When the name ‘Byblos Pub & Grill’ was mentioned among friends and on social media, my ears tweaked twice. ‘Pub’ would never be part of a name unless the owners intentionally wanted to step away from the ‘bar’ label. ‘Byblos,’ a coastal town in Lebanon with ancient castles I once visited had me thinking ‘Is Yangon really getting a Lebanese restaurant?’ I had to find out.
Byblos Pub & Grill opened in March this year and is located on Pearl Street in the Golden Valley area in the same compound as Real Fitness Gym. Entering the restaurant, customers walk through a gallery-like hall with retro photography of aviation scenes and famous actors of the past.
Fine smells waft from the pizza station as you take a seat in the non-smoking dining area which has more retro decorations including a huge gramophone and massive iron safes. The interiors have been designed by one of the six owners of Byblos who owns a company producing recycled furniture. It all makes for a rustic but comfortable setting and an ideal atmosphere for meeting friends for a casual dinner.
Behind this dining room is the bar area which, through its design and décor, has a distinct ‘pub’ feeling with low lighting, high stools and a fine selection of liquors behind the bar as well as rugby memorabilia on the walls.
Next to the bar area is the pool room with a large modern pool table and sports playing on an overhead TV. To the front, another smaller dining room with open windows where smoking is allowed. The atmosphere transports you back to Europe faster than you can finish your Jameson.
According to Christophe Nabot, a French national with many years of experience in the restaurant industry across Southeast Asia and one of the co-owners of Byblos, the pub and restaurant is owned by an international group of six friends of very diverse backgrounds. Among them is the famous Myanmar actor Lwin Moe. Christophe explained that though the menu has Lebanese dishes and the name is distinctly Lebanese, this is a Mediterranean restaurant.
After a strong and robust Americano coffee which is served with a fig, we go through the menu. Throwing out pasta options and getting straight down to business with a spaghetti menu we go for the Peppe option (K9,500). It strikes me at once as a particularly satisfying and wholesome spaghetti dish: pepperoni bits give it a little spice kick while the pasta is perfectly cooked and bell peppers add a welcome crunch. From the salads menu we try Beet It (K7,400)– a dish with a base of sliced beetroot, the earthy flavour of which is lifted by the peppery kick of rocket leaves and a sprinkling of blue cheese. On the same menu, the quinoa tabouleh (K6,800), though fresh and made with organic quinoa, is underwhelming.
The Byblos Platter (K15,000) from the Breads & Dips menu is a good choice for sharing. When the impressive wooden platter is served, dive straight for the hot halloumi cheese slices, grilled a little crisp on the outside and soft and salty on the inside. Match it with a slice of soft white pita which should then be used to scoop a silky dollop of baba ganoush or the hummus which has just the right amount of seasoning. Organic olives, garlic mayonnaise, grilled bread and falafel complete the lineup though the falafel could do with more flavour.
For the European in Yangon, every dish that comes with parmesan shavings and chili oil is a blessing and the pizza menu, with no less than eighteen options, is sure to please all. We try the Julius pizza (K14,000) which has a good crispy base and topped with ham, artichoke, olives and onion. The artichoke is not too strong and everything combines to make for a nicely salty and delightfully light pizza.
Potato lovers are strongly recommended to try the Mash & Mush (K8,500) from the Oven Baked menu. The heavenly creamy-salty combination of mashed potatoes, mushrooms, bacon bits and white wine sauce is baked to perfection with a tantalizing lid of grilled cheese. It is heavy though, and would be best ordered as a side dish to share – if you can.
The drinks menu covers the usual juices, sodas, coffees, wines and beers as well as an intriguing beer cocktail menu and a comprehensive list of whiskeys. It being summer in Yangon, the Campari Spritz (K5,000) aperitif goes down especially well as a refreshing and zesty tipple. The Ginger Pepfiz (K7,500) is a potent and deliciously peppery Byblos signature cocktail including bourbon, ginger, black peppercorns and Angostura Bitters.
Midweek evenings see a steady stream of groups of locals and expats come through the door and the atmosphere is bustling. With a good location, fair prices and excellent menu, Byblos Pub & Grill is the place to schedule your next evening out with friends.
Address: 20 Pearl Street, Bahan Township, Yangon
Open: 11:30am to 11:30pm.