Things don’t last forever. We’ve been coming to this very casual Syrian place on Upper Brook Street (at the back of the Infirmary) for ages, although not since last year. And we’ve always been happy with our evenings – there’s been good food and a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Well, it’s pretty much all gone. Not the food – that’s still good. But the sense that you’re in a well run gaff where they’re interested in you having a good time – that’s what’s no longer there. If TripAdvisor is to be believed, there’s been a change in ownership that, presumably, accounts for things
So, let me set the scene. There’s no welcome as you walk through the door – without speaking the waitress picked up two menus and led us to a table. Fortunately, we weren’t expecting friends to join us after they’d parked the car and there was just the two of us. Even though they were quiet, with only a couple of other tables occupied, dirty crockery remained on other tables throughout our visit. And then there were the items that were “off” the menu - my partner’s first choice of main course and two or three other things the adjacent table was trying to order. Oh, yes, and gone are the freebie pickles that you could nibble on while you read the menu Nor are they on the menu to be ordered. A Middle Eastern restaurant that doesn’t have pickles?
As to the food, as I say, it’s fine. There was a smoky moutabel and pitta to scoop it up with. And a very lemony tabbouleh – perhaps too lemony - it was starting to drown the flavour of parsley. Houmous hab wasn’t a great success – a warm dish of tinned chickpeas, with onion, parsley and tomato – and more lemon. Nothing wrong with it as such, but we left half by then bored with it.
For main courses, we both went with kebabs. Mine a decent shish taouk – a touch of charring here and there and the chicken still very moist. My partner’s second choice was a workmanlike shish kebab, the lamb still tender but a tad overcooked. Hers came several minutes after mine. And the rice took a bit longer still and had to be chased.
If we were just making our decisions about these things based on the quality of the food, then Petra would still be on our list of places to visit. But, I’m afraid, we’re also looking for a nice evening out, enjoying the experience and each other’s company, as well as getting fed. And it just wasn’t fun.