You are here

Food review: Middle-Eastern delights at Noura

Lebanese cuisine and Mediterranean culture dance in unison at ME Ibiza Hotel.

Over 2,500 years ago, Phoenician settlers landed on Ibiza, establishing themselves as the first-known human presence here.

Expert ship builders and skilled mariners, the Phoenicians left Ibiza in approximately 200 BC, yet residual evidence shows the civilisation's culture, ideology and storytelling took permanent root.

In the present, the heart of Phoenicia is modern day Lebanon.

Although those ancient seafarers left an indelible mark on the island that lingers to this day, it’s perhaps surprising there isn’t more Lebanese cuisine on offer here.

This made our invitation to ME Ibiza Hotel’s new onsite restaurant, Noura Lebanese Cuisine & Pool Bar, all the more enticing. Coming via high-profile concessions in Paris, Cannes and Monaco, Noura arrives on Ibiza with a reputation as being an international reference point for authentic Lebanese cuisine.

The view

Within the grounds of Noura’s garden there are exotic umbrella trees and other novel plants. Wilted black reeceflower tubers dot the floor. Elsewhere, potted pink bougainvilleas inject flashes of colour.

Each table is ornamented with a different herb plant, knotted up in grow bags: basil, rosemary, coriander...

To our left, the bay of S'Argamassa is a picture of stillness. A paddle boarder and her canine companion glide pass. Every so often a fish breaches the surface, creating a ripple, but otherwise the sea is a tranquil blanket reflecting the day’s last few rays of sun.

A huddle of DJs take turns to project their aural artistry on this calm canvas. Behind them, the sun casually dips below Punta Roca in the faraway distance. A contradiction in terms - the setting is both a garden of serenity, yet radiates an undeniable energy invisible to the naked eye.

The soundtrack

Entertainment for the evening comes in the form of DJs, Aphrodite and SanRa. The latter of whom performs a hybrid set with microphone and Mexican flute. Fans of experimental electronic musicians such as Satori or Seth Schwarz might want to investigate further.

Their soundtrack leads us on a candlelit journey through deep ethno rollers, occasionally deploying vocal loops and their own breathy ad libs. We hear music from Anjunadeep, Diynamic and Do Not Sit, as well as more obscure music woven into the mix.

Musical entertainment plays an important role in the Noura experience. We might have been treated to an acoustic singer, live instrumentalists or a more uptempo Disco DJ had we dined on a different night. Personally, we’re thankful we had this evening’s sonic guides, who capture Noura's mood with expert precision.

The Lebanese banquet

Mezze culture is as much about the social aspect as the food, encouraging conversation and intimacy over a feast of flatbreads, dips, immaculately prepared vegetables and meaty bites.

In this sense, Noura has recreated the welcoming interpersonality of a Lebanese home-setting, under the stars on Santa Eulalia’s coastline.

True to form, the hummus is smooth and moorish, but the moutabbal, a Lebanese take on baba ganoush, is its equal. The pureed aubergine and tahini paste create a creamy, smoked sensation, appendaged by refreshing pellets of pomegranate.

Another utterly dreamy dip is the natural yogurt with dried apricot and vegetable crisps, seasoned with parsley.

One big surprise are the falafels. At Noura, these traditional balls of fried beans and chickpeas come with the secret ingredient of crab meat. We wonder if this must be the missing piece of the jigsaw - the balls becoming more moist and satisfying than their common cousins.

There are still other delights to discover.

The samake harra is a ratatouille-like chutney of crushed tomatoes, red peppers, onion and coriander, with heat coming through from the harissa. Then there is the taboulleh, a garnish of chopped herbs, diced tomato and lemon juice, brought together with olive oil.

Meatier appetisers materialise in the guise of spicy lamb and beef sausage bites, marinated in harissa drizzle and rolled in sesame seeds. Additionally, we also graze on kebbe meatballs - deep-fried beef, lamb and wheat grain sprinkled with pine nuts.

We ask our waiter for his wine recommendation. In a group often split into red and white camps, eyebrows are raised as we are presented with a chilled bottle of MYST - a Lebanese rosé.

To our surprise, the wine betrays its robe, and isn't at all sweet. Instead it is full of depth with notes of redcurrant, appeasing both camps of the red/white divide and more than robust enough to avoid being overpowered by the food. A happy compromise in the truest sense.

We’re never ones to complain of too much food, but if the mezze spread had been substantial, the main dishes have a little more portion control.

Our first is the mixed kebab, which sees skewers of chicken, lamb and kofte arrive literally flaming! We cool the tender chunks by dunking in the accompanying garlic and cucumber tzatziki before devouring.

The whole table marvels in agreement at the second selection, the lightly battered sea bass, which is served with salted veg, fresh lime and its own pil pil sauce.

To finish the night, we are presented with five interpretations of Lebanon’s signature dessert, baklava. Each parcel of layered filo pastry, pistachios, almonds and honey has a distinct aromatic flavour and caramalised texture.

The alternative option is the mouhalabieh, a milk-based pudding with a constitution similar to panna-cotta, but harbouring a floral bouquet of orange blossom and rosewater. This subtle flavour contrasts with sharp flashes of red berries.

And to cleanse the palette, a trio of ice cream: rose, pistachio and milk cream. Each scoop an echo of flavours we recall from earlier in the sitting.

PHOTOGRAPHY | by Isa Flores

Combining taste with sizeable portions, a romantic setting and magical ambience, Noura Lebanese Cuisine & Pool Bar is a fine addition to Ibiza's catalogue of restaurants.

We should also mention that customers can sample the majority of the dishes tasted above, in the restaurant's assorted Discovery Menu at €78 per head, minimum two diners. Advance booking is advised.

It may have come the long way around, but Lebanese cuisine takes its rightful place on Phoenician-shaped Ibiza.

Related content

Select date