January 10, 2013 Hamra & Verdun Beirut Lebanon Middle East

T-Marbouta in Hamra: More Than An Arabic Letter

RATING:62/100

Welcoming: 3/5

Food Temperature: 7/10

Ambiance / Music: 7/10

Menu Choice: 4/5

Food Taste: 21/30

Architecture / Interior: 7/10

Food presentation: 7/10

Service: 6/10

Value for money: Soon

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T-Marbouta is an original place, or at least it was for me the second I walked into the place where everyone seemed to feel right at home. Although T-marbouta has been around for some time now, I only just discovered this unique spot in Hamra, located in the same center as Starbucks and Laziz, a couple of days ago.

'Coffee, books & people' is the vision behind this different kind of cafe called T-Marbouta. More than a cafe, it is envisioned as an open cultural space where all come to socialize, read, meet, surf the net, and discuss issues of the day.  Designed by Atelier Hamra, here's a comfortable, homey interior which includes a large study area and a lounge like main space. The restaurant has a simple low cost yet interesting architecture: A couple of books welcome you after passing through a closed curtain, the library nested on the first floor, a dessert corner, a long wooden bar, an inner court and another outside all covered with low fir wood chairs, interchangeable cushions and tables that's simple yet allows for color integration in an open space. This place has no sophistication whatsoever yet delivers simple old Lebanese customs for all generations.

Looking around, you see some older men outside smoking and talking, youngsters with their laptops, others reading a book, a group of foreigners who come in for a bite. It's like an international community offering much more than just space. It's a full package of services: local food, coffee, Internet, calmness, smoke-free environment, smooth music. I asked the waiter about the name t-marbouta, which is one of the Arabic alaphabets. He explained that this place resembles a t-marbouta which is a letter that's never articulated in a word and sits alone in a word. It means a lot and describes a lot. I like it.

The menu, printed on a nylon A3 paper has everything Lebanese:

  • Hot drinks
  • Soft drinks
  • Iced drinks
  • Spirits
  • Breakfast
  • Soup
  • Platters
  • Sandwiches
  • Desserts
  • Mezze
  • Salads

There are different parts of T-Marbouta - each one with a small cartoonish drawing signs on the wall depicting what it is: Desserts, Library, Bar, Smoking terrace, the living area, toilets... After asking for the Internet password, I ordered a labneh sandwich. Just to see what it's like. Labneh wrapped in saj bread served with four little slices of cucumber and black olives. The black olives are perfect, the cucumber is fresh, the bread is not chewy but the Labneh is not of premium quality: we have much better in Lebanon. I wanted to try more. I was lost as it was my first time and I had no idea what to try... On the table next to me was a group of women who were all foreigners. They had an interesting looking plate. I asked one of the ladies, who was British what it was and she nicely answered: "It's grilled chicken... It's delicious... You know, everything here is great!"

I ended up ordering a few different things...Today's lunch:

  • Arayess Meat
  • Hommos with meat
  • Grilled Halloum
  • Vine leaves
  • Cheese rolls

The food is tasty:

Vine leaves stuffed with rice are served warm, that was a premiere for me - maybe that's why I enjoyed the pronounced lemony taste of the mix. All the ingredients are perfectly cut and cooked, melting under your teeth. Cheese rolls are correct, the homos with meat is tasty and generous, Arayess Lahmeh is a dish to try. Everything like the British lady said is tasty, well appreciated by tourists as the preparations are simple, generous and unsophisticated. Two hours passed already and here I am sitting on this low sofa, eating, working and looking at everybody's serenity and calmness. We should have more places like this in Lebanon, places like T-Marbouta and Em Nazih. You meet, in such places people who don't follow what is considered the norm: imagine couple of them are still using MSN messengers. I thought it has become obsolete.

It's nice place, unique to discover and blend in...




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been there? what was your impression? (7.86/10)

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happy
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good
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euhh
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meh!
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nah!
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never again