Just a few days ago I mentioned the news that Amarres's closing at Zaytounay Bay which coincides with the opening of Couqley's new branch in Dbayeh's Blueberry Square. Amarres is owned by the same people who brought us Couqley, the French bistro located down “The Alleyway” in Beirut's Gemmayze district.
Known for offering traditional French bistro meals prepared by Executive Chef and Co-Owner Alexis Couquelet now offers their experience at the upper floor of Blueberry Square, which now hosts a cluster of restaurants from different cuisine genres. I tried Let's Burger, MBCo and Al Balad. It was now time for Couqley...
Let's see the details.
- French brasserie setup
- The place has an outside and inside dinning area
- Outside terrace with its wooden pergola
- Inner restaurant's high ceiling creates a soothing atmosphere
- 14 lamps pending from the ceiling give the warm yellowish light around
- Six pictures on the wall welcome you to your left
- A long chesterfield brown sofa under a brick wall
- Look up the wall and you can see wine boxes, opened bottles as well as a wine barrel
- Little marble cubes floor with the Couqley's logo under the main door
- A view of the marina from one side and another of the highway
- A bar with its pending glasses
- A door takes you to the kitchen
- Wooden chairs and their individual red and green cushions
- Brown wooden square tables
- Paper place-mats and a side bread plate prepared on every table
- Two different checkered napkins; one green and the other red matching the place's set up
- The plates are branded with the restaurant's logo - I like that
I had the chance to visit the kitchen:
- Three isles of stainless steel counters divided into three main categories: the cooked food, the cold food and the salads
- A washing area separate from the main kitchen to avoid cross contamination
- No corners between the walls and the floor to avoid bacteria
- A basement preparation area preparing and cleaning all the ingredients before they reach the upper floor
- Food enters from a side while garbage goes out from another
Dinner started with two baskets of bread, white and brown olives wrapped in cloth napkins
The menu: "The same as the one in Beirut"
- Plat Express
- Side Orders and Sauces
- Recommendation du chef (Cote de boeuf)
- Plat Principal
- Weekday lunch formula
- The wine selection, Couqley carafes, wine by the glass
- Spicy Calamari Salad: Battered calamari with soya beans and Asian vinaigrette. Lollo rosso lettuces, soja beans, spicy fried and grilled calamari with a burnt aftertaste and a prominent taste of lemon. I loved this salad and I suggest you taste it the next time you visit, 23,000L.L
- Maryland Crab Cakes: Two pieces of Omelette style crab cake with lettuce in the middle. A creative creation which I found a bit oily, 25,000L.L
- Poelee de Champignons: Sauteed mushrooms served on puff pastry. A success! 17,000L.L
- Salad de Chèvre Chaux: This salad comes with mixed field greens, Julienne apples and Couqley balsamic vinaigrette. I like the way the hot goat cheese is added to the salad in pastry rolls. Creative and tasty at the same time. 23,000L.L
- French Fries: Presented in a cone, the fries are good but should be chosen more professionally. I received twice a cone of 'the rest of the kitchen's French fries' - the tidbits at the bottom of the container and not decent long sticks. The tiny bits of crisps should not be served to clients
- Strogonoff: Bell peppers (capsicum), white rice, cooked onions, mushrooms in a mix of red and white sauce. A decent plate it is, 29,000L.L
- Seafood Linguini: It's good, good looking, generous and adequately cooked, 34,000L.L
- Steak Frite (29,000L.L) and Entrecôte (45,000L.L): Both of which are house specials. They really deserve to be. The chef's suggestions are a must try
- Cheeseburger: Simply BAD, 23,000L.L
- Pain Perdu: It is good but not great. It sticks to the teeth. It needs a little more milk even though the bread is homogeneously soaked
- Chocolate Mousse: It is just great. With the chocolate bites inside, it ads a final touch of finesse and sophistication to your dinner
The Burger that needs to be removed from the menu:
I ordered the burger thinking that it's going be close to perfect, since Couqley is known for its meat: Unfortunately I was wrong...
- The meat is thick but lacks juiciness
- The coleslaw salad is close to inedible: Cabbage is cut into small pieces like cheap diners do
- This salad has more mayonnaise that you can eat in a week. It's not cold enough and the portion is too small and stingy
- The bread is acceptable but too dry for a burger. Needs some juiciness
- Three little pieces of Lebanese pickles! Come on! They taste bad and crunch under your teeth like a beaten cucumber. Disgusting! Where are the thin juicy and sweet American pickles you expect to have with your burger?
- The tomato slice are way too thick and cover on all the other ingredients: Use thinner tomato slices
- The cheddar cheese came too hard. It needs to be melted...
The burger is BAD and unacceptable. It also made me feel unpleasantly heavy after eating it.
A wine I recommend:
2011, Les Domaniers, Selection Ott, Cote de Provence, Rose Wine.
What I loved:
- The staff and managers are very professional and super attentive, which is something I really appreciate as it is really rare to find these days.
- I would like the congratulate Mr.Khodor, the head waiter and assistant manager for his professionalism, perfect attention and warm welcome
- Cutting the burger in half as I always do, just to take its picture, the assistant-manager noticed that the meat is well done. He ran to change it without me even asking
- On the menu you can read: "A day without wine is a day without sunshine"
- I loved the Victorinox fine cutting knives
- The ambiance is convivial
- The food is good
- Thank you for offering us desserts. A gesture well appreciated
Things that needs changing:
- I hate it when the menu is a mix of French and English. It's either this or that! A French Bistro should have a French menu translated to English and not titles from here and there
- Waiters: Speak French unless the client asks differently. We are in a French Bistro after all
- You never empty the bottom of a bottle of wine. Make sure to remember that next time
- Fries are too small, big ones should only be chosen
- Food can be much better. I expect much more from Couqley and its chef whom I appreciate. I didn't feel this spark I was expecting
- Music was too loud but was fixed later on- The place has a loud echo already so no music is needed
- The Air Condition was low but they eventually fixed the temperature later on. The temperature should be constant as we experienced a system that gets on and off every 10 minutes. I think they should work more on that since hotter summer days are ahead, more humidity especially since the restaurant is located near the sea
A nice ambiance, professional staff, welcoming management, wide choice of preparations, generous plates are a few of the little things that make Couqley an address to visit in the area, even though I am sure that the food can be better... Much better.