Bar Arabica, Borough Market, 2/5

A relatively pleasant martini was let down by bad service and poor value for money.

 

It wouldn’t take much to perfect their martini but some of the fundamentally poor elements of the restaurant will be more difficult to rectify.

  
Nestled under a railway arch in Borough Market, I had high hopes for this Levantine restaurant. However, the service wasn’t particularly attentive, the portions were small and the martini didn’t do it for me.

  
I was looking forward to a tasty za’tar man’oushe, even though I have regularly been warned that you just can’t get good Lebanese food in London. Sadly it didn’t match my Beiruti experiences. It was a little dry and lacking in fresh ingredients.

  
Other portions were small and not cheap, although we did like boregi (essentially the same as börek – a spinach and feta pastry) which was crunchy and satisfying.

  
The atmosphere was pleasant, with the rumble of trains and nice lighting, but some of our dishes were forgotten. Indeed we felt somewhat forgotten on occasion.

When I asked about the gin used in their martini I was told it was a home-made compound gin, but the waiter couldn’t tell me anymore about it.

  
It arrived chilled but not especially cold, in a coupe glass, with a strip of lemon peel. As always, I feel the need to urge London restaurants serving martinis to keep their gin and glasses (martini glasses, not coupe glasses!) in the freezer.

However, this martini was redeemed by its particular lemon flavour – it was especially citrusy which I like. The gin did not seem especially dry, which was perhaps a blessing considering its temperature, but all in all it wasn’t unpleasant.

 
So what to do? Larger portions would be nice. If you’ve ever eaten in the Middle East you will realise that it’s rare to leave a meal without feeling utterly stuffed and potentially in pain from your host’s kind and generous hospitality. This was not the feeling I had at this Levantine restaurant.  More generous portions and attentive service would be in order. Then keep the homemade gin in the freezer and serve it in a proper martini glass.

Martini with a sprig of thyme

  

This is a very simple variation on the classic martini.

Thyme is one of my favourite herbs. The mouth-watering smell evokes summertime, or some of the delicious za’tar manouche (savoury thyme-flavoured Lebanese wraps) I’ve eaten in Beirut, London and Dubai.

 
Take a sprig of fresh thyme (I’ve been growing some on the balcony), wash and dry it, then rub it around a chilled martini glass to transfer its flavour.

I also rubbed some lemon peel around the glass as well. The lemon and thyme combination might be especially good before a roast chicken dinner.
 Discard the lemon peel, pour the martini using the classic recipe and use the thyme as a garnish.

It adds a nice hint of aromatic flavour to the drink while providing a delicate and colourful garnish that looks so good in the spring as everything starts to turn green.

I think I might try infusing some into a batch of gin. Watch this space…