With 14 of us needing a table for a friend’s birthday celebrations, the first choice of venue would normally be Sands on Queens Road. However, with the Lebanese restaurant having recently shut its doors, we decided to give new Lebanese restaurant Afendi on Cheltenham Road a whirl instead…
Just past the Arches on the left when walking up Cheltenham Road, the restaurant offers smart marble tables, ornate hanging lanterns and a fairly formal setting in general, somewhat at odds with the neon sign in the window and the rotating kebab spits that are housed at the back of the dining area rather than in the restaurant’s kitchen.
Bear in mind that Afendi is ONLY BYO when it comes to alcohol – many BYO places will also sell their own, but not here. Some of our party had to nip to the off licence over the road before our meal.
It’s not advertised on their website, but in addition to the a la carte menu, Afendi offer a set menu for around the £20 per head mark: a selection of 3 hot and 3 cold mezze to start, a mixed grill for the main, and either baklava or mahalabi – a rose and pistachio milk pudding – for dessert. While some of our party went for this option, our end of the table decided to go for a la carte choices…when the menus eventually turned up.
With only three menus between the 14 of us at first, we had to wait a while before additional menus were removed from other tables so that we could make our choices. When the time did come to order, we were a little surprised by the restaurant’s ‘rules’ and the attitude of our waiter.
Three of us ordered a portion of baba ghanouch and a portion of hommos (£3.49 each) to share between us. You’d have expected bread to be included but no: an additional charge of £1 per Afendi flat bread was needed so that we had something with which to scoop up the dips. Additional confusion came when one member of the party asked if she could have her portion of hommos alongside the kebab that she had ordered as her main course…apparently not, we were told, as our waiter had to take orders for starters first, and main courses second. Bizarre…
The starters arrived, and the two dips and two flat breads that we’d ordered between the three of us were plenty. The hommos was lovely and smooth and probably one of the best I’ve had in Bristol, behind Cedars Express and the now-non-existent Sands. The baba ghanouch was flecked with large chunks of aubergine and had a beautifully smoky flavour. The bread was a welcome accompaniment, thin and topped with sesame seeds, but was quite oily and the first flat bread that turned up was cold.
The mixed mezze seemed to go down well with other diners, but it was commented that the falafel appeared to be breadcrumbed, which was a little odd.
Sadly, the starters were the high point of the meal for our end of the table. My lamb sabzi (£9.75, or £7.25 without the meat), served with a portion of rice, was fragrant enough, but lacked the distinctive tang of preserved limes that I was expecting. The sauce was a little watery, but the biggest disappointment was the lamb: four small pieces of tender but very overcooked meat.
Others at my end of the table ordered the lamb tourshana (£9.95, £7.75 without the meat) – a combination of prunes, sultanas, dried apricots and raisins, described on the menu as being served ‘in a sweet sauce’. We weren’t expecting it to be THAT sweet, however, and much of the dish was left. One of the two who ordered the tourshana commented that ‘everything in the dish was tender and beautifully cooked, but the absence of any savoury content (there were three pieces of meat) meant that the dish was cloyingly sweet and decidedly unpleasant. Luckily the rice was excellent, and meant that I didn’t have to go hungry.’
Despite complaints, nothing was done by way of apology.
The mixed grills that came with the set menu went down well, but were apparently luke warm when they arrived. An order of chargrilled salmon erred on the charred rather than chargrilled side. Luckily the baklava, for those who had it, soothed some of the disappointment of the mains.
A few more niggles when it came to paying the bill, after Afendi staff mistakenly added on corkage for the unopened bottles on the table, rather than just for those that had been drunk. This was apologetically rectified, however, and the bill was paid.
Similar to Sands, in a way, where the starters always far outshone the mains. I won’t be in a hurry to rush back here again, though – I’ll continue to stick with Cedars Express on Park Row for my Lebanese fix…
Afendi Restaurant & Cafe
Telephone: 0117 924 8927
Address: 217 Cheltenham Road, Bristol, BS6 5QP
Find Afendi on the Bristol Bites Directory…