As I took my first look over the menu at South Wimbledon restaurant Aya Lebanese Cuisine, I knew I was going to struggle to pick my meal.
I had never eaten Lebanese cuisine before, but within minutes of sitting down I had spotted a number of dishes I was eager to try.
The restaurant is decorated beautifully, with stained glass windows, mosaics and cedar wood furniture specially imported from Lebanon; you could nearly forget you were sat a stones throw away from South Wimbledon station.
Cold starters on offer included Hummous (£3.95), Warak Inab- vine leaves filled with a rice, tomato and onion stuffing (£4.25) and Tabouleh, a salad made up of chopped parsley with crushed wheat, mint, onion with lemon juice and olive oil dressing (£4.25).
But there were hot starters that also caught my eye, Falafel (£4.25), Lamb Sambusek- deep fried pastry filled with minced lamb, onion and pine nuts (£4.25) and a dish called Soujok a dish of spicy pan fried sausages stuffed with lamb, garlic and chilli (£4.50).
Thankfully my guest and I weren’t forced to pick between the delicious dishes on offer, as restaurant owner Ali came to our rescue and recommended we try the two person set menu.
We were slightly daunted to discover the menu included seven, yes seven, starters. But as the mouth-watering dishes began to arrive, we eagerly got stuck in.
The starters included Hummous, Tabouleh, Warak Inab, falafel and Lamb Sanbousek- all dishes that had previously caught my eye, with an extra two dishes- Kibbeh Shamieh- deep fried crushed wheat paste filled with minced lamb, onion and pine nuts and Chicken Wings.
The set menu is an excellent way to taste a bit of everything, particularly dishes you might not be brave enough to choose if only picking one dish.
I admit I was unsure about the Warak Inab, but it turned out to be one of my favourite dishes. The flavour from the rice, tomato and onion encased in the vine leaves was just heavenly.
The lamb sanbousek was another favourite, full of flavour with just a hint of spice. The falafel was cooked to perfection, nice and crispy on the outside but soft and moist inside.
After slowly making our way through the starters, it was time for the main- the Aya mixed grill- skewers of juicy lamb and chicken cubes, minced lamb and shawarma lamb and chicken cooked in a charcoal grill.
The dish is a carnivore’s dream, but comes with rice for those wanting a more balanced meal.
The succulent lamb cubes melt in your mouth, soft and juicy and full of the chargrilled flavour.
The minced lamb was delicious and the shawarma. After all that food my guest and I decided we would skip dessert, and after a small cup of mint tea we left the restaurant knowing it would not be long before we returned.
Aya, 195 – 197 Merton Road, London, SW19 1EE 0208 417 0606