It’s easy to see why this cosy, County Durham restaurant draws in the crowds and racks up the rave reviews; think big flavours, plates vibrant in colour and bursting with freshness. Try the bamieh bl’lahm (okra and lamb cooked in tomato sauce with olive oil and garlic) and the sambousek cheese (essentially deep-fried feta in pastry). For dinner, you can’t go wrong with the mixed Lebanon grill, followed by kanafeh (a traditional Palestinian dessert) for pud – cheese pastry soaked in sweet sugar syrup.
47 N Bailey, Durham, DH1 3ET; lebaneat.co.uk
Think colourful plates and fresh-as-can-be flavours from all corners of the Middle East and Mediterranean. Tuck in to vegan brunches of harissa beans, halloumi, avo and falafel, spicy scrambled egg with Med-style veg, lunches of chargrilled meats and flatbreads, dipped into baba ganoush, chunky, homemade hummus and beetroot borani and fattoush salads. In the evenings, dive in to mezze sharing plates of chickpea and ras el hanout tagine and beef koftas with tabbouleh and lashings of labneh.
31-33 Starbeck Ave, Newcastle, NE2 1RJ; harissakitchen.co.uk
Papa Ganoush, Whitley Bay
Founded by a father-and-son team, this tasty new venture began life as a street food stand, before blossoming into a working kitchen down by the coast. Fans can expect the same great snacky bites; mezze-style small plates like papa ganoush hummus and Moroccan bread salad, mighty mains like pork belly souvlaki, and falafel with an assortment of pickles, chilli sauces, green tahini and fresh house pitta. The fries, dusted in za’atar, get a big thumbs up from us.
240 Park View, Whitley Bay, NE26 3QX; papaganoush.co.uk
This quirky, Egyptian-themed restaurant is definitely unique, but worth checking out if you’ve ever wondered what truly authentic Egyptian grub really tastes like. What’s more, 99 per cent of what you’ll find on the menu is gluten-free; everything from traditional Egyptian soup, to refried fava beans and mashi (stuffed peppers and aubergine), fatta (toasted Arabic bread soaked in lamb soup with lamb shank) and spicy okra tagine. As for desserts, the om ali – Egypt’s answer to bread and butter pudding – tops them all.
144 High Street West, Sunderland, SR1 1UN; arabesque-restaurant.co.uk