Meat the Fish, Beirut

An intimate lunch spot in Saifi Village

I first spotted Meat the Fish while zipping through downtown Beirut in an Uber. It caught my eye for two reasons: the store’s cool, handwritten font; and what seemed to me to be a typo in the name – Meat, not Meet, the Fish. I was intrigued. I imagined it would be a shop selling avant-garde fashion. In reality, it was something a lot better.

Meat the Fish is a gourmet butcher and fishmonger with a communal table where patrons can sit and order from an edited menu that changes daily. In the heart of Saifi Village (where you’ll find design stores such as Nada Debs and Bokja), fish is displayed on ice in wooden crates (third picture); similar crates are placed in front of the store and used as extra seating for the inevitable overflow of the lunch and dinner crowds. Fancy, it is not; but the fresh food and the buzzy atmosphere are a winning combination.

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Meat the Fish was founded in 2012 as a home delivery service by Karim Arakji, who already owned a company with his father supplying premium meat and fish to hotels and restaurants across Lebanon. His mission is to sell and serve food from traceable, sustainable sources across the globe: French lamb and chicken, Dutch veal, Australian beef, Japanese oysters and fresh fish from the English Channel are just a few of the 80-plus products available to order over the phone for home delivery from Arakji’s two shops (the other is found along the coast in the seaside town of Jal el Dib, in the David Adjaye-designed Aïshti Foundation).

I was warned that finding a seat could be a challenge, so I went for an early lunch and scored a spot at the counter that runs the length of the store window. I ordered the Kale Caesar salad bowl with Scottish salmon (second picture), followed by a plate of the largest oysters I’d ever seen, supplemented with a requisite glass of the day’s wine (on my visit, a Chablis). While I’m not usually one to linger over a meal, I stretched this one out, savouring every bite, and (I admit it) eavesdropping on the conversations going on around me. The food, as well as the people-watching, was top notch.

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