Beirut has a new fine dining address: Barbizon. The name is inspired by a group of French painters of the mid-19th century whose landscapes and genre paintings depicted peasant life and the quality of natural light on objects... named after Barbizon, the village near Paris, where the painters gathered.
Managed by Georges Batal, the man behind Au Vieux Quartier, Lutecia and Alésia, Barbizon sits in the beautiful location in Achrafieh where La Posta used to be, facing Metropolitan Club under Liza's.
Take the stairs leading to the restaurant and enjoy the history around you. To the right you will find a white space decorated to perfection. White table cloths and white chairs under a series of modern gold ring chandeliers suspended from the ceiling.
Around the space, you will find different sections that will keep your thoughts and imagination racing... You'll find a wine cellar made of glass that showcases their collection, a room housing cold cuts and jamon, and a long bar that occupies the end of the restaurant.
Sit and enjoy the table setting. A table napkin, wine glasses, a water glass, Peugeot salt and pepper mills, Arthur Krupp cutlery and an ashtray. Some of the tables are decorated with a red flower. Grey painted walls, arcades with glazed concrete floors offer a view of the garden.
The menu is French, using premium products imported from the land of fine foods. Salads, starters, tartares, pasta, risotto, grills, starters from the butchery, fish, seafood and desserts.
When the waiter, who is wearing white gloves, approaches with a silver basket of bread and clamps, you know that dinner has started.
Homemade bread, served warm next to Echiré butter. Tasty bread, a crunchy crust and a warm inside. Flavorful, aromatic and fresh.
Dinner is served, a mise en bouche to start:
- An exceptional tartare de Merou beautifully marinated in olive oil and lemon with baie rose and dill. Fresh white fish offering a unique taste and a fine flavor. As good as it should be, as good as it looks... a recommended plate that's so well balanced it makes every taste bud awaken with enjoyment.
- What a burrata! You feel like you're drinking a glass of buffalo milk. A rich and full bodied burrata cheese that melts in the mouth like butter. Press your tongue over your palate and enjoy.
- Smoked salmon: fatty, salty and beautifully textured... as good as it should be.
- Sweet notes, crunchy pickles, fresh aromas, a beautiful color, tender meat... it's one of the country's best meat tartares created a la Française. Hints of pepper, splashes of sweetness and this unique meat.
- Ravioli cooked al dente, five pieces prepared in a creamy sauce; thin ravioli with firm edges and stuffed with truffled cèpes. I loved their taste and quality.
Before having the meat, knives were changed and a Sambonet butcher's knife arrived at the table. A beautiful knife which I loved using. I will take a brief moment to mention some of the details I appreciated about this new restaurant: the professional and well trained staff which I've previously met at Le Talleyrand and Alesia; the water glass bottles, and the ambiance of the restaurant.
- Meat arrived next: generous looking portions, tender meat, with a grilled taste and of premium quality. It's all about that meat that melts in your mouth, just enough texture with just enough smoothness. Beef chunks are served in a baked potato skin with a potato purée on the side. Green beans and broccoli accompany it.
- Stroganoff the Russian way with spiced rice: tender meat, tender mushrooms and white rice.
As the experience was coming to an end, we ordered some desserts: a warm and molten dark chocolate fondant, homemade Mille feuille and pain perdu similar to the one I have had at Alesia down in Beirut.
PS: Smoking inside needs to be banned!
Barbizon is now open; an upscale French bistro... I'll be coming back for more after the official opening.