In Summary
  • We were at the Phoenicia for dinner last Saturday evening.
  • It was a small birthday party and the carnivores were outnumbered by the vegetarians. That is why we chose the Phoenician.
  • I decided to identify with the vegetarians, and so I chose for my main course the Falafel, listed as a starter.

The Phoenicians were sailors, weren’t they? And, back many years BC (from 1,500 to 300 BC, to be precise), their lands stretched across what is now Lebanon, Israel, Gaza, Syria and south-west Turkey.

Even further, their colonies, so Wikipedia tells us, reached right across the Mediterranean Sea and to the Atlantic Ocean.

So it is hardly surprising that our Nairobi Phoenician Restaurant has moved about a bit – I first knew of it in Westlands, close to the Sarit Centre; it moved to both downstairs and upstairs at the Junction Mall; it is now back in Westlands and pleasantly moored in Matundu Lane.

It is also no wonder that the Lebanese (or Levantine) cuisine of the Phoenician Restaurant is varied. It is made up of many whole grains, fruits, vegetables, starches – and the meat is often fresh fish and other seafood.

We were at the Phoenicia for dinner last Saturday evening. It was a small birthday party and the carnivores were outnumbered by the vegetarians. That is why we chose the Phoenician.

I decided to identify with the vegetarians, and so I chose for my main course the Falafel, listed as a starter.

You will know it, I think: those deep-fried balls made of ground chickpeas, nestling in a sea of hummus dip, which is mashed chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice – and scooped up with pita bread. I also wanted to make room for the dessert I had my eye on: the baklava, those thin and sweet layers of crispy pastry and chopped nuts, glued together with syrup or honey.

But my companions were more familiar with the Phoenician menu that me. What they did was order a mix of a number of starters. Along with the Falafel there were plates of Sambousek, small cheese pies; Ftayer, spinach pies; Moutabal, grilled aubergines with sesame oil and lemon juice; Batata Harra, spicy potatoes; Mehchi Warak Arish, vine leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes, parsley and oil.

It was a feast – a tasty, pleasant feast. It made me think again: I could turn and live without meat. I remember when I almost turned. It was years ago, when I visited Lobatse, the huge slaughterhouse in southern Botswana. In fact, it was then the second biggest slaughterhouse in the world – it might still be.

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