Levantina Bistro and Bakehouse | The Middle East comes to Mriehel

Are you tired of the same old lunch you grab in between meetings? Schedule your next lunch meeting around Mriehel and get a taste of the Middle East.

I used to work in Mriehel a long time ago. In those days you if you thought about lunch early enough (somewhere between 10:30 and midday) you could get a hobza bajd u bacon or a dozen ravjul. If you waited any later everywhere was shut. In other countries, industrial districts become hangouts for hipsters seeking out low rent for unproven ideas. Mriehel seems to be going down the same road with trendy new places to eat opening up all the time, bringing in crowds from outside the offices – people travelling to the area just to grab a bite to eat.

Levantina is one of Mriehel’s newest additions to the food family and unlike most snack bars that offer the same standard sandwiches, burgers and pasta, Levantina is making its mark by changing things up and offering a Middle Eastern menu.

Yotman Ottolenghi has been responsible for an increase in the popularity of Middle Eastern food introducing spices and flavours new to European palates, such as baharat spice mix, za’atar, sumac and Persian dried limes among others. While some homecooks have been adventurous enough to try them (after having quite a time sourcing them), for the most Maltese, these flavours have been difficult to come by until now.

Open since late last year, Levantina are offering breakfast, lunch and dinner with a Middle Eastern twist. I went for a selection of dishes, too much for me to eat on my own, but for science I was willing to sacrifice stomach room in order to sample more of their dishes. A bonus is that you can take your leftovers home in a box and have something to look forward to at the end of the day.

Aubergines are my favourite vegetable and they certainly know how to treat them in the Middle East. Unfortunately they were out of moutabel – a smoked aubergine dip with tahini and lemon juice (I’ll have to stop by again another day), but I settled for the muhammara at the recommendation of the apologetic staff. I wasn’t disappointed, that’s for sure. The roasted peppers on warm pita bread were everything I needed on this cool afternoon. You can tell a lot about a place by the way it treats its falafel. These were soft on the inside and crispy on the outside without being too oily. Topped with a tahini sauce they were absolutely perfect.

Fast forward a little and deep into a Lebanese lamb fatayer – a triangular pie made with lamb shoulder, vegetables and Lebanese seven spices. As if that wasn’t enough I also had some mujadara rice and lentils served with crispy fried onions and a little bit of yoghurt.

As I had ordered way too much food for one person, I ordered my dessert to go (along with my leftovers) and tucked into an interesting tahini brownie a few hours after I got home. The sesame flavours go perfectly well with the rich chocolate and because I had eaten so much at lunchtime, I saved some for breakfast the following day.

If you’re not going to order all the smaller dishes you can go for a heartier meal in the form of tagines, koftas, slow cooked meats, curries and veggie dishes. If there is one thing for sure, it is one trip to Levantina certainly isn’t enough to get a real feel for the place. What I do know for sure, is that I will be back.

What I ate

Muhammara with pita bread

Beirut falafel

Mujadra rice and lentils

Lamb fatayer

Tahini brownie

Total: €22.15

Address: Triq in-Negozju

Mriehel

Tel: 2144 0149

Opening hours: Monday – Friday 09:00 – 15:00; Wednesday – Satruday 18:00 – 22:00; Sunday 12:00 – 15:00

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