Like your grandmother used to cook

Atmosphere and old favorites on offer at Enab

Enab got its name from the vine that connects all the grapes together,” says co-owner Hasan Rahal. “We wanted a name that reflects the idea of the Lebanese family life.”

This concept comes across well in the decor and the general ambiance of the venue. While the idea seems somewhat déjà vu — yet another establishment boasting a Lebanese menu in a pleasant setting — Enab has some interesting features that distinguish it from other places in the same milieu.

To walk into Enab, is to walk into the dars, or salons, of times gone by. The light, wide space opens up into several rooms, each painted in a different vibrant color, thereby creating a different mood. The traditional architecture is complimented by equally authentic accessories found throughout the space, such as the sink with the antique faucets or the wooden chest full of drawers.  “Each item we used was handpicked and chosen to match the ambiance of the space. They are items commonly found in village homes,” says Rahal.

Outside, a serene garden with a rocky wall echoes the Lebanese mountainside. Within are the plants traditionally grown in Lebanese homes such as gardenia, jasmine and lemon and orange trees.

Enab’s atmosphere and setting encourage people to enjoy typical Lebanese traditions such as the sobhiyeh (morning gatherings over coffee), tawleh (backgammon) with argeeleh in the afternoons and long dinners over mezza and arak.

“Enab is the story of every Lebanese household and we want everyone to enjoy it,” says Rahal. “We are not restricted to one class of society and our prices are a reflection of that: they are very fair considering how generous our portions are and what the prices of the competition are like.”

Indeed, the prices Enab offers are reasonable: a typical meal of a salad, four mezza and a mixed grill plate costs around $20.

A plateful of profits

The people behind Enab are Hasan Rahal and Zaher Rizkahllah, who, between them, also own the Second Cup franchise, the Zucca Beirut restaurant and Karam — a Lebanese restaurant popular in the Gulf, according to Rahal.

For this project the owners chose Mar Mikhael as their location and then started looking for an old house with a garden in that area. The initial investment for the project was $2 million dollars, according to Rahal, an amount they hope to return in three years time on the basis of their current turnover rate of around $150,000 a month.

Four months into the project Rahal claims they are taking in around 250 customers on a weekday, and 350 on both Saturday and Sunday, of whom most are local Lebanese.

Another strategy that Rahal says will help them reach the $2 million target is a franchising strategy in the Arab region, which is tipped to begin next year.

Enab prides itself on being a restaurant, and not merely a café, says Rahal, who adds that the menu focuses on the sort of dishes that our grandmothers used to cook. When asked about Layla’s or Frieda’s having the same kind of menu, Rahal replied that those places offer a fusion cuisine with a twist on old favorites, while Enab focuses on the traditional dishes as they are.

While that may be a new idea in the modern setting that Enab offers, the menu could do with having a few signature dishes. In short, go to Enab for the mood and the quality preparation of old Lebanese favorites, not because you are hoping to discover a new recipe or dish.

Nabila Rahhal

Nabila is Executive's hospitality, tourism and retail editor. She also covers other topics she's interested in such as education and mental health. Prior to joining Executive, she worked as a teacher for eight years in Beirut. Nabila holds a Masters in Educational Psychology from the American University of Beirut.

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