Mune is set in a narrow side street in Madrid’s trendy, central Justicia neighbourhood. The Lebanese restaurant catches the eye with its bright, apricot-coloured facade. Inside, rhythmic music creates a lounge-like vibe. The dried flowers in cheerful vases and ornamented cutlery on the tables contrast with the rough plaster and naked brick of the walls. ‘The decor serves as a reminder of the civil war and the history of Lebanon,’ explains the proprietor. Rabih Haddad came to Madrid in January 2020, during Lebanon’s ongoing political crisis and just prior to the eruption of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The move was a very conscious decision with a concrete business plan. Since 2017, the situation in Lebanon had become ‘worse and worse,’ says Haddad. These circumstances gave rise to his plan to emigrate and open a restaurant serving specialities from his native country. In February 2020, a suitable location was found and, after extensive preparations, renovation work and, not least, Covid-related hurdles, Mune opened its doors the following October. Fattoush, tabbouleh, kibbeh and kafta figure prominently on the menu – all traditional Lebanese dishes, served here in a fresh, ‘Instagram-compatible’ ambience.
Culinary variety and a love for detail
Haddad runs the restaurant jointly with his business partner, Dalia Nahas. Both come from other fields: he formerly worked in the building sector and she in advertising. Haddad is in charge of the kitchen and day-to-day operations, while Nahas is responsible for marketing and organisational matters. ‘We knew exactly what we wanted our menu to look like,’ says Haddad. ‘We have our mothers to thank for many of the recipes, and some of them we taught ourselves. We developed other dishes in collaboration with a professional chef. We spent a whole month fine-tuning, adding a bit of salt here, an extra dash of lemon there.’ Haddad and Nahas carefully selected every object in Mune themselves, with an eye for detail. The water carafes, for instance, are made from melted-down, recast glass that had been shattered in the catastrophic explosion in the port of Beirut in 2020.
The restaurant seats around 30 at various tables, large and small, with space for another 5 guests at the bar. It was a tremendous challenge to get the business up and running at the height of the coronavirus restrictions, with limited space and in compliance with social-distancing and hygiene regulations. But the aromatic, multifaceted cuisine speaks for itself, and the new restaurant has quickly established itself in the neighbourhood. The food delights vegans and vegetarians just as much as it does meat lovers.
It all comes down to the quality of the ingredients
‘Lebanese cuisine is full of flavour and healthy at the same time,’ Haddad says enthusiastically. Hummus, beans, leafy vegetables, sweet peppers and yogurt characterise many dishes, while ingredients like sumac and za’atar add spice. One of the owner’s favourite dishes is tabbouleh, the quintessential Lebanese salad. ‘I simply love the taste,’ he says. But lamb, beef fillet and minced beef are also important elements of the menu. Haddad purchases the meat from MAKRO, along with a variety of other products. As a Food Service Distribution (FSD) customer, Haddad can place his orders by phone, online, by email or via his sales force manager, who visits the restaurant every few days. Several times a week, a small MAKRO truck rolls up to deliver fresh and non-perishable goods, ranging from vegetables to cleaning products.
‘The quality of the food always depends on the quality of the ingredients,’ says Haddad. Lebanese cuisine isn’t distinguished by its flavour alone, however, but also by how it is eaten. Many dishes are traditionally served as mixed plates to share. It is probably this combination of taste, conviviality and history that keeps customers flocking to Mune. At lunchtime today, every seat is taken, and at the counter 2 employees are additionally packing dishes for delivery and takeaway. Small cards are placed in the bags as an extra touch. They read: ‘Desde Beirut con Amor’ – From Beirut, with love.