Facing the Beirut forest (Heresh Beirut) on Tayyouneh is Baba Sweets. Other than selling sweets, Al Baba has a cafe called Baba Cafe. A welcoming man offers to take the car keeping it safely behind the building while you walk in.
No welcoming, I didn't know if I should order or simply sit and be served. Seeing a waiter walk around I asked what I should do. Impolitely, continuing his walk he answered in a low voice that we should sit.
Al Baba sweets came second in our last "Best Baklava in Lebanon" competition two years ago simply because the service was bad, really bad. Today, another branch and the service is still the same. No smiles, no welcoming and a single waiter for a whole section using words or a lexicon that weren't up to a waiter's standard.
A wide glass facade facing the only remaining trees in Beirut and inside is a large relaxing sweet shop. Square tables fill the closed terrace surrounded by white leather chairs on a floor of fake parquet. Inside, the food is divided into distinct sections with one for ice cream, one for sweets and the facing counter where the Knefeh is.
The breakfast menu has croissants, lahme Beajine and Knefeh as well as the selection of sweets from the counter. Espresso goes well with it.
We ordered a portion of Knefeh, cheese and Zaatar croissants, lahme Beajine and a baklava selection...
- Plates landed on the table. Plates filled with crumbs from the croissants and leftovers of baklava, meat loaf without the tomatoes but an interesting add-on, the rose water served in the glass cups waiting for water to be added. The red napkin containers are so ugly and don't fit the class of this shop.
- The coffee, served with chocolate on the side, was not hot enough and a bit too bitter.
- Generously filled, the Zaatar croissant is big in size, sprinkled with sesame seeds and golden in color. It's a bit chewy but I liked the commercial aspect of it.
- The cheese one was as good. Lightly buttery, tender, served warm and filled with yellow cheese. Good enough, it puts these croissant in the middle category of ready to order breakfast. They're are better than those served in average bakeries, but surely not as good as high-end pastry shops.
- Lahme Beajine: A square of bread served without tomatoes, the tomatoes seemed to be delayed. Super dry meat, an extremely hard border and pomegranate molasses on the side. I'm sorry to say it this way, but stick to the Lahme Beajine from AbeleRahman Hallab in Tripoli. Trying to copy it created a mess. Not recommended at all.
- Knefeh: A generous portion served with two pieces of toast, yes two buns, crunchy like biscuits and unable to be stuffed; I felt like ordering tea with those kaak. The Knefeh was too crunchy on top, a molten heart of cheese and sugar syrup on the side. Taste wise, the top is too crunchy, the cheese heart lacks flavor so all what stays is the sweetness of the syrup. Acceptable, but I've had better.
- The baklava are impeccable: Impeccable, amazingly crunchy, juicy and tender from the heart out, the flavorful nuts, the quality of the ingredients, the adequate sweetness, their small size, their beautiful colors. It would be great if Al Baba sticks to doing baklava sweets.
The bad and things that must change:
- Bad and unprofessional service.
- The place is understaffed.
- The plates are badly presented. They should be cleaned before serving.
- The taste is very average, except for the baklava.
- The red napkin dispenser is to be abolished.
- Knefeh is below average for a place like Al Baba sweets.
- SOme items were not available on the menu because delivery didn't reach yet; Unprofessional!
Maybe Al Baba should stick to selling sweets not opening cafes. Just saying.
A cafe on Tehwouita, next to Badaro, a place that opens early for breakfast, Al Baba is a suggestion. Order the croissants and baklava, the rest should be improved.