On my road trip around Lebanon with a friend in June, we stopped at Byblos for a tour of the Crusader Castle and lunch at the famous Byblos Fishing Club. The Byblos Fishing Club, otherwise known as Pepe’s is the restaurant and bar that attracted the beautiful people such as David Niven and Brigitte Bardot in the 60s and has been dining out on its reputation ever since.
As we knew it was where everyone who was anyone stopped for lunch, and it was even raved about in our Lonely Planet (must write to them about that) we made a beeline for it without further thought but found it rather a lacklustre experience. The restaurant is pretty enough in that Greek Taverna meets Italian-neighbourhood-joint kind of way, with the blue painted chairs, fishing paraphanalia and the countless photos of the stars on the walls. It does have a great location overlooking the pretty harbour that could have been in any Spanish or Italian seaside town, with the fishing boats and yachts bobbing up and down and the blue sea and sky beyond.
But somehow the sparkle was lacking, the service seemed a bit sleepy and the whole place lacked the joie de vivre and personality that made it famous. Pepe Abed, who was the owner in its heyday and made every day at the restaurant a party for the rich and famous, has now departed to the great fishing boat in the sky and the place is run by his son and grandson, who trade heavily on Pepe’s name. We had the typical selection of mezze to start with and some grilled fish which was all fine, but we found it a little overpriced and over-hyped.
When we mentioned Pepe’s to a local winemaker we met, he immediately recommended a string of much better places in Byblos including the Bab el Mina restaurant next door, which has equally fine views over the harbour. Next time I go to Byblos, I’ll take the advice of a local and take a bit more time to explore the other restaurant options.
Have you ever been to somewhere with a big reputation that didn’t meet up to expectations?
This is posted as part of Wanderfood Wednesday over at Wanderlust and lipstick – head over for some glazed croissants and other foodie delights