After more than 25 years of civil war, invasion and occupation, Beirut is prospering again, perhaps on track to recapturing its title as the Paris of the Middle East.
Let's start with the Lebanese cuisine. Probably the most popular and well know out of all the Middle-Eastern cuisines, Lebanese food has a distinct flavor to it- thanks to a rich cultural history and a profound impact of region on its flavor, Lebanese food is definitely one of the best one can find anywhere in the world. Encompassing a perfect mix of dairy products, meat, fish, fresh vegetables and fruits, food in Lebanon is one of the most colorful and well garnished cuisines that one can come across. The recipes are not only healthy, but because of the vast variety Lebanese food consists of, these recipes are great to taste. Lebanese are known for seeking new challenges and their passion for food has driven them to create new concepts, evolve even the their traditional and cultural cuisine - people like Semsom and Leila have added a special twist to the Lebanese food. They were not appreciated at first, but the modern days and fast moving pace of today's culinary experience has changed people's minds. On another hand, Lebanese love life, traveling and have great appreciation for all things new and distinctive. To be a Paris of the Middle East, per say, requires that great restaurants and a variety of fine dinning experience.... Lebanon is just on track. International restaurant and hotel chains, international chefs have come to Lebanon to share their know-how and expertise in a country they know love life and food. Some expanded their chains while others created new concepts for Lebanon itself... all providing what a food lover like myself would call, a perfect culinary haven. We hear a lot about Dubai and other Middle Eastern and their expansions, none can compete with compete with Beirut's zest for life and culinary wonders. The Beirut's ambiance, the people, the know how and the appreciation for all things fine are definitely different. I humbly admit.
Until today, many international figures dreaming of dropping a pin in the historical capital have already realized their ambitions with restaurants that are doing very good. This is the time...
Joel Robuchon opened La Cave De Joel Robuchon and preparing for the L'Atelier De Joel Robuchon sometime this year. La Cave is a new concept in wine shopping where amateurs can choose their bottles according to taste and sharpness and not according to price. The motto is “small wines, top wines, good wines”
Yannick Alleno, a three stars internationally renowned chef opened its concept (S.T.A.Y) which is the lighter version of his very fine dining cuisine: Simple Table Alleno Yannick. Alléno devised a new dining concept to get rid of the gastronomic and service complexity to create a contemporary restaurant in a trendy and cozy environment. Located in the heart of the Beirut Souks, S.T.A.Y is one of the most renowned cuisines in the country. For Chef Alleno, Beirut is a challenge “I get the feeling of joy in Beirut,” he said. “Right now it’s stable. A country going through a renaissance like Lebanon needs grand restaurants.” He will be coming to cook personally at STAY in cups of days.
Momo's at the souks, is the talk about in town. Opened by Mourad Mazouz, who owns Momo and Club Gascon in London, and several small places in Paris, was ready for summer 2011 with a place that is a reference downtown, and where the food is a mix of Moroccan and French, with some Lebanese fusion meze. Faithful to his origins, Mr. Mazouz says that he has discovered in Beirut, the perfect fusion between tradition and modernity in an Arabic Mediterranean city.
Eric Kayser, the famous french baker landed in Beirut, introducing the real crunchy French baguette and offering his signature sandwiches "a la Francaise". Paul, on another hand who has more than five branches was here long before Eric Kayser with one of the best locations in the city, at the entrance of the famous Gemmayze nightlife district.
L'entrecote de Paris, the famous steak and fries place with its signature one of a kind sauce has already opened two branches in town. Same concept, same quality and same taste, where no reservations are accepted, all you have to do is reach the place and you will be served a taste found nowhere else.
Cappuccino Grand Cafe, the famous Spanish franchise with more than 15 branches to date has opened its first location in Zaitounay Bay, on the touristic waterfront of Beirut along with more than 16 others fine concepts.
Couqley, and the new Amarres, are the creation of French Chef Mr. Alexis Couquelet. Alexis Couquelet, Group Executive Chef & Partner at The Alleyway Group, brings with him a vast & rich experience in culinary art since he began working in a series of restaurants in Paris starting in 1993. Alexis worked for 12 years in Paris’s best restaurants - Market, Plaza Athenee and La Gare to name but a few - alongside some of the most prominent names in French gastronomy, Alain Ducasse, Jean Georges and Eric Briffard.
