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I never expected to be writing a review about a coffee shop at an airport until last week when eating my favorite frozen yogurt in Lebanon -to date- and seeing the name Balkoumi on the napkin. Balkoumi, the same one that's at the airport? Here I was for a test.
Many of us of, myself included, consider airport food as expensive and sometimes unappetizing, that's why I avoid stopping for a coffee or even a quick bite, until I discovered Balkoumi.
Let's start by their yogurt, which I tried at Le Mall Dbayeh because the machine wasn't ready yet here at the airport. One of be lightest yogurts I've had, the most flavorful, the smoothest and, most importantly, they are logical in price. Half a kilo is for LBP20,000 and believe me that's a lot of yogurt. I've been three times already at Le Mall and the experience just gets better. Chocolate, pomegranate, lime or simply plain, all are just good.
After the yogurt experience I decided to give their cafe a try. On the Departures level, accompanied by my wife and daughter, I stopped for a quick bite.
The place is nice, clean and well decorated with its white tiles and golden paintings, some displaying Lebanese traditions and others the menu. The place is divided into many sections: The readymade food fridge, the displayed items facing the counter and the hot food preparation area. The first impression is good.
A cheese Mankouche, two American coffees, the sfouf cake, meghle and orange juice all for a reasonable LBP21,000. The presentation is clean, the packaging is professional and, to my surprise, the food is tasty.
Unfortunately today, they didn't have yogurt, but the choices would be chocolate, original, pink grapefruit and mango, so next time you feel like having a refreshing experience, don't hesitate to stop by.
The coffee is freshly brewed, served at a good temperature and strong in flavor without being acidic and strong. Their cups are cheaper than Starbucks. Manakish are displayed on a bar of glass and each is preheated as the customer orders it. A good quality, which my daughter devoured completely. Those manakish reminded me of the ones we used to have at school, heated and toasted and enjoyed to the last bite.
What's nice at Balkoumi are the choices. A wide selection of individually packed lebanese and orientalist streets of which I remember sfouf, sfouf debs, cakes and many dry oriental sweets packed two at a time. On the other hand, displayed in the open fridge is the Mezze selection along with Lebanese cold bites as well as meghle, chkheif and Mouhallabiya.
The sfouf are awesome to say the least, super tender and juicy sfouf. One single thick and spongy yellow cake topped with crushed almonds. I really loved it and you can take that from a sfouf lover. The meghle on the other hand is of a good quality and taste, but the coconut on top turns into a wet unpleasantly chewy mix. I would reconsider the coconuts.
Three thousand, four or five thousand, the prices are very reasonable. With that I met Mohammad, the chef, who made me taste their Knefe. I was intrigued to know who produces it so he took a spoon and invited it me to try it; it is good indeed especially when you consider you're in the airport.
The only negative point I recall was the welcoming. The waitress didn't feel like working, didn't look me in the eye, she left her station to go kiss her boyfriend, and gave me change by throwing it on the counter in front of you. I looked at her and asked her why didn't she start her day with a smile... The attitude changed immediately.
I do recommend Balkoumi, or maybe it's called Cafe Matik, but I would ask the management to wake up on the world's new direction and stop this "no pictures rule". It's my second attempt to take decent photos of the place and twice I've been blocked by the staff.
After check-in, THE SHOCK!
Now that you've checked in enjoy doubled prices after the security check. Coffee which was for LBP4,000 is now priced at LBP9,000. A fruit salad which is for LBP7,000 outside turns into a luxurious LBP13,000 fruit salad. Tropicana juice jumps from LBP1,000 to LBP5,000! Come on! Meghle is LBP2,000 outside and LBP7,000 inside! LBP6,000 for a soft drink... No way! What shall we call this, taking advantage? Or maybe stealing? If the rent is higher, change the menu so it doesn't look that obvious!
Arrive a bit earlier and stop for a bite at the Departure level, you'll enjoy it.
Suggestion: I believe Balkoumi should open in town.