I recently made my way from the Palais Brogniart in Bourse to the lively Lebanese restaurant LIZA on rue de la Banque, which lines the AFP headquarters. Opened 10 years ago, it was Liza and her husband Ziad Asseily’s first-ever venture. The Beirut-born socialite, who bounces between Paris and Beirut, has since opened a magnificent restaurant in a former palace in Beirut and an outpost at the Galeries Lafayette in Paris.
“The Paris restaurant is my baby but I love all my projects – even the bakery. In fact, you’d laugh at me if I told you I’d been dreaming of having one of the sandwiches from the bakery for the last couple of months while I was in Beirut. I miss Paris when I’m in Beirut and I miss Beirut when I’m in Paris,” says a bubbly Liza, her big brown eyes sparkling. Liza came to the city with her parents during the Lebanon war and has since called both Beirut and Paris home. “I love to be outside of my comfort zone – I think that this fearlessness to start something new is engrained in us Lebanese due to the war. We just go for it.”
Liza, who brims with passion for good food, created the first restaurant on rue de la Banque with her husband. “Ziad knows what he wants – he’s the one who likes to cook. We use his recipes, but I like to take care of the front office.” While her husband handles the food, Liza takes care of the décor and the diners. “I’ve always found Lebanese restaurants in Paris to be depressing, so I wanted to add a spark, to create something truly different with regard to the interiors but also the food. People imagine Lebanese food to be heavy and fattening, but actually it doesn’t have to be.” And indeed the food is fresh and light, but filling and varied, perfect for lunch, dinner, or weekend brunch. The dishes are all adorned with vegetables bursting with color as well as flavor. On the menu are several platters made for sharing, which include healthy helpings of Lebanese signature dishes like hummus bi tahiné with a twist of lemon, falafel, hindbé (spinach with crispy onion and lemon), chich taouk (marinated chicken skewers cooked in garlic and coriander), and mouth-watering baba ghannouj (aubergine purée). It’s simple – everything here is light and absolutely delicious. Teamed with the tasteful interiors, LIZA couldn’t be further from some of the city’s other dismal or brash Lebanese eateries.
The restaurant, designed by fragrance artist Hubert Fattal, has crisp, contemporary white interiors while the Moorish-style alcoves, arabesque motifs of the mashrabiya, and scintillating touches of copper remind diners of the restaurant’s Middle Eastern roots. Like its owner, LIZA has a jovial ambiance to match its beautiful mezzes. And the restaurant boasts an adjoining bustling bakery that serves Liza’s trademark Lebanese sandwiches, all made with fresh ingredients.
So what’s next for the fiery Liza? More bakeries in Paris and restaurants in Istanbul and Dubai, “and last but not least on my list is a hotel,” she smiles dreamily while the cheery din of the restaurant goes on well past the lunch hour.
Before leaving Liza to her chic white Moorish palace on rue de la Banque, she gave us a list of her favorite haunts to feast on Lebanese food in Paris:
Rimal restaurant, with its chic interiors and terrace, is perfect for a more formal evening meal. “Their meat is excellent, I definitely recommend the skewers of grilled meat and the lamb Kibbeh,” Liza suggests.
Les Délices d’Orient is a Lebanese épicerie. Liza adds, “as soon as I miss Lebanon I head here. Everything comes from Lebanon – and it’s the best.”
Le Bois le Vent and Liza goes here because it’s very traditional and small. “I love its intimacy.”
While Liwan isn’t a place to eat, it is well-known among fans of all things Lebanese, including Catherine Deneuve and Charlie Watts. A beautiful boutique, it offers mainly clothing, as well as Liza’s favorite Lina Audi sandals. “But the atmosphere is incredible because you are welcomed by the owners as if in their home,” says Liza.
Lastly, Liza sometimes goes to one of the Noura restaurants for a quick bite between meetings.
LIZA Restaurant and Bakery – 14 rue de la Banque, 75002. Tel: +33 (0)1 55 35 00 66
LIZA Café at Galeries Lafayette – 40 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009. Tel: +33 (0)1 42 65 30 54
LIZA Beirut – Rue Metropolitan Club Douman, Achrafieh.
Rimal – 94 Boulevard Malesherbes, 75017. Tel: +33 (0)1 42 27 61 22
Les Délices d’Orient – 44 and 52 avenue Emile Zola, 75015.
Le Bois le Vent – 59 rue de Boulainvilliers, 75016 (deli located across the road). Tel: +33 (0)1 45 27 62 23
Liwan – 8 rue Saint-Sulpice, 75006. Tel: +33 (0)1 43 26 07 40
Written by Rooksana Hossenally for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.