Chef Roberto Bulian, originally from Venice works in what he calls his laboratory after touring the world searching for knowledge and learning about all cuisines from the four corners of the world, he settled down in Gemmayze in what he calls "My House": Basillio. Basillio is one of the best Italian cuisines in Beirut serving clean and clear authentic Italian delicacies without any external add-on.
La Maison du Caviar is a luxurious yet smart and casual restaurant and serves not only caviar in an original presentation (on paper linen) but also many succulent dishes as smoked salmon diced over capellini, magret of duck with with pink peper corn sauce, grilled cote de boeuf and open ravioli with tiger prawns, just to name a few. La Maison du Caviar has always attracted the stars and showbiz clientele, whether it was in the 1950s or today. The restaurant which long ago became known as the usual eating place of the cinema producers and celebrities from around the world, maintains its elegant and artistic clientele. Paris in the Middle East is the atmosphere we have created, the eating place of the rich and famous, any day of the week for Lunch or Dinner. La Maison Du Caviar original branch in Doha has opened its doors in Beirut.
La Table Fine is the place where views over the idyllic bay of Jounieh in Lebanon are combined with sumptuous dishes of the finest Mediterranean cuisine, not to mention impeccable service. Whether at lunch or dinner, the restaurant, with its stylish ambiance, offers a mouth?watering selection of plates to satisfy your appetite. A cuisine brought to you by three?time starred Michelin, Executive Chef Jérôme Serres, an enthroned member of “Relais et Châteaux” and “Relais Gourmands”.
Whisky Mist is located in one of Lebanon's most prestigious five stars hotels, The Phoenicia Intercontinental hotel of Beirut on the site of the former Le Paon Rouge. Reviving the essence of Le Paon Rouge, the Whisky Mist is bringing back the glamor and sophistication of the Beirut Nightlife all by integrating into the country the original Whisky Mist ambiance of its original London branch.
Chez Sophie, located on the Mar Mikhael strip is one of the best restaurants in town owned and managed by Sophie Tabet handling the kitchen and cooking the mouthwatering dishes the restaurant offers, Sophie's brother, Samir manages the place and Sophie's husband Marco Marangi is the sommelier and maitre d'hotel. Sophie Tabet originally from Deir El Kamar is one of the most promoting Lebanese chefs who graduated in 2006 from the Paul Boccus institute decided to come back to her mother land after working in north America and Europe for the past couple of years along many renowned chefs like Pascale Barbot, Christian Constant and Sebastien Gravet and Nadia Santini.
Le Gray Hotel. With the opening of its Beirut branch after managing many renowned hotels worldwide like the One Aldwych London and Carlisle Bay Antigua, Mr. Gordon Campbell Gray lands in Beirut to handle the management of Lebanon's best five star hotel, Le Gray. A contemporary luxury hotel as stylish as the the city itself. Located in the heart of the city, at the entrance of the Downtown district, Le Gray has cool modern interiors and a very professional service.
Maki, the fine contemporary Japanese cuisine, and after excelling in Kuwait and Bahrain, Mr. Oliver decided to come back to Beirut to open his unique concept. The fifth location of the Maki international restaurant chain opened on December 20th, 2009. Located in Beirut Homes Building, Ashrafieh. Maki is a traditional Japanese restaurant, and for certain you will have a culinary adventure unmatched by another. You will taste the spicy, the tangy, the extravagant, and the exotic all in one bite, and only at Maki. Hence, fine, contemporary, fusion Japanese cuisine. Fine are the service, the elegant setting, and the ambiance, while contemporary are the recipes that only Maki chefs dare to create. Although this is another Maki addition, this restaurant has a distinct, cool, and eccentric flavor of its own. The sights and sounds of people enjoying themselves transforms the mood into a comforting and warm setting just like all of our Maki locations. Maki Beirut's decoration and design, similar to its dishes, are a fusion of many linear, jagged, and sharp elements which are fantastically blended with the organic foods, lights, and people. The food and the ambiance are as wonderful as all of our other Maki locations with just a zanier setting.
Gaucho, the international Argentinian cuisine restaurant has landed in Beirut and now in Dubai. At Gaucho you can enjoy a large variety of Argentinian meat and Wines all with a particular knowhow that has been developed for years. With its very unique decoration, the restaurant is a render-vous for connoisseurs.
