Posted by: susanjcaldwell28 | September 28, 2013

ROTANA CAFE AND RESTAURANT RATHMINES

Tomorrow is our 18th wedding anniversary, so we wanted to go for a nice cheap but cheerful lunch to celebrate.  John and I both love Lebanese food and especially since going from vegi to vegan, we have realised that most of their vegetarian dishes are actually vegan as well. There is always a fantastic choice of vine leaves, tabbouleh, hummous, baba ganoush and many more delicacies to choose from. We have been to the Cedar Tree in town and it is lovely and great value for lunch but it can be expensive for dinner and the mezzes (a Lebanese form of tapas) can be too expensive and also too much food. I googled Lebanese and I found Fontana in Rathmines. When John and I start going out together first, he had a flat in Rathmines and our girls went to primary school in Ranelagh and our first flat was in Charleston Road in Ranelagh en route to Rathmines so feeling nostalgic, we headed off from our cottage in Dundrum and walked into Rathmines. The restaurant has a BYOB policy, even better, because I am so tired of restaurants charging extortionate prices for very average wine. I grabbed a bottle of the half price red I had purchased in Superquinn off the rack and shoved my 7 euro fab wine in my bag. When we arrived at the restaurant, there was a couple sitting outside eating in a small area, which looked very nice, but we felt with the noise of the traffic and small table etc. we were better off going into the restaurant and getting a seat. The decor in the restaurant is lovely and cosy, understated but a great ethnic feel, with hookah pipes and caps and other memorabilia on the walls, retaining your interest without smoothering you, a very nice balance. We ordered the vegetarian Mezza for two, and asked for the only item that had cheese to be substituted with another vegan option. This was very keenly priced at 17.90 where many other restaurants in town charge 24.99 for the same deal. There is no corkage on one bottle of wine or wine with two courses. Our meal arrived down and it was presented beautifully, there was a mixture of spinach stuffed samosas, felafel, salad with delicately sliced crutons, hummous and spicy potatoe, stuffed vine leaves, thin slices of pitta. The taste sensation was amazing, everything was so fresh and homemade, the potatoes had an amazing spicy flavour to them, the hummous was beautifully moist and flavoursome, the felafel was nothing like the processed type, with a beautiful delicate flavour and so soft and crumbly, the spinach samosas had an amazing texture and flavour, the pitta was see through thin and complimented the food wonderfully by providing a wrapping for it to nuzzle into but never over insulating the food.  I normally hate stuffed vine leaves because they are cold and it just feels wrong, these vine leaves arrived warm and succulent. This was food porn at its best, absolutely delicious, flavoursome and filling without ever feeling too heavy. The only thing I missed and felt it should have been part of this wonderful cornucopia of food was tabbouleh because the real Lebanese version is so parsley based and delightful. I saw other people eating it and noticed it was on the menu and felt it really should have been included. It was a truly wonderful gastronomic experience and the atmosphere was lovely. The staff were very nice and accommodating but never intrusive. This place is a real find, amazing authentic Lebanese food. I did wonder why there was no wine license and wondered how they felt about wine on the premises. We plonked the bottle on the table and the glasses were provided immediately but we did have to pour our own. I was just a little uneasy about that aspect even though it was clearly stated that you could bring your own, but then again Im a little uneasy myself eating in restaurants that prepare meat.  A really great very reasonable restaurant that is well worth a visit.

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