June 30, 2014 Gemmayze & Mar Mikhael Beirut Lebanon Middle East

The Revival of the TrainStation: All Aboard for a Unique Experience

Phone Number: 78907090

Address: Mar Mikhael Old Train Station


Price Range: 30-60 $


Welcoming: 5/5

Food Temperature: 6/10

Ambiance / Music: 8.5/10

Menu Choice: 4/5

Food Taste: 23/30

Architecture / Interior: 10/10

Food presentation: 7/10

Service: 9/10

Value for money: Soon

Last month's wedding at the Train Station was awesome on all fronts. The decoration, the vibes, the food... Details that made me really feel the sixties spirit when trains were still passing through this area. When I heard that Alain Hadife and B018 were reviving the train station creating a new venue. Of course I wanted to be the first one to try it.

The TrainStation is not just any nightlife venue, but a collaboration between the finest in the industry; B018, the renowned nightlife experience provider, Alain Hadife, the brain behind Caractére wedding planner and CinCin, the bar specialist. Food has an important part to play as well, since this venue is catered by Faqra.

Enter the historic train station parking lot, leave your car with the valet and walk the few meters that take you to the TrainStation venue. Since it has long lain disused, the once lively train station has degenerated into a wilderness garden. A breathtaking arena, filled with positive vibes from the last century was finally transformed to introduce Lebanon's history to a new generation. Expect to be amazed by those old trains which should occupy our museums.

Under the high water tower, a monument standing to remind us of the war, is the TrainStation entrance. A locomotive to the left, a stone wall to the right, welcome to this wonderful venue, where simple details will fill your senses.
How about we start with a few historical notes?
  • 1895: The Mar Mikhael site was chosen to serve as the Western terminus station of the Beirut-Damascus railway
  • 1942: The Orient Express was regularly arriving from Paris and stopped at Istanbul. There, the Taurus Express took over, serving the Rayaq station three times a week, and thereby enabling commuters to travel to either Beirut or Aleppo. After World War Two the Taurus Express terminated in Beirut, allowing the transport of merchandise from Lebanon to Europe
  • 1975-1990: The railways witness the onset of political unrest in Lebanon, trains are often the target of hostilities.
  • 1977: 1977 marked the last journey for a cement train from Chekka towards Beirut
  • 1991: The dedicated railroad workers guarding the railway heritage during the war years undertook repair works between Beirut and Jbeil, inaugurating the Peace Train in 1991 to symbolize the end of armed conflict.
  • 1995: The trains stopped forever
  • 2005: Three kilometers of the Rayaq–Damascus line are restored to potentially serve as a tourist attraction

Respecting the spirit, the walls have been left as is but simply decorated with graffiti designs, the floor has been covered with a stone pavement and the old structures lit to show them off. Tables have been constructed of wood panels and bars from metal tanks.

Let's look closer at the architecture details:
  • The TrainStation is a long rectangular venue, with the highway to the right and the parked trains to the left
  • At the end of the venue, where the WCs are located, you should stop in front of the rotating rails that used to move a train from a lane to the other just to admire them
  • The wall separating the venue from the highway has been all decorated with colorful graffiti designs
  • Next to the entrance, a large grill enchants the area with refreshing cooking sounds and aromatic flavors. Chefs from Faqra catering prepare everything a-la-minute
  • Next to the barbecue, a vegetable stand is one of the main decorative centerpieces
  • Eight loungers welcome you as well as dozens of high tables and stools
  • The loungers are built of large cushions covered with grey fabrics layered one on top of the other and surrounding wooden pallets are transformed into tables
  • The high tables are even more ingenious, created of metallic oil barrels and large glass tops
  • Separating the restaurant into two parts is the cellar. Under the rail, a glass top covers the bottles lying underneath, lit in white. Over them are large rectangular tables that move on rails giving the opportunity to change the setup of the venue
  • The bar has been setup under the petroleum tank. Behind it are two trains left as they sit since their last trip in the Seventies
  • Around the premises, sand bags define the venue
  • On one of the trains is the DJ booth, overlooking the venue, the master of the decks feels the vibes
  • One single lounge is higher than the others, taking for its location a train next to the DJ booth. This is one table you'll want to reserve as you’ll be overlooking the venue
  • With dimmed lighting, lounge music, enjoyment is guaranteed
  • After 11pm, the trains prepare to depart while smoke erupts from their engines

The TrainStation opens at 6pm welcoming you for a sunset experience while the tunes change to accommodate nightlife lovers until 2am.