The Four Season Hotel, Beirut. A luxury hotel in Beirut, Lebanon. Unabashedly modern, Four Seasons soars skyward above city and sea at the edge of the Mediterranean. From stylish comforts to the see-and-be-seen rooftop terrace, where guests can swim high in the sky or celebrate till sunrise, it brings the best in the world to Beirut. With its deft, friendly, genuine personal service, this much-anticipated landmark experience immerses you in Beirut’s rich sophistication in a way never before possible. A hotel whose time has come in a destination striding confidently into the future.
Some international chains didn't move in yet but are planning too very soon as the clock is ticking and the competition is becoming stronger
ZUMA, and after opening six branches all around the world will soon land in Beirut opening its 7th branch. The restaurant and bar concept now in its third year of operation, announced its plans for Middle Eastern expansion, beginning with ZUMA Beirut. Set to open in late 2012, the Beirut property will occupy a site within Le Gray Hotel, overlooking the Mediterranean and Mount Lebanon. Director of operations, ZUMA Middle East, Ajaz Sheikh said: “Since our opening in Dubai in 2008, we have always been looking at opportunities for further expansion in the Middle East”. “The past three years have allowed ZUMA to integrate itself in the Middle East culture and learn how to do business in this region. Beirut is a vibrant city with a unique energy and it seems fitting to open our second property in the heart of its Downtown district. Needless to say, the team and I are very excited about embarking on our new project.”
La Petite Maison, my favorite culinary address in Dubai, a branch of Nicoise-style restaurant La Petite Maison is set to open in Beirut by the end of 2012 at Le Vendome hotel on the first floor. La Petite Maison, which was originally a restaurant in Nice, France, is gradually expanding globally following the opening of restaurants in London and in Dubai. The home of Cuisine Nicoise, whose origins lie in old Genoese cooking, is the old town of Nice where French Mediterranean cuisine has blended and evolved with the influences of Ligurian Italy across the border. Local produce, notably artichokes, courgettes, lemons, olives, tomatoes, peppers and girolles are used generously with sea food, meat and fresh pasta to produce a style that’s light and healthy. Oil obtained from olives groves on the hills of the Alpes Maritimes behind Nice and extending into Liguria is used throughout.
The Kempinski Hotel Beirut. The eagerly awaited entry by Kempinski Hotels into Beirut, which has long been famed as “the Paris of the Middle East”, is located just an 8 minute drive from the Beirut city center and a 5 minute drive from Beirut’s international airport. To the proprietors, present day Beirut which is filled with a vibrant and sophisticated culture yet continues to maintain the traditional warm welcome offered to its guests, will be complemented by this 22,000 sqm resort which consists of a 5,000 sqm private beach and is an ideal location to celebrate weddings and other special occasions. Renowned for its golden sandy beach on the Mediterranean coast, the resort will have 151 Hotel keys and 56 luxurious furnished “village” apartments, banqueting facilities for up to 800 participants designed to attract large –scale conferences and trade fairs along with Restaurants, Lounges and Bars offering refined International, Mediterranean and Lebanese cuisine. The resort also features a private marina with 40-60 berths, available on both a rental and purchase basis, a 1,000sqm Spa, indoor and outdoor pools, Water-skiing, sailing and diving as well as a variety of other leisure activities offered to guests.
The Noodle House. Already present in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Riyadh, Kuwait, Limassol, Doha, and Lahore, The Noodle House restaurants are inspired by the food and nightlife of Southeast Asian cities like Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok, and Jakarta, the noodle house offers delicious Asian delicacies in an informal yet stylish setting. As more than 19 different international chefs and chains opened throughout the last couple of years in Beirut, Lebanon can today be considered as a reference. A small country of only 10452 sqkm hosting more than 300 restaurants and bars all aiming for perfection in a very hard competitive market.
One international figure, was the first to venture in this country in 2005: Alain Ducasse. I really don't know what happened, but Chef Ducasse's experience wasn't good and he decided to close his creation that was the talked about concept in Downtown. Was it the inappropriate timing? Wasn't Beirut not ready yet for the restaurant era? Michelin three-starred chef Alain Ducasse is the man behind Tamaris, an exclusive Beirut restaurant specializing in desserts. Named and themed after a Mediterranean tree, from the pink napkins and menus to the brown cocoa plates, Tamaris was planted on the top floor of the Paatchi building in the exclusive downtown shopping area.