I hadn’t been to Beirut for nearly two years and in that time many new places have opened, including my new favourite, Villa Clara in Mar M’khayel where owners Olivier (ex pastry chef at le Grand Véfour) and Marie-Helene have created the most delightful restaurant, inside and outside where friends and family mingle over simple but exquisite dishes, made with locally sourced ingredients. Olivier cooks these expertly and with great precision but without any fuss. Just how I like to eat, at least most days! Anyhow, what made our lunch even more memorable was the wedding that was happening across the road which took me all the way back to when I lived in Beirut even if I never saw a similar wedding. Here are some fun pictures of our gorgeous day, both at Villa Clara and from across the road! And for those of you interested in my culinary tours, I will be doing one in Lebanon next fall with Villa Clara as our base! Details to be announced soon on my travel page.
Our main course was the most perfect leg of milk-fed veal which Olivier roasted and served with roasted potatoes and onions, and a thick gravy that had a few morels in it. Fabulous. Before that we had fresh butter beans from Ehden, heirloom tomatoes with fresh za’tar (not the salad type but the drying one; stronger flavour and more interesting) and a lentil salad topped with bresaola — the morels and bresaola were the only non-local ingredients.
While we were eating, the zaffeh (traditional Lebanese flokloric dancing & wedding procession) guys were hanging out waiting for the bride and guests to come out. One of them was particularly good looking and I asked if I could take his picture. He didn’t mind although from his initial expression I am sure he thought I was a little weird – respectable Lebanese ladies don’t go round telling strangers they are beautiful and wanting to take their picture!
After lunch and while we were waiting for the bride to come out, my friends, Reema and Reda, who had taken me to Villa Clara, were having a sweet loving moment while the children (two theirs and the one in the middle Olivier’s and Marie Helene’s) were having their own grown-up conversation!
Finally the guests started filing out of the very modest building opposite and the zaffeh guys sprang into action, drumming a beat for the bride and guests to dance to. We also sprang into action, me to my camera, the children to get closer to the action and Reda to my iphone to film the scene. I don’t remember the last time I had so much fun.
Here is the bride and her guests shaking their hips while the three graces below were having their pictures taken.
Some guests chose to avoid the scrum and join the Villa Clara crowd to watch the action or perhaps it was the moment we bid the bride farewell as she got into her car to be driven to her groom!
And here is a very sweet picture of Olivier with Clara on his shoulders and Marie Helene by his side. A brilliant day, both for the food and entertainment, and of course the friendship. I’ll be back as Arnie would say!
Tagged : anissa's culinary tours, Beirut, bresaola, butter beans, david lynch, grand vefour, heirloom tomatoes, lebanese weddings, lentils, local ingredients, mar m'khayel, milk-fed veal, olivier gougeon, restaurants in lebanon, twin peaks, villa clara, za'tar, zaffeh 6