Asked along to a private dining evening with friends I arrived unsure what to expect. From outside my first impressions were low. It reminded me of recent trip to Marrakesh, going into cafés suggesting less than salubrious offerings. See the exterior pictures I took of Soul-ful to get my point; it's fair to say Soul-ful does not scream kerb appeal. I was hopeful to have my initial judgements broken by interesting and tasty food, otherwise why had my friend arranged this?
Downstairs offers a drop in seating area and counter service displaying sweet and savoury pastries, with a menu offering more, to eat in or take away.
While waiting for the rest of our group to arrive we were served mint tea, with I think cardamom. There were 8 of us booked for a set meal upstairs costing Ł12 each. We were then taken upstairs through what felt like a vacant flat into a simple room with tables and chairs.
It felt like we had rolled up to a mate's for impromptu meal, when they've not quite tidied up, but you go with it as your hungry and don't want to appear rude. Actually the informal surroundings help you relax, and the private dining made our group feel special.
There were even apologies that the toilet on offer was not luxurious. And no the toilet was not luxurious, but it was clean. On reflection the whole set up of Soul-ful reminds that you are here for one reason and one alone, the food. Maybe two; the welcoming staff.
Let me tell you about the food served.
We enjoyed starters of baba ganoush, (a vegetarian dish made of roasted eggplants, tahini, oil and garlic), hummus and salad with warm rice stuffed vine leaves and bread with various meat and vegetable pastries.
The starters were so plentiful that a couple of our group thought this was the meal and looked aghast at more food to come. We were told that we would not leave hungry. All the starters were freshly prepared and simply presented but full of flavour and appeared lovingly handmade.
Then mains kept coming to the table; meatballs and sauce, vegetables in a rich stew, rolled chicken with a chilli bite and pieces of lamb, rice and more vegetables. As a committed non-vegetarian I devoured all dishes, surprisingly for me I was particularly taken with a predominantly potato dish with a lovely tangy flavour. The lamb was tender, chicken a tad spicy for me, but all clearly delicious as I watched my fellow guests tucking in.
Following this spread we sat back and paused before more mint tea with cardamom arrived and I'm told devilishly rich coffee, with instructions to ignore the authentic 'muddy bottom'. As a philistine I added milk to the tea but this was obliged without fear of reprise.
Sweet pastries accompanied drinks, sticky pastries predominated by nuts and honey, requiring very little to gain a sugar rush, and Soul-ful were very accommodating to friends with nut allergies preparing alternative sweet. By this time it was worth remembering that we had been enthusiastically told we would not leave hungry, and for myself, they had not lied.
Hospitable to the end the Staff/Owner (I'm not quite sure), then offered doggy bags to take home the leftovers. A nice touch that adds to the homely feel.
Soul-ful does not offer luxurious surroundings, but just possibly the low expectations from outside make the food served even tastier. In my opinion it's reasonably priced for the vast array of food on offer. I'm not sure how authentic the food served is, but it appears honest and tastes good.
Even better as there is no alcohol licence we were free to take our own bottle with us upstairs. Soft drinks are available. I'm intrigued by their catering options advertised; if someone booked them to provide food at a 'bit of a do', I would be there like a shot. If you are going to go along as a group let them know about any specific dietary needs and you'll need to book ahead.
After visiting I was intrigued by Soul-ful Lebanese Bakery and searched online. Marketing appears a missed opportunity, bearing in mind its location and, without hesitation, wonderful authentic tasting food. But it is now available on the Just Eat website. It appears all efforts are ploughed into the food. But hey thanks to my friends this was my experience of trying this local small business slightly off the beaten track. I left satisfied, clutching my take-away container. Check them out yourselves. Their telephone number is 0121 446 4881.