Come iftar and the restaurant is absolutely buzzing with long tables filled with family and friends gathered to break fast. There’s no waiting around – as you enter you’re warmly welcomed and pointed in the direction of the buffet. In the meantime, icy cold Ramadan drinks, like jallab (made with date and grape molasses, and rosewater) are promptly delivered to your table. The buffet is a concise affair and doesn’t win any prizes for presentation. It offers all the usual suspects of Lebanese cuisine from the tabbouleh, fattoush, hummus and moutabel to spinach fatayer, and on to the aromatic meat and rice dishes. Usually a fan of soups, I found the lentil and chicken were overly creamy, diluting the taste of the original ingredients. The fattoush could have done with some refreshing as it had gone a bit limp (admittedly we were catching the tail-end of iftar), but the vine leaves and meat sambusek were the clear winners of the appetiser selection. Moving to mains, the chicken and rice was a real comfort food dish, the meat was slow cooked to total tenderness and the rice was very aromatic and dotted with tasty lamb mince. The addition of some wholesome chicken gravy to pour over was a nice touch. I was disappointed to see hammour on the menu, knowing it’s one of our most endangered fish species. In terms of dessert, the kunefah deserves a mention for the fact that it wasn’t drenched in sugar syrup and had a nice crunch to the pastry, almost like an Arabian cheesecake. By the time minted tea is served the restaurant is largely empty in preparation for the next phase – suhoor, which goes on until 2am. There’s also a new outlet in The Dubai Mall, which is worth checking out during the Holy Month.
INFO: Dhs95, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, 04 368 6044; The Dubai Mall, 04 451 7500.
Makes 1 tray
1 packet readymade kunefah pastry
1 cup margarine1 cup white sugar
2 cups milk
2 tbsp corn starch
½ tbsp vanilla essence
Sugar syrup, if desired
Nuts, to garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
In a big bowl, mix together the kunefah pastry, margarine and white sugar. Make sure to keep the mixture well-combined.
2. Take 1⁄3 of the mixture and pat it down in a tray, covering the bottom entirely.
3. To make the filling (called kashta): in a bowl, add the milk, corn starch and vanilla essence, and mix well.
4. Pour the kashta slowly over the pastry base in the tray and then cover with the remaining pastry.
5. Bake the kunefah until golden on top, and then allow to cool. Pour over some sugar syrup for extra sweetness, if desired, and garnish with nuts.
The answer is: Belgian tapas, and it’s a brand new concept hitting The H Hotel in late September. It’s all about sharing in a friendly, yet stylish environment that I’m sure will be popular with the after-work crowd. Bapas will be doing breakfast for delivery only to neighbouring office towers and will then be open from 12pm for lunch and dinner. They’ve also paired up with Nespresso, so good coffee’s already guaranteed.