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It's a place my parents used to tell me about, it's a majestic landmark in the heart of Beirut, it's aplace where big balls were hosted, where presidents used to meet, where Lebanon's history could be watched. It's no other than Le Bristol Hotel, Beirut.
I was young, accompanying my parents to the Cartier Jewelery private collection exhibition which was taking place at Le Bristol. A memory I still hold today, the voiturier and his long hat and the hotel oozing class and finesse. It was one encounter I still remember, while waiting for the day when I would take my kids for the same experience.
Famous for the last couple of decades, a great Sunday lunch has made it back to the heart of the capital. Lunch at Le Bristol, a buffet of endless choices, class at its finest, luxury and good food. Leave your car with the valet, walk up the stairs and continue right to the ballroom. A large ballroom awaits with many stations of beautifully decorated platters surrounded by round tables.
Two knives and two forks, a dessert set, two glasses and a table napkin with a center of purple flowers. Branded porcelain china, waiters wearing their black suit and tie helped by half a dozen chefs handling the buffet.
It's under a high ceiling, decorated with three chandeliers, walls covered with yellow and blue fabrics and a blue carpet. The room is open on one side to the road.
The choices are endless. It's a buffet filled with appetizers, another with sushi and sashimi, the hot plates and the live stations. Cheese, fruits and desserts follow.
- The oriental choices: Tabbouleh, hummus in individual portions, stuffed grape leaves and baba ghannouj.
- The bites: Kebbet samak, foie gras, magret de canard, goat cheese, quiche bresaola.
- Fresh salmon and salmon salad, summer rolls, avocado and pomegranate, artichoke salad with Roth Parmesan cheese.
- Sushi and sashimi station.
- The hot section: Salmon, fresh greens, supreme de poulet, siyadiyyeh, kebbeh arnabiyyeh, pumpkin soup and freekeh.
- The live station: entrecôte, ravioli, penne arabiata, spaghetti Alfredo, raclette
Let's eat: Food is tasty:
- I started with the sushi. Nicely rolled, lightly sweet, a rice that's not crunchy and not chewy, good quality fish, fresh sashimi and ginger.
- The artichoke salad is good, very good. Lightly crunchy artichokes with Parmesan and sundried tomatoes.
- The quinoa guacamole is wonderful. The lightness and creaminess of the guacamole followed by the strong lemony explosion of the quinoa. Pomegranates make it even better.
- The salmon could be way better. It lacks smoothness, has an excess of salt and a certain unpleasant dryness. The salmon supplier should be reconsidered.
- People come here for the kebbet samak. Green colored, condensed, pine nuts and caramelized onions. Oily, but enjoyable with a faded fish flavor.
- Stuffed grapevine leaves, acidic and well stuffed with a firm envelope. Salmon feuillete with cream cheese.
- The siyadiyyeh is delicious! Extremely and pleasantly spicy, the black rice and its fish mixed with pine nuts are amazing.
- I'm shocked and alarmed by the freekeh we're using in town. For the love of God use our locally produced freekeh and support a local producer. The one I had doesn't even taste like freekeh, but more of a puree of something green. Missing smokiness and the crunch freekeh should have.
- I love the entrecôte so much. Super tender, light colored meat with an envelope of fat and a pepper sauce. Oh my! What a fine quality.
- The Kebbeh Arnabiyyeh is not close to the real one. Creamy, like baby food, and it doesn't taste like arnabiyyeh, more like corn flower.
A tasty lunch I surely recommend and will repeat, but the desserts let it down. Desserts look nice but don't taste up to standard.
Colorful offerings where the choux is too sweet and the heart is a bit dull. An eclair that lacks body, a chocolate tart that needs more flavor, but I liked the vacherin a la minute ice cream with whipped cream and the crunchy meringue and nuts. The alcazar needs body, less sugar and more jam. Nothing left me impressed, everything lacked something to make them good. I expected way better from Les Gourmandises du Bristol, if they were the ones producing them.
Lunch at Le Bristol is surely an experience to be repeated. It's priced at $68+VAT all inclusive with water and coffee. The buffet of choices are worth the price, especially with the service you get and the professional waiters trained to address your every need.
I loved the space that invited us to stay for hours, a high ceiling and smooth music accompanied by a musician playing the piano.
While the kids were taken care of, we enjoyed our lunch.