An Expat Guide to International Zagreb Cuisine: Lazeez Lebanese Cafe

Total Croatia News

© Veki Pazin
Lazeez Lebanese Cafe
Lazeez Lebanese Cafe

August 29, 2020 – Lazeez Lebanese cafe


The construction work never ends. Ask any resident of Zagreb trying to sleep through summer with the window open, they’ll tell you. When city streets fell silent during the height of the Corona lockdown, you could still hear the cranes, the steel, the engines, the profanity. Office blocks interrupt the horizon. Roads – wide like rivers in spring – appease the ever-increasing flow of traffic from the suburbs. And, yes, water erupts from all new fountains. Under the mayorship of Milan Bandić, the Croatian capital’s appearance has changed considerably in the last 10 – 15 years.

But, beyond the reshaped streets and skyline, what kind of city will the mayor bequeath when he eventually leaves office? Over recent times, one heralded achievement has been that Zagreb has become a multi-ethnic, multicultural European capital. And, whether you’re a fan of the mayor or not, you cannot deny that’s true. The gangs of tourists guided around summertime streets are not the only exotic new additions here. In the last decade, Zagreb’s population has evolved to embrace folks from all over the world. And nowhere is this more noticeable than in choice of food on offer.

Where once you’d have struggled to find much beyond pekara and pizza, burger and burek, ćevapi and the odd Chinese, Zagreb’s food menu now boasts cuisine from all over the world. And, as new arrivals have broadened the palette of the city, just as many locals have been inspired to offer alternative eats. In this series, we’ll take a look at some of the best that’s now on offer and get the story behind these businesses and their food.

Lazeez Lebanese cafe

Located next the Tuškanova tram stop, just a few minutes walk from Kvaternikov trg or Džamija (Meštrović Pavilion / Home of Croatian Artists), Lazeez is an informal cafe and takeaway that specialises in the food of Lebanon, where owner Ihab Abisaid originally comes from. In warmer months, there are few greater rewards after a morning’s shopping on the outdoor market, Tržnice Kvatrić, than relaxing on the covered terrace of Lazeez, snacking on a salad or the best hummus in the city. For dinner, they offer a range of platters and authentic kebab-like wraps, popular middle-eastern dips, falafel and hot, filled flatbreads called arays.

image1.jpegIhab Abisaid © Total Croatia News

I left Lebanon in 1993 and went to Moscow, where I finished Dental school. In 2011 I came here and opened the city’s first Lebanese restaurant on Radnička. I worked there for two years and then went back to Moscow. But, I missed Zagreb. My whole family love Zagreb. It’s so safe here and the weather is so much better. It’s a great place to raise a family. 

I came back in 2018 and ran a restaurant on Tkalčićeva with a partner, before moving here to set up Lazeez on my own. I go back to Lebanon twice every year to visit my extended family. Although I’m not Muslim, we don’t use any pork meat here simply because it just isn’t used in Lebanese food. In Lebanese cuisine there are lots of vegetarian dishes, especially salads and dips, and lots of barbecued dishes. Sesame oil, sesame paste, and tahini are key ingredients. We use them in dips like hummus, which is made from chickpeas, and muhamara, which is made with walnuts. We make falafel from chickpeas and our sandwich wraps are flavoured with Lebanese sauces, which are a completely different flavour to what you can find elsewhere in Croatia. 


Falafel and side dishes at Lazeez © Veki Pazin

I think people enjoy the food here because it’s natural and healthy, as well as being delicious. We use fresh herbs every day – parsley, mint and coriander. The spices we use are more exotic than you would find in local cuisine. Cumin features a lot and there is a classic Lebanese mix that contains seven spices in measured amounts. We use that often, especially in the meat dishes, and it’s key to giving our food its Lebanese identity. Lebanese food is quite spicy, but it’s not hot, like with too much chilli. The spices we use add flavour, not heat.

© Veki Pazin

I employ several members of staff here. Our full-time chef is from Syria and she is essential – Syrian food is quite similar to Lebanese. Before Corona we had one guy from Algeria working here, but the rest of the staff are Croatian. On our terrace every day you can meet people from many different countries and cultures, although most of our customers are Croatian. Zagreb has changed greatly since 2011. For me, what’s most noticeable is the change in mentality. People are a lot more open now, accepting of outsiders and willing to try new things, like our food. I think people are more interested in eating healthy now, too.

You can find Lazeez Lebanese cafe at Zvonimirova 59


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