The iconic Burj al Hamam restaurant, open in Antelias for as long as I remember, has encountered a complete renovation making its ceiling higher and its walls brighter. Covered with bright stones from the floor up, the restaurant space feels now more modern while preserving the authentic vibes. What caught my attention is that not a single painting has made it on the walls: no colors added to the space; it is bright but neither happy nor lively.
Expect to smell smoke during your experience, to be pushed by waiters walking over your head, and eating below-average food produced for the masses. Do not bring your kids, don’t come if you are pregnant and expect to send your clothes to the dry cleaner the same day.
Let’s go into more details. The ceiling is now higher compared to the sardine box the restaurant used to be like. Stone walls remind you of old beach houses. All tables are covered with white table covers which should better be ironed. A false ceiling created with different levels makes it look like clouds. Another room with a lower ceiling can be accessed under two arcades. What cannot be missed is the lack of personal human touch; the space is too cold!
Lunch starts when a tray of vegetable lands on the table; Cucumbers, one tomato, a quarter of a cabbage, half a lettuce, radish, and mint leaves. With that, a small plate of pickles.
First impression: Lebanese bread is baked in-house. The menu has two awkward items usually not found in a Lebanese restaurant, the escalope, and filet. Waiters are not friendly enough, not smiley but professional and strict.
Service is pushy and lacks the minimum of finesse, know-how, and respect: spoons thrown in all plates, an excess of ashtrays, no smiles... there is no attention.
Now the food: you expect perfection from Burj al Hamam.
- The stuffed grapevine leaves need more intensity and more lemon. They have a taste of emptiness.
- The hummus is too cold making its taste feel dull. Needs more intensity, more lemon, less tahini.
- Fattouch is salty and too lemony.
- Labneh has an excess of salt and acidity. I honestly didn’t understand the taste of this white mix.
- Batrakh lacks olive oil!
- Raw Kebbeh is fresh and good.
- Balila: tasteless. Needs salt and lemon.
- Cheese rolls are fresh and flaky but way too salty to be edible.
- Sambousik is big and rounded but empty on the inside.
- Hummus with diced meat: how can one use such chewy meat!?
- Kebbeh is way too white to have meat in the mix; it's made of berghol.
Finally, one tasty plate! Baby veal meat is tender and beautifully marinated. Kabab Orfali is juicy and enjoyably spicy.
- When renovating, why wasn’t the restaurant divided into a smoking and non-smoking section? The law is not respected, neither are the kids', non-smoking customers and pregnant women.
- Service is bulky; the restaurant is smokey, food is pretentious, plates look empty, and almost everything is salty or misses an ingredient; “Nafass.”
- Please look at the plates presentation and filling.
- When half the restaurant is empty on a Sunday; it means something. Reconsider!
After lunch, we waited more than thirty minutes for that table to be cleaned for us to enjoy desserts. You are not asked about desserts if you want to order something special, so you receive a tiny little bowl of apples, some clementines, 2ariche, and dates: I was ready to order everything and pay for them!
It seems you get your dose of sweets according to the bill or your level of friendship with the waiter: the table next to us, six persons -when we were ten, received Lebanese sweets, peeled clementines, esmalliyeh, atayef among other things. The utmost level of unprofessionalism... What a shame! We left and went for desserts elsewhere.
I was hoping to find at least one plate, one single plate that’s good in quality and taste. Burj el Hamam was one of the biggest restaurant deceptions of the year. I came here expecting good quality found at Al Halabi, Mhanna or Sultan Brahim but unfortunately didn’t. My grade says it all.