While researching this article, I discovered that Gemmayzeh is a bustling neighbourhood in Beirut, filled with restaurants and nightclubs. It was described as being the place where locals and visitors come to indulge, which is the perfect description for K' Road's newest addition, Gemmayze St.
Located in the recently refurbished St Kevin's Arcade, Gemmayze is an exciting, different and unique offering for the Auckland food scene. At a time when American-style dining seems to be all the rage, Gemmayze St is a Lebanese-inspired restaurant.
Everything about Gemmayze St is open and inviting. From the warm welcome on arrival to the outdoor heaters that keep the tables in the arcade warm and cosy and the sharing banquet style menu. Called 'jeeb' which means 'feed me', for $50 per person, the kitchen will send out an array of dishes designed to feed and satisfy even the hungriest being. As there were only two of us we decided to order a la carte but if I was or shall I say when I return again with a group of friends I would definitely recommend this option.
Lebanese food is known for its abundance of wholegrains, vegetables, fish, lamb, garlic and olive oil. Gemmayze St does not disappoint with an extensive menu that covers all of these ingredients and then some. Our extremely knowledgeable and passionate waiter took us through the menu and offered a recommendation of a mix of dishes from the mezze and mains section matched with a bottle of one of their Lebanese red wines.
It was a difficult choice as everything on the menu sounded delicious but we settled on the hummus, samak (sardines with coriander, sumac, taratour, walnuts and braised fennel), khyar (Lebanese cucumber, cumin, labneh, mint and olive) and the kibbeh bil sayneyeh (lamb, burghul, pinenuts, pomegranate molasses and mint).
The hummus was beautifully smooth, rich in flavour from roasted garlic and paprika oil. The lamb, which is a traditional Lebanese dish was served with a delicious garlic labneh and the cucumber dish created a burst of freshness on the palate combining flavours of cumin, olive oil, lemon salt and mint. However the star of the meal was the samak or sardines. The saltiness of the sardines was perfectly balanced against the aniseed flavour of the braised fennel for a dish that on paper may not be a popular choice for some but is a dish I would go back for.
The food was fantastic, full of flavour and plated with fine dining finesse. Everything was served all at once for our own mini banquet. Our sole comment was for the pitta to be served warm otherwise our only conversation was 'have your tried this' and 'pass me that'. We weren't brave enough to try the Lebanese wine, instead opting for a Central Otago pinot noir.
We were so satisfied with our meal, we couldn't fit in dessert this time but with dishes that include ingredients like mulled chocolate, sweet cheese, pistachio parfait, burnt white chocolate and caramelised filo, we may start with desert next time.