Närenj (Orléans)

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In 2015, Nabil and Sousana Attar fled the Syrian civil war with their recipes from Damascus tucked away inside their suitcases, in the hope of starting over abroad. After a stint at the Résidence du Refugee Food Festival in 2017, the couple wound up heading to Orléans one year later to open up Närenj – or “bitter orange” in English. The former engineer now treats guests to straightforward Levantine cooking, while his partner (an ex-medical sector employee) watches over the starched tables in the dining room. Served à la carte the night we went: creamy labneh with Syrian za’atar; excellent hummus; tasty muhammara – a creamy pepper and walnut dip; a generous smoked eggplant purée; a majestic makloubeh, an upside-down bulgur wheat cake with slow-braised lamb and eggplant; a fine beef kebab cooked for 13 hours, with yogurt sauce and freekeh (green wheat) meatballs; before an ice cream made with Damascus orchid bulb flour, with some incredible cotton candy! And on the menus? Pink lentil, cumin and lemon soup; maghmour with cooked yogurt, tahini, butternut squash, stewed beef and zucchini; yabrak with grape leaves stuffed with free-range, slow-roasted lamb, garlic and lemon; rice pudding with toasted pistachios and Damascus rose petals… // G.B.

FEELING THIRSTY? A French-Levantine wine selection: a Lebanese white from Château Kefraya (€6 a glass), an organic Cheverny white from the Domaine des Huards (€29 a bottle), a Lebanese red, Altitudes (€38 a bottle) or a Syrian Bargylus (€61).

PRICE: Menus €35-43 (food and wine pairings +€24), à la carte €34-41.

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