February 2013
In Full Bloom

Coquelicot, a new bistro in Gemmayze, is waiting for you to enjoy a traditional French experience and leave a comment on your way out

By Daria El Samad

I f you pass by Coquelicot, a new French Bistro in Gemmayze, you’ll find a comment, squeezed between many others, signed by BOLD magazine saying, ’we’ll be coming back’ on their chalkboard wall. We’ll be going back there to make sure we’ve tried all their specialty dishes; the hand cut tartare boeuf, carpaccio poisson, and definitely their aged beef.

When a coworker had told me about the opening of this new bistro, I was charmed by the name, Coquelicot. Simple, playful and so French, I was looking forward to a traditional French experience. And I was not disappointed. The food, ambiance, design, and service exceed any expectations of a traditional French bistro in Lebanon. You won’t see tacky icons of Eiffel Towers all around the restaurant, or pictures to convince you that you are in a French bistro. Instead, you’ll find yourself sitting comfortably in a cozy, luminous cellar-like design, inspired by brasseries in the South of France.

The menu is traditionally French, offering a variety of amuse bouches, salads, soups, meats, mains, desserts and drinks. I knew exactly what I wanted; a good confit de canard, which was fantastic. The confit was cooked to perfection along a rich orange sauce. I also had a few bites of the coq au vin, which was tender and full of flavor. Next time, I would go for the steak-frites in order to try all the ’traditional’ dishes. As for the dessert, the famous pain perdu was served generously, as if to cater to more than 4 people. Other top sellers have been the apple crumble and the crepe au chocolat.

Don’t assume you would have to pay a highly unreasonable amount for all this food, I would easily say prices are reasonable for the high quality of food that is served at Coquelicot.

The soft opening took place on September 1st, but since then, it’s all been word of mouth, according to Mazen Kassem who owns the bistro. Because of the recent events of the assassination, he explains that he has not been able to launch the restaurant since business has been slow.

Although on the weekends the restaurant gets packed, Kassem hopes the activity picks up some more during the coming festive holidays. Still, at a time when the economic situation is unstable, Kassem bets on French cuisine, and is optimistic.

I saw Kassem running back and forth between tables and waiters, and noticed how involved he is in the everyday running of the restaurant. ’I’ve put my hand in every single dish, and my tummy is there to prove it,’ he jokes.

It is clear that Kassem is passionate about food, having a good time and showing people a good time, as he explains how Coquelicot has allowed him to meet people outside of his circle, like singers, musicians, general managers of banks, C.E.O.s day in and day out.

I understand that he has delved into every detail to make it ’not just any French bistro, but the typical French bistro that you would find in France.’

When asked about customers’ feedback, he said: ’99% of the people coming have had good reviews,’ And, the wall is proof of that, I realize as I browse through the comments.


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