“May this Ramadan be a month of blessings. A month full of forgiveness and guidances for you and family.” Unknown
Growing up in England Summer is always welcomed with open arms, it’s our best friend of seasons bringing long summery light evenings, bright mornings and hopefully but not always guaranteed, a little less precipitation. Being a Brit in Abu Dhabi the word SUMMER is the complete opposite, it’s quite frankly the enemy. Summer here means that the humidity literally slaps you in the face whenever you venture outside, the incessant heat is unbearable and your sunglasses constantly steam up, we live in constant air conditioning whether in public places, at home or in the car and we are all utterly obsessed with the rising temperature gauge in our vehicles.
Alongside Summer being ominously close another thing just around the corner is Ramadan and this year it starts in the middle of June, Inshallah. The Holy Month of Ramadan, which official start date will be declared by the moon sighting committee, is one of the five Acts of Worship in the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and to non-muslims it appears to be about not eating, drinking during daylight and shorter working hours but it’s actually much more about a time for spiritual growth through self-control, discipline, forgiveness and reflection. Tents are beginning to be erected at different venues to feed the poorer members of the community as Ramadan is also a time for giving and helping those less fortunate. Having experienced six previous Ramadan’s here, the city seems to sleep during daylight hours with the closure of malls and cafes (apart from some that have permission to open between curtained windows like Jones The Grocer) and comes alive again after sunset as people gather to eat together. As an expat it’s a time of being cautious to not break any rules and about being respectful, wear discreet clothing, not play loud music, display good manners and really just apply common sense in certain situations but it’s also about experiencing culture, traditions and amazing Arabic food at the Iftar and Suhour meals.
I have been invited to sample some Iftar and Ramadan previews so I thought I would share the best of them with you from around the capital. Hotels, restaurants and cafes will be offering special Iftar menus, buffets and tents where both muslims and non-muslims are welcomed to enjoy traditional food. Iftar, when people gather together to break their fast at sunset is traditionally started with the eating of dates as the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast with three dates, followed by a Iftar buffet or dinner and most establishments across the capital are offering their own variation of this feast. Others are also offering the pre-dawn meal Suhoor usually served in traditional tents.
LEOPOLD’S OF LONDON – Nation Towers
Placing itself quite firmly in the hearts and minds of the UAE’s cafe lovers, Leopold’s of London offers a selection of healthy, delicious and seasonal food, a fantastic array of teas in its Tea Library and even a speciality coffee lab. At night this contemporary designed venue turns from cafe to brassiere and is celebrating the holy month with a special three course set menu available at all of its venues across the UAE.
I tried out this menu which started with a choice of either Crispy Calamari served with zucchini and harissa mayonnaise or a UAE inspired Salad of chicken & spring onion pakora’s with Haloumi cheese, tomato and purslain ( I opted for the salad minus the chicken of course). For the main course seafood lovers will be delighted to see sumac-rubbed salmon fillet with fennel, radish, mint and feta salad and for those meat lovers there was a slow braised shoulder of Lamb served with chick peas, fried eggplant and sumac yoghurt will delight (sadly no vegetarian option, so they kindly made me an eggplant salad with out the lamb). To finish off I devoured the iced date Parfait served with a dollop of sweet saffron honey. Alongside the food there is a great range of very good non-alcoholic cocktails and of course the Tea Doctor will only be too pleased to brew you a speciality tea or perhaps try a cold press, manual shot, syphon or chemex coffee from the Coffee Lab.
The large Nation Towers branch is located on the second-floor of the Nation Towers Galleria offering diners the option of sitting on the open terrace which has fantastic views along the Corniche and out across the water. I have to mention that alongside all the savoury options Leopold’s has a wide range of delicious cake and desserts to satisfy those with a sweet tooth and is also very popular for breakfast.
The Ramadan set menu will be available at all Leopold’s of London outlets daily, from 12 pm until 11pm, priced at AED 125 per person
Locations in Abu Dhabi (All open 7 am – midnight)
2nd Floor, Nation Towers Galleria, West Corniche ~ Telephone: 02 665 4776
1st Floor Galleria, Al Maryah Island ~ Telephone: 02 665 5214
Ground Floor, Boutik Mall ~ Telephone: 02 677 0071
For more information visit the Leopold’s of London website www.leopopoldsoflondon.com
BYBLOS SUR MER – Intercontinental Hotel Abu Dhabi
This standalone two-story restaurant is a chic and stylist addition to the Intercontinental Abu Dhabi Hotel’s dining options and is absolutely stunning in every way. Classic and traditional Lebanese cuisine served with a modern twist, a ground floor sumptuous dining area with terraces that are perfect for alfresco eating and smoking shisha overlooking the waterfront setting and a first floor bar and lounge area for drinks and bar bites. Byblos Sur Mer, translated to English as ‘Byblos by the Seaside’ is modelled on a Lebanese mountain house and no expense has been spared on the sumptuous interior decor of this classy new establishment, add in the amazing food, extensive menu, live music and ambiance and it’s a real winner.
