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Another BYOB!!! Hurrah. This time, scrummy Lebanese at The Bake (previously Albaik), on the top of the Byker Bank, cusping the colour-pop Byker Wall.
Having read a host of rave reviews that declare The Bake one of the best Lebanese you can get (“LUFFFLY FOODS – VERY HAPPY GIRLFRIEND” said BenW123), from a look at their website I was imagining somewhere similar to Chilli Padi – a pretty basic interior, but seriously tasty food. It was a pleasant surprise then when it turned out that The Bake’s overflowing inside has pretty tiled floors and colourful, hanging glass lamps to boot.
It’s a bit of a walk if you’re not Byker-based, but the half-hour stroll gets a good appetite going and hell, you need it. You also go a through a little park, and greenery is always nice isn’t it.
So again, having stocked up on wine from the supermarket, we walk into The Bake. It’s absolutely steaming; families, friends, a group of women out for a 50th who open a bottle o’ bub and take a swig from the bottle – we’re lucky to get a table. The turnover rate is pretty high though, and queuing for ten or so minutes seems like the done thing, so don’t worry if you haven’t booked. The atmosphere is just the right side of excited; lots of people looking very satisfied and sounding very jolly.
When the food comes, it turns out you can actually trust the internet on some things, because it was as tasty as all the jack-tom-and-harrys on Tripadvisor swore it to be. A super friendly waitress was happy to answer all the irritating questions we had about whether we’d ordered enough, and what did she recommend, as well.
We got chicken and lamb hummus shawarma, moutabal, and a cheese manakeish. They also bring — on the house — a pile of air-flated, stone-baked bread which is the size of a pizza and comes with spicy salsa and aioli dips.
A word on the aioli, a.k.a garlic mayo: this may be rash, but it might have been magical? It was so fluffy I’m not quite sure how they managed it. It reminded me of whipped egg-whites and sugar — that sparkly, super-light-but-stiff-peaks mix you bake into meringues. Or that hair mousse old ladies squitch out of a spray can. But hella tastier. It was good.
The shawarmas were both a generous pile of melty-meat, freshly shaven off the giant kebabs hanging in the open kitchen at the back, served in a bowl lined with hummus. Now, I don’t like hummus as a general rule, but Archie’s a big fan and swears it was really, really good and makes the supermarket imitations seem like culinary cardboard. I also enjoyed it, which is a big deal considering my apathy towards the stuff.
Having no idea what moutabal was, and expecting grilled slices of aubergine, we were a little surprised when it came in dip-form, but it wasn’t any worse for it. In fact, it was another welcome complement to the beautiful bread. ‘Bread’ doesn’t really do the stuff justice — it’s more like a giant, warming, dough-UFO with floaty air in the middle that tears apart perfectly to be loaded with chicken, lamb and the mix of the dips that came with it.
The cheese manakeish was crispy Lebanese pastry topped with melted cheese, parsley and olive oil. Probably the least flavoursome of the lot, but still fresh and very welcome.
Two lovely gals to our right got the straight-up shawarma wraps, which were larger than my face and looked divine. They (and everything else) can be ordered through their delivery service (which is 24 hours on the weekend!) for under a fiver. Ups the game of night-out kebabs. Also on the menu are lots of veggie things, and whole baked fishies etc. if you want to expand your Lebanese horizons a bit.
There’s also a pretty little lounge bar on the second floor, for those wanting to make more of an evening of it.
The bill was a pleasant thing to look at too — £11 each and we were absolutely stuffed, to the point that I am ashamed to say we couldn’t finish some. They do offer a doggy-bag service though, so you don’t have to feel guilty! As booze came from the supermarket, we had 2 bottles of wine and food for £16 each. Economical AF, and absolutely top notch. Try and go with a large group and order to share, for maximum coverage of the extensive menu. Pics don’t do it justice at all.