A nice ambiance, positive vibes and a beautiful atmosphere made time pass so quickly while hunger slowly rose. I came here for the food after all, so let's see what they have to offer.
The menu:
  • Starters (duo selection of tapas bresaola and goat cheese, grilled vegetables antipasto salad, balsamic glazed grilled Portobello mushrooms)
  • The grill (the station mini burgers, duo of BBQ skewers, Australian beef skewers a la citronelle, lemon herb chicken skewers, a smoking hot frankfurter, marinated king prawns, Australian grain fed beef filet, Australian grain fed rib eye steak)
  • Garnishes (whole corn, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, asparagus, potatoes, green leaves, eggplants, zucchinis, tomatoes)
We ordered a bit of everything to have an idea of the menu. The TrainStation does not have a kitchen so don't expect fine cooked meals, but rather a simple barbecue experience using the finest of ingredients.
The food:
  • Duo BBQ: The meat and chicken used at the TrainStation are exceptional. A fine and juicy Australian beef marinated to perfection served next to a chicken skewer that's juicy and enjoyable. Well seasoned, juicy, tender and delicious, the quality of this place is perfect. I loved how the skewers are served on vine leaves to preserve their temperature and accompanied by mixed grilled vegetables and grilled potatoes. Consistent and tasty.
  •  Australian beef a la citronelle: Yum! Richly marinated Australian beef skewers that melt under your teeth like butter while their strong lemony flavor caresses your taste buds in style. I loved them. Served on green vine leaves, the skewers are served with grilled potatoes and vegetables
  • Flavored potatoes: The flavored potatoes are grilled and served with some toothpicks and a cocktail sauce. Large pieces of tender potatoes left as is with their crispy skin and seasoned to perfection with their "flavoring": Sea salt, pepper and special spices. This is the only item served on a porcelain plate while the others come on a round stainless steel tray.
  • Mini Burgers: This was my least favorite dish of the night. Four mini burgers served with chips on the side. A premium bun, tender and lightly spongy, but filled only with a piece of meat with cocktail sauce and pickles. Those burgers lacked something. Even though tender and juicy, the meat taste was too prominent in this mix and it was too “melting” under the teeth. I'd simply require more pickles and a slice of lettuce or thinly cut tomato. Superb ingredients but lack seasoning and body.
  • Frankfurter: The menu states "smoking hot frankfurter". Why is it served on a plate, cut in cubes, without bread or sauce? I was expecting a sandwich like the mini burgers. How about 4 mini hotdog sandwiches with chips, mustard and ketchup on the side? A bit of relish will add a nice touch of finesse to the plate. Receiving the hotdog on a plate is deceiving... An order that was disappointing.
  • Balsamic glazed Portobello mushroom: I loved the taste, the innovation, the glazing and enjoyable seasoning, if only the portobello mushrooms were a bit bigger. Those should be served in a porcelain plate as well as concentrating the sauce under the mushrooms and preserving their warm temperature. I think the picture says it all .
  • Bresaola and goat cheese tapas: Those were nothing to write home about. Without going into too many descriptive details, I'd simply remove them of the menu. They have nothing to do with all the other items of the menu. The bread is dry, the filling is salty... a bite that doesn't fit summer’s humidity.
For an outdoor venue and for a summer lounge, taking into consideration that the chefs don't have a kitchen to work in, the food at the TrainStation is better than I expected. Try the meat, it's exceptional.

Notes and things I'd change:

  • You’ll eat everything here with a toothpick. Those should be special, bigger and maybe branded... Since they represent the forks around here, the toothpicks should be taken more seriously
  • I think stainless steel is not a great idea for cooked items. Metal transmits cold quickly and absorbs the heat of food. Anyway those plates are huge for the size of the tables
  • I'll lower the music so we can hear each others better
The TrainStation is a must visit before summer ends. Come for the vibes, the music, the drinks and the food. A package of fine creations will put a smile on your face.





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