THERE'S been an explosion in the popularity of Lebanese cuisine across the county over the past few years, particularly in Bournemouth town centre.

Perhaps it's because it appeals to such a broad spectrum of tastes combining foods and flavours from a range of countries like Greece, Cyprus, Italy, France and Turkey.

One of the latest Lebanese places to pop up is Beirut Lounge in Old Christchurch Road.

Until a few weeks ago I'd never heard of it, but a friend declared it was now one of his favourite places to dine so I joined him for a midweek bite to eat.

Apparently it is run by the same people who set up Retro in Charminster which was one of the first of its type at the time.

Although it looks rather dark and uninviting from outside, once you step through the threshold you feel right at home.

Like all the best places, it's family run - dad was cooking up a storm in the kitchen while his lovely son and daughter were front of house.

We were given a warm welcome and settled in high backed, brown leather chairs at a candle lit table draped in a white and red tablecloth.

The restaurant is adorned with authentic Middle Eastern artefacts and pictures including a framed certificate of excellence dated from Trip Advisor.

Apparently the owner has been a specialist Lebanese chef since 1992 and it opens daily from 12 noon.

For starters we had Shish Taouk (£10) tender, fragrant chicken that had been marinated in garlic, lemon juice and olive oil and grilled on wooden skewers, Jibneh Haloumi (lovely Mediterranean cheese that makes your teeth squeak) which had been thickly sliced and lightly grilled, Sojuk (£6) mini Lebanese spiced sausages fried with fresh tomatoes garlic and lemon juice.

I also couldn't resist the sound of Fatayer (£4.50) - light, flat bread style pastry stuffed with spinach and onions.

For mains we tucked into a mixed grill including minced lamb, chicken, lamb cutlets with tomatoes and onions (£15).

To round off the meal we had a traditional homemade pancake with creamed cheese and crushed pistachios drizzled with honey syrup.

Even if you don't have a particularly sweet tooth this is irresistible.

Everything tastes freshly home-made and is served in a relaxed atmosphere as if you are dining with a family rather than at a restaurant.

If you like Lebanese food - you won't be disappointed.