One of the very rare places around town I feel comfortable coming alone for a nice vanilla hazelnut cappuccino or a healthy smoothie to read or work away on my laptop. Also, one of the only places that ‘hooked’ me- I have become a regular, and I often see some of the same people here spending hours in comfy club chairs, as if they were at home.
One of the first things that struck me was the cool and open contact between people here, talking to each other from one table to the next or joining the long wooden desk to sit next to other journalists, businesspeople, art freaks, or your not-so-average metro ‘jagal’ sipping his espresso macchiato as he checks out the stock markets.
Indeed, the creative scene and busy professionals hit this place knowing that the Internet connection for downloading, browsing, youtubing, and gradually meaningless site surfing as they loose track of time is the fastest in town!
The menu is international. My favorite starter was the Asian salad with a crunchy cabbage mix, radish, coriander, carrot, roasted almond and sesame, topped with yummy crispy noodles, with a choice of chicken or grilled shrimps to top it all. The salad bar is all fresh, except for the tuna, offering quinoa, lentils, wheat mix, rice mix, or fresh corn.
Sandwiches, all served with green salad, are prepared with fresh bio bread. The seared tuna sandwich is made with apple, carrot, and wasabi sauce on whole-wheat bread. The New York sirloin steak comes with mozzarella and caramelized onions on a bio rosemary baguette.
Daily dishes include chunky burgers made with a bio bun, or grilled chicken in a lime sauce with cherry tomatoes, white mushrooms, and white rice. I learn from one of the owners, Houssam el Eid, that the Salmon is organic, raised in the wild. The place is not the most expensive in the area, but it is not the cheapest either, ‘we always get the best quality of products on the market, our customer wants to eat well, so we make no compromise on that!’ says Houssam.
The breakfast menu and all day sweets are mouthwatering with a wide selection of eggs, freshly baked croissant, and my favorite caprice: the giant oreo! The La Colombe coffee is imported on a monthly basis by airplane. They offer new minute-made brews or drip coffee (with a cone where the water is pored over the coffee and freshly pressed). I would have liked Urbanista to be open before 9am for a quick Almond Mocha stop to wake up in style with other urban fellows before work but ok.. The place has been non-smoking from day one, but as smokers get more nervous they discover a back garden, so rare in Beirut, far from the noise of the road, where they can puff away.
It comes as no surprise that Houssam is in the restaurant branding and marketing field, and has several projects up his sleeve. His wife Zeina, a big fan of cafés and restaurants, is not an interior designer but she managed to come up with the whole concept of this warm space, including the funky library with a few books for public use.
The place aims to honor design, like with the choice of Charles Eames’ 1950s iconic chair design, but also with pictures of people whom they feel marked human development such as Coco Chanel, Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, or Freud. “We are creating a community in an urban space, but one that has roots and is marked by noble movers and shakers’. Expect an interesting melting pot of creative, trendy, and easygoing citizens and globetrotters, treating themselves to the carefully chosen ingredients for food and drink.
Address: Gouraud street, mid part of Gemmayzeh
Average price: 20 dollars & up for lunch and dinner, coffee from L.L.5,000 & up
Dress code: None! Stroll in in your own personal style
Opening hours: 9 a.m to midnight