Experience a delicious slice of Lebanese culture in Esher
30th November 2011
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In June 2010 an internationally acclaimed Head Chef working in Esher bought out the then owner of Layla’s restaurant on Esher High Street. Jihad Rahbani had been working there for some time and despite the venue having fallen into disrepair, he could still see its potential. Along with his business partner, Salim Labaki they invested time, effort and finances into their vision and 18 months on, Layla’s restaurant is The Place to relax, socialise and sample the delights of top-notch cuisine in Esher.

Salim says that he loves good food and running a restaurant is like a hobby for him! He used to own Laylina (little Layla) in Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge but he sold up and invested in Layla’s last year because he has the utmost faith in his business partner’s unparalleled culinary talent.

Jihad, who likes to be known as JR, initially trained in Hotelry and Hospitality. He then quickly rose through the ranks to become a Head Chef. He prepared quality dishes in kitchens around the world before winning an International Award for The Best Lebanese Dish for which he was presented a silver scimitar by Emirates Airways in Dubai. He arrived in the UK in 1993 and headed a team of 500 chefs, preparing 35,000 meals per day for VIP’s, Presidents and Royalty on outbound Executive flights from Heathrow.  By this time he was exchanging recipes with, amongst others, Gary Rhodes and Michel Roux Junior.

As well as providing an excellent culinary experience, the proud owners go out of their way to create a friendly, welcoming and hospitable atmosphere for their guests. JR explains that the starting point for him is to create a working environment where every member of his staff feels trusted, valued and like they are part of the family at Layla’s. Happy staff provide a more attentive and higher quality service which is enjoyed in turn by families who visit during the week and socialites who visit at weekends.

More recently, Layla’s has received glowing praise from The Independent’s Posh Nosh guide, with the restaurant being selected as one of the Top 50 venues in and around London. JR and Salim are understandably proud of this achievement but are not resting on their laurels. JR believes that Layla’s is the best Lebanese restaurant in the UK. This is a credible claim as having eaten many a Lebanese dinner, I can confirm that the food prepared at Layla’s is truly outstanding!

© thebestofesher, 2011


Above, from left to right: Jihad Rahbani and Salim Labaki

Below, from left to right: Jimmy, Jean, Michael, Virginia, Mark, Ewa, Jakub, Mario, Michael.

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Ruby I

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