Having been here for both Ladies Night and dinner, I can thoroughly recommend a visit to experience for yourself the intense flavours and a new concept on traditional Lebanese dining. The mezzeh was especially delicious and my favourite dish was the Ajami combining eggplant puree, fried eggplant, molasses and walnut, yum yum! The six-course Iftar menu will feature dates and dried apricots to start, appetisers, hot mezuzah, The grills, dessert and arabic juices including jallab, tout, laban Iran, tamer hindi, souss and Byblos lemonade – download the Ramadan menu here
Byblos are offering the six-course Iftar menu priced at AED 250 per person –
Location: Intercontinental Hotel, Abu Dhabi
Telephone: 02 666 6888
LATEST RECIPE – Le Méridien Hotel
Latest Recipe at the Le Méridien Hotel is the large all-day buffet style dining restaurant that has benefitted from full refurbishment located just off the lobby of this older Abu Dhabi hotel. The Pre-Ramadan Iftar preview was a grand affair showcasing an array of authentic Arabic cuisine from various cooking stations and I was impressed by the large choice of fresh tasty dishes and the presentation of the food. All the traditional Arabian accessories such as lanterns, large Arabic coffee pots (Dallah) and woven red Bedouin textiles gave the restaurant a great ambiance too. The Iftar buffet will be served every day after sunset during the month of Ramadan offering guests delicious Arabic dishes such as stuffed vine leaves, sambousek (the cheese variety were my favourite), tajine, kabsa, kanafeh, katayef and includes free-flowing special Ramadan juices like qamar din, jallab and tamar hindi. There is also a great selection of International cuisine and curry as well as desserts, biscuits and Arabic sweets to finish your meal. Well worth a visit this forthcoming Holy Month.
The Iftar buffet is priced at just AED 125 net per person (kids pay AED 65 net) and throughout the month of Ramadan Latest Recipe will be giving away one free Iftar buffet for every two purchased.
For Suhoor the chefs have put together a special a la carte menu that includes a vast array of Arabic delights along with an extensive variety of shisha which is priced at AED 80 Net. Suhoor is served at the deck until 3:00am.
Location: Le Méridien Hotel, Tourist Club area
Telephone: 02 644 6666
One of my favourite Abu Dhabi restaurants, Market Kitchen located at Le Royal Méridien Hotel will be serving a special Iftar tasting experience menu to celebrate the Holy month of Ramadan every evening after sunset. Following on from the success of the amazing Suzanne Husseini brunch (read When Suzanne Cooks at Market Kitchen) that gave traditional Arabic cuisine a modern twist, the Iftar menu will feature a selection of classic Market Kitchen favourites as well as Arabic dishes prepared by Head Chef Jordan Annabi and his team, served in unlimited sharing portions. The food and service here are always fantastic and it’s most definitely worth a visit. A special A La Carte menu will also be available at the restaurant until the end of Ramadan.
Market Kitchen Iftar Tasting Menu from AED 199 net per person
Le Royal Méridien will also be offering guests the essence of Ramadan experience in their large traditional air-conditioned tent Layali El Hilmiya, where a lavish Iftar buffet will be served and also a tastefully crafted Suhoor A La Carte menu with a variety of live stations and Arabian-themed live entertainment. Hot and cold mezzes, fateer and traditional saj are just some of the many delicacies on offer which will be prepared directly in front of the guests. Sweets cannot be missed either with season specialties such as achtaliyeh, kunafa and katayef along with juices and teas to complete the meal. A variety of flavoured shisha will also be available as well as a live Arabic band.
Layali El Hilmiya Iftar Buffet – AED 149 net per person until 8.30 pm. Suhoor Packages – All-inclusive Food and Beverage: AED 159 net per person and the all-inclusive Food, Beverage and Shisha option – AED 199 net. The Tent will be open daily from Iftar and will close by 3.00am.
Location: Le Royal Méridien Hotel
Telephone: 02 695 0300
I hope you get the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic cuisine that the capital’s cafes, restaurants and hotel are offering during this forthcoming Ramadan and all that is left to say from me is Ramadan Kareem from anexpatabroad.
All the views are all my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved. Photo credit for photos 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 from respective location website/Facebook.