Le Phenicien is one of the few or maybe the only high-end seafood restaurant in the South of Lebanon. Located on the Tyre's fishermen's port, Le Phenicien welcomes you into a relaxing marine setup overviewing the whole daily activities of the marine life. I would divide Le Phenicien's review into two parts, the food, which was good and and all the other things in between which was extremely shocking and disappointing.
Le Phenicien, since it first opened in the 70's in Tyre, has built a strong reputation for itself, offering good food and memorable service. For the last few years, Le Phenicien used to be one of my favorite seafood restaurants in Lebanon, but after yesterday's experience it has dropped down drastically to the eighth or ninth position. It's sad really, as Le Phenicien won a EUROPA award (Europe United Reality Outstanding Personal Award) - a certificate that says: “The warm welcome, the personalized comfort and the meticulous service, added to a delicate/exquisite gastronomy realize the ambition of doing constantly more and better to satisfy the clients in the tradition of the best." Emm... I could not see or feel that. From the start to the finish, the experience was less than warm. The way a restaurant welcomes you and showers your table generously with things like nuts, olives and fresh chickpeas give you a good impression about the place, but it wasn't the case. It's a fish restaurant, the least that can tickle your senses as you walk in, is the display of fish choices. The fish in this case were covered with disgusting nylon wraps and the low quality tissue paper. Menus are printed on old pieces of paper and prices are handwritten. Just holding it puts your appetite off. I soon after spotted Mr. Habib Hadid, the owner of Le Phenicien with some his friends, walking around the restaurant and I thought maybe he would shape things up a bit, make a few remarks to put his staff in place and order, but unfortunately the service stayed worse than a falafel shop.
The shock: A fine seafood restaurant with the worst wine list I've ever experienced:
Imagine a seafood restaurant, considered as one of the best restaurants in town, serving local and international specialities, doesn't offer a single choice of international wine, let alone a selection of fine Lebanese wines. Instead they offer 12 of the lowest Lebanese wines written on a nylon cheap piece of paper. - No proper wine list. The wines are proposed on a paper where arak, beer and soft drinks are also mentioned. - The Millesime wines are not even marked. - Wine glasses are the cheapest ever found in the world.
The most unprofessional waiters ever:
- The waiter that "welcomed" us is a person that doesn't even speak French and could not explain the French printed menu. - The waiter only shows up at the table once every 10 minutes. - Three waiters came to our table: the first took the order, the second served and the third just came to smile. - Serving didn't happen even once: we took care of pouring our own wine, water and even cleaning our plates. - Changing a plate took him five long minutes after I asked for it to be changed. - Changing my glass after waiting long, another was placed on the table next to my plate without even filling it with water. - When removing the plates before dessert, the waiter took a napkin from the table and passed his hand in front of my face to clean some lemon that had fallen! Don't they have a cloth for cleaning? - I was referred to as"Rayyess" a rural word used in Lebanon meaning Boss, the whole time. No way! "Rayyess"? I would have preferred the word "Sir" or "Estez" in decent Arabic. It's supposed to be a decent restaurant and not your casual shawarma joint. - While handling the plates, every food item that fell off the table is returned back to it with fingers. - The same waiters took care of the Arguile. It's like the management is cutting on his budget. - No "Canderine" and no "suk brun" as the waiter pronounces it: He meant no Canderel (Artificial sweetener) and no Sucre Brun (brown sugar). So if your Diabetic just just don't order coffee at Le Phenicien.
- Fresh Crab salad with lettuce: catch of the day, clean,clear and straight to the point, perfectly seasoned. - Shrimps salad is mixed with French lettuce and cocktail sauce, a tasty mix. - Raw fish served with olive oil and red capers is exquisite, one of my favorite today. - Octopus provincial activates all your taste buds but unfortunately contained garlic even tough I clearly requested for a special order without garlic. - Rocca salad is below average: simple Rocca, onions and tomatoes. - Meat hummus and normal hummus plates are fine, nothing special about them. - Grilled shrimps are pealed and cleaned with an impeccable freshness and a background taste of BBQ served with steamed vegetables. With a $70/Person, the least you would expect like any other Lebanese restaurant is to have your fruits offered! It wasn't the case. The fishermen's ambiance and terrace seating along with their good food is enough to make you drive 90km from Beirut to Tyre. Expect less than mediocre service, no music in the background and less than average wine choices... I personally would stick to a restaurant in Byblos or Amchit next time.
I was shocked: honestly shocked more than you can imagine. Le Phenicien, one of my favorite places in Beirut is below average in the South? We all know that its main customers are tourists and foreigners (UN, Unifel) - please get an English and French speaking trained staff!