Habsburg: A taste of royalty

Enas Shawa & Samar Al-Sayed

Published — Wednesday 31 July 2013

Last update 12 August 2013 10:28 am

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Ever wondered what royal life looks like? Or lets rephrase. Ever wondered what it tastes like? I’ll give you my two-and-a-half hours of royal experience. You don’t have to be an expert in Jeddah’s restaurants and eateries to know that the Habsburg restaurant, located on the first floor of the 5-star Rosewood Hotel, is the crème de la crème of eateries.
From the moment you walk into the majestic hall, your senses are overtaken with images and aromas of traditional Hijazi culture that has been embodied in honor of the holy month. Hijazi cuisine, the most famous of which includes “foul,” or brown bean puree with your choice of tomatoes, onions, olive oil, cumin or green chilies, is served in an authentic copper food pot and clay bowls. This and other continental delights are served against a backdrop of images and woodwork from Jeddah’s unrivaled old town and a view of the Red Sea.
In short, being named after a dated royal castle and later house that was to produce kings across Europe did not make the management shy away from placing Eastern heritage in the spotlight to create an ambiance befitting to the holy month.
Whether it’s the wooden “rawasheen” (wooden Hijazi shutters), “fawwalah” (pot in which the brown bean puree is cooked), “fawanees” (Arabic lanterns) or waiters dressed in conventional attire, the team at Habsburg has made sure to reconcile taste and tradition in a wave of sensory delights.
Comfort is at the forefront of the seating arrangement. As such, the seating concept is based on a selection of 4 to 5 chair designs. Choose your pick of armchairs, sofas, wooden chairs or longer, modern chairs with images of the old town fitted into the back exclusively for Ramadan. The versatility in seating arrangement will most certainly differentiate it from other high-end restaurants you may have been to.
The buffet offers Eastern and Western cuisine carefully crafted by a Swiss-Egyptian-Syrian team of chefs. Smoked salmon, crepe wraps and sushi pieces come piecemeal in mini-plates, unlike the Eastern variety of “hummus” (chickpea puree), “moutabbal” (aubergine in tahini sauce), “muhammara” (hot pepper dip) and stuffed vine leaves. “Tabbouleh” (parsley salad) and “fattoush” (classic salad with fried bread) are served daily but the one choice of Western salad is changed every day.
Get your “manaeesh” (Arabic pastries made with thyme, strained yogurt or cheese) or your liver slices made on the spot.
One thing that is hard to come by in the region is succulent beef, and you’ll be sure to find it at Habsburg. Dive into stroganoff made with Australian-imported beef cutlets or the “ouzi” (locally bred lamb atop Arabic rice). Seafood dishes, from fried hammour to seafood curry, are made with produce that is brought in daily.
Dessert offers anywhere from bite-size “qatayif” (mini-pancake dough stuffed with walnuts), Arabic-style ladyfingers or crème brulee to an assortment of Western cakes. The big bonus for me, however, came with the vintage pot serving “Um Ali,” an Eastern dairy-based porridge. In short, the homely, feel-good factor runs all the way through from appetizer to end.
To ensure premier freshness, the maximum serving time of any dish is 3 hours before it is changed entirely. This, of course, is only natural given that 80 percent of the hotel’s clientele are from the royal protocol circle.
The sahoor (pre-dawn) variety is lighter than the iftar (dusk) meal since the latter is considered the main meal in Ramadan.
Want variety with originality? Want to experience taste with tradition and aroma with ambiance? Welcome to Habsburg.
Expect to pay:
SR295 for Iftar (served between 7 – 9 p.m.)
SR255 for Sahoor (served between 12 - 4 a.m.)

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