety of much loved hot and cold mezzes such as hommos as well as an assortment of baked goods and pastries. There is also a fine selection of main courses including seafood and meat grills.
We began our meal with a selection of mezze including chickpea hommos (£5.50) and moutabal baba ghanouj (£5.75), a grilled aubergine purée mixed with tahine. Both of these were delightfully good. The hommos was thick, creamy and tasty, but the baba ghanouj proved to be my favourite with its rich, decadent and slighted charred flavour.
Charcoal-grilled marinated chicken wings served with garlic sauce (£6) proved to be a winner. The wings were really nicely cooked and succulent, and they paired wonderfully with the strong garlic-y flavour of the wonderfully thick sauce. These chicken wings with garlic sauce are a personal favourite of mine, and on occasion I will pop into Beirut Express on Edgware Road just to order the wings.
Other hot mezzes included kibbeh (£6), deep-fried lamb meatballs mixed with cracked wheat and onions, and falafel (£5.50), deep-fried bean and herb croquettes served with tahine. Both of these were freshly prepared with crunchy coatings and tasty fillings. Grilled halloumi cheese (£6.50) was truly yummy with a robust earthy flavour.
Les successful items included the Maroush salad (£5.75) and lentil soup. The salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, parsley, mint, onion, radish and with a lemon and olive oil dressing was also wonderfully fresh. But it was over dressed with too much lemon juice and very acidic on the palate. A lentil soup (£5) was also a little bland.
For our main we shared a plate of grilled king prawns (£18) which was a dream to eat. Four jumbo-sized prawns sat on our plate and were firm in texture and very nicely cooked. The combination of texture and good cooking yielded something that was really flavoursome.
For dessert we tried a selection of baklawa which contained a variety of fillings. The pastry was delicate and the syrupy sweetness of the baklawa was not did overpower the flakiness of the pastry and the tasty fillings. All of these were delicious.
The food at Randa was really enjoyable. The mezzes sang of freshness and authenticity, the prawns were delicious and the baklawa was good too. I would have liked better balance in the salad dressing and greater flavour in the lentil soup, but otherwise it’s a big tick for Randa on the food front. The service was warm and friendly too.
1) The food was generally well executed with the moutabal baba ghanouj being my favourite.
2) The jumbo prawns
1) The salad and the lentil soup were the weakest dishes that we tried.
Food rating: 3.5/5
Service rating: 3.5/5
Prices: About £20 to £40 a head.