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People I chat to on Twitter will know how upset we were when Lebanese restaurant Sands closed earlier this year – and that other Lebanese restaurants we tried in Bristol just didn’t live up to our expectations. News that a brand new venue – Sahra – was opening on the former site of Sands, therefore, was music to our ears…and we headed over a few weeks after they opened to try it out.
If you visited the restaurant when it was Sands, you’ll certainly notice some similarities. The signage just inside the gates at 95 Queens Road is in the same font and style. The website looks incredibly similar. The menu offers practically the same options as its predecessor. We were told that Sahra has kept the old Sands chefs, but they were very cagey when I asked about their connection to the previous restaurant…
Inside looks very different, though, with the toilets having been moved to just inside the front door, a small counter rather than a full bar, and a feeling of much more space inside the restaurant. Expected mosaic-topped tables, flagstone floors, embroidered cushions and ornate light fittings that diffuse light with a disco ball effect throughout the restaurant. It’s a beautiful and very relaxed venue.
The menu still offers a range of hot and cold mezza, main courses and dishes from their in-house chargrill, along with a range of set menus. On this visit, we opted for the £19.95 per head set menu (listed on the menu as the “Sands mezza”!) – a range of mezza, mixed grill and Lebanese sweets for a minimum of four people.
It was a bit too dark to take photos, but you can see the sheer amount of food they brought out…and this was just for our starter!
Soft and fluffy flatbreads were perfect for scooping up a lovely smokey baba ghanouge, and we were happy to see that the hommos was as good as we remembered from Sands. The sujiq sausage was beautifully spiced and the chicken wings tasty, although mine was a little burnt on the outside.
These dishes were also accompanied with tabbouleh, stuffed vine leaves, enormous falafel and “Laham bil Ajine” – minced lamb, onion and tomatoes baked onto a dough base. This was the only deviation from the old Sands menu, and definitely a welcome one!
Onto our mixed grill main course, and a platter of succulent cubes of chicken and lamb, plus minced lamb kebabs.
The meat was amazingly tender, and served with grilled onions and tomatoes and Lebanese rice with vermicelli. The highlight for us, as always, is the toomeh – an incredibly garlicky dip that adds the perfect punch to the meat and rice.
Dessert came in the form of a tray of “Lebanese sweets” – various baklava, a “bird’s nest” style filo pastry dessert with cream and filled pancakes.
As always, tasty enough, but this time they were sadly a little over-chilled, making them slightly less enjoyable than normal.
Now that Sahra has opened on the site of Sands, I think we’ll be regular visitors. I’m still keen to head over for one of their Arabian Nights on the last Thursday of the month, where £16.95 per person gets you a generously portioned meal and live belly dancing.
If you were a fan of Sands, I’d definitely recommend paying Sahra a visit. Delicious Lebanese food in a stunning restaurant…what more could you want?
Find Sahra on the Bristol Bites Directory…