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Candelabra: Lunch at The Kempinski Beirut
And I am finally here... at the Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort Beirut. It has recently opened its doors to the public having been completely renovated. It blends holiday, romance, culture, and most importantly, memories of the city’s iconic Summerland Resort - which put Lebanon on the map for having one of the best beaches in the world. Set on 25,000 sq/m of pure nostalgia, the hotel acts as a pillar to and reflection of Kempinski’s high standard of hotelier service, and as a reminder of Beirut’s golden years.
And I am finally here with my family on a calm Sunday. We headed towards Pier78, one of seven culinary outlets at the hotel. Pier78 is a Lebanese Bistro. There's no buffet and no fish display... it's where mezze has a different meaning, it's where food is served in beautifully decorated plates... it's a different approach to Lebanese cuisine and I love it!
As a first impression you find a selection of Lebanese wines displayed at the entrance, including fine bottles like Atibaia, Domaine de Baal, Ixsir as well as Chateau Qanafar, B-Qa and Aurora. They use Arak Brun around here, one of Lebanon's finest.
I love the decor. The restaurant is open to the waterfront from one side and the hotel from the other. Many square and round wooden tables with grey place mats surrounded by grey chairs. The ceiling looks like a long wave painted in blue and white giving freshness to the place. As you walk in, you are welcomed by a hostess, continue to the bar and on directly to the restaurant. Choose to sit inside or outside a meter away from the sounds of crushing waves. Soothing oriental music plays in the background.
On the menu: Cold Mezze, hot mezze, main course.
Lunch started with a basket of Lebanese bread and little cups of Labneh mixed with vegetables and mint leaves. Add olive oil and enjoy. They use Zejd olive oil. A perfectly set table, two knives and two forks, a table napkin and grey glasses.
Lunch is served:
- Fattoush made of vegetable chunks is pleasantly soaked in sumac and pomegranate molasses. This delicious fattoush is served with a portion of grilled calamari, juicy and tender presented in a cup of toasted bread.
- Hummus is light and sweet. Something most Lebanese wouldn't accept. It needs to be firmer in consistency, it should not be sweet and it should have more lemon.
- Eggplant salad has a strong smokiness to it, decorated with pomegranate molasses which add sweetness. The mix also includes diced vegetables and is covered with mint leaves and purslane. A beautiful decoration, an interesting mix but the taste is a bit dull. Smokiness is the only thing you feel, the fish is too sweet and the eggplant has a neutral flavor.
- Octopus carpaccio is a beautiful plate for your Instagram account. A round plate is covered with cooked and thinly sliced octopus served with coriander and garlic sauce. Oranges, lemon, fresh coriander and purslane make it a piece of art. Violet octopus, red pomegranate, yellow lemon, orange oranges and the greenery. I enjoyed its taste but surely not the garlic.
- Fish and shrimps fatteh followed. Eggplant chunks, coriander and shrimps bathing in a warm Laban served hot. The mix has a kind of fried nut which add the crunch to this fresh and light mix. Garlic is balanced and boosts the other flavors which partner naturally with this ingredient.
- I personally couldn't try the octopus and shrimps Provençal which contained too much garlic but my wife says they're good enough. Sauce needs more taste.
- Eggplant moutabbal has the flavors, the acidity and smokiness but is unfortunately too soggy. You expect a firmer texture from an eggplant moutabbal and again less sweetness.
The main course:
For the main course we had a plate of mixed grill and a sea bass. Two skewers of tawouk, two skewers of meat, kafta and ribs. I like the presentation which doesn't have the cheap loaf of bread conveying it like everyone else does. Meat on skewers presented with grilled tomatoes, chatta and grilled veggies. I tried a bite of everything, meat is extremely tender, chicken juicy and flavorful and the kafta intensely spiced. Three fried fish, golden and crunchy are served with fried bread; unfortunately dry, they need that juiciness. Sea bass is as good as it should be.
Lunch ended with a selection of desserts served in mini cups. Meghle, sweet wheat, ashta and mouhallabiya with an orange robe. These are awesome! A great way to finish lunch, desserts are delicious, the mouhallabiya is memorable, the mouhallabiya with amareddine gelée is exceptional and the cooked wheat with almonds are cooked al dente and served with rose water. I personally loved the way they are undercooked. With that we received a basket of fruits, fresh seasonal fruits. White coffee and loukoum followed. The loukoum should be less sweet.
Things you have to know:
- The place is not kid friendly especially outside. There is no entertainment for kids on a Sunday.
- There is no menu for dessert. Dessert is complementary with white coffee at the end of every meal.
- Average cheque is around $40
- I loved the decor, the light, the artwork, the view and positive vibes of this restaurant.
- The finest of staff, well trained and ready to put a smile on your face. I loved their welcoming nature, the attention, the class, their uniforms and their attitude.
- Service is perfect.
I'd change and improve:
- The menu looks small, it doesn't offer enough choices for a Lebanese bistro. I would start with an intro page and not the cold mezze. Something about the place, the concept... Add more items and surely create a little corner for kids. My kids didn't have anything to eat.
- Change the bread supplier; the bread is too crunchy and not tasty.
- Food is good enough but needs more oomph. A bit of lemon and a pinch of salt, a sprinkle of pepper and probably less garlic, more sauce here, less there, more consistency there... Ingredients that will turn good food into memorable dishes.
It's a beautiful place managed by lovely people...