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Dinner at Centrale Beirut: Good Food, Pleasant Ambiance, Nice View on the Roof
Centrale has been offering a unique experience to its loyal customers for years. It was and is still a unique architectural structure designed by the famous Bernard Khoury who also conceived the one and only B018 underground club.
Centrale is set in a metallic building wrapped with wire mesh and topped with a half-barrel-shaped metal roof, metallic tables, concrete flooring with a dimmed yellow lighting between the bushes all, accompanied by a soft and relaxing musical background. The best part is the long corridor of greenery that shows you the way to the outer terrace of the restaurant where tables are separated by walls of trees giving each group the privacy it needs. An elegant dining room dates back to the 1930s, the perfect set up for a rich French menu offering continental specialties and regional comfort food. Meals include tomato and Parmesan tart, salade de homages or selection of carpaccio platters. Main course is a sampling of mixed grill specialties of beef or lamb, market-fresh fish and variety of pastas. For dessert a staff of bakers recreate French treasures like mixed berry pastries, vanilla souffles and homemade gelato.
I loved the details:
- Large and relaxing chairs with cushions. - An external AC system to ease the summer's heat but unfortunately it was not working properly. - A simple double sided international menu printed on an A4 thick paper where the choices are presented in English and French. A very intelligent initiative indeed considering that most restaurants choose one language only. - An interesting choice of wines proposed by Vintage wine cellar.
- Goat cheese on puff pastry with olives tapenade and tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, good cooking temperature, adequately salted. -A combination that crunches and then melts in the mouth- A special plate prepared in a unique way. - Risotto with saffron and shrimps is delicious, much better than many other Italian restaurants in Lebanon, but a heavy dish the summer's intense heat. The waiter proposed today's suggestions: lentil salad, three different tartars and cote de boeuf. I tasted the foie gras from my wife's plate and loved it.
- Centrale continues to offer the same good food. For people like us, who visit this restaurants since it first opened, we can still enjoy what we miss. - The long thin and crunchy slices of carrots presented at the beginning are unique. - A long warm French and crunchy baguette like the one found at Paul is sliced and offered with butter.
- I hate it when the waiter throws the cutlery on the table while changing the plates. It's a sign of disrespect. It will only cost them couple of knives to wash at the end of the day. - The meat cooking level was not respected and we had to eat medium well pieces instead medium rare. - The waiter is professional, perfectly doing his job, but unfortunately he was super antisocial. He didn't talk, he didn't smile, he didn't interact: I hate this type of serious and unpleasant staff. The wine chosen for the night: Brouilly 2010, Joseph Drouhin. An adequate choice with tonight's meal.
- Cheese cake, banana tart and fruit sorbet are fair and can be improved a notch: less cream and sweetness for the tarte, and a colder sorbet.
My personal suggestion:
I think Centrale is a perfect place for winter time and should be avoided during the summer heat. We were sweating all night long.
The Bar on the Roof:
The last floor offers a different experience for Lebanon's night owls. The retractable roof to its long, dark tunnel bar with the view of the lights and water of Beirut below, the stunning interior is as elegant and up-market as any in the world. The original building dates back to the 1920s but it was overhauled with the new roof and design-bar in 2001. Soothing jazz and R&B sounds compliment the classy drinks - a mix cosmos, martinis and whiskey cocktails. After dinner just continue your night up on the last floor.