Cookshop, the tasting café



Rawan Radwan

Published — Wednesday 18 September 2013

Last update 2 October 2013 1:31 pm

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Imagine a taste of home away from home? Try Cookshop, a restaurant in a class of its own and which serves over 200 different items to choose from, each differing in taste and uniqueness.
Cookshop is a themed restaurant brought to the shores of Jeddah from its original birth place of Turkey, where it is already famous with eight branches across the country. Although it is still in its soft opening stage, the restaurant’s atmosphere is a welcoming one for those who are trying to find a good dining experience away from the hustle and bustle of fancy high class restaurants or busy fast food chains.
The restaurant opened in late June and is located in Astra Center in upper Tahlia Street close to Al-Malik Road, a quaint location which is easily accessible. As soon as you walk into the restaurant you are greeted upon by the vast space and the comfortable feel to it.
A cute little couch and funky looking chair with a table in the middle filled with magazines and books for all ages, catches the attention immediately. Kids are usually found fiddling around and looking at children’s books and coloring books as well.
It has a “feel like home” quality. Wooden chairs covered with cushions usually found in our mothers’ homes, long wooden tables with red and white checkered table cloths, mason jars for the drinks and a large “Magnolia” sign facing the door advertises one of the restaurant’s signature dishes.
You can actually catch a hint of plants placed on high shelves as well as hanging picture frames placed at odd angles. The décor is different and daring. Guests can enjoy the smoke-free environment with families seated downstairs (for everyone’s convenience) and singles upstairs.
At a first glance, the menu looks like a magazine. Then we realize that every page is full of pictures and information on certain items of the menu. The menu consists of 220 mouthwatering dishes that vary from breakfast to soups, salads and main meals that can be devoured all day long. There is even Turkish coffee in its beverages section.
There is a combination of international and traditional dishes such as the margherita pizza, Caesar salad, mozzarella sticks, and even spaghetti carbonara. Indigenous dishes from Turkey are the Iskender Kabab and Manti. Besides, the restaurant serves Chinese, Italian, Mexican and Austrian food. The Austrian Schnitzel is one of their famous preparations. Among the beverages, one can choose from a variety of smoothies and freshly squeezed fruit options served in large mason jars.
We were served first with the Ci-monade, a mixture of fresh strawberry and lemonade and I must say it was very refreshing. Then the good stuff started coming in. We sampled some of Cookshop’s highest recommended dishes from the Penne Arrabbiata to its Seafood Risotto. Both dishes were attractively presented and cooked.
The Arrabbiata had just about the right amount of spiciness to it and a balanced tomato/basil leaves taste, not strong like in other locations. The seafood risotto was also very good; the cream base, served with small chunks of fish, clams and squid rings, was not fishy at all. The parmesan cheese balanced the taste of both the cooked rice and the seafood.
We were then served a very tasty dish of Argentinean steak. My husband is very picky when it comes to steaks; he likes his cooked well-done with just the right amount of spices, and with a hint of that burnt taste that accompanies the steak. It was perfect according to his standards.
The steak was fresh, lean and very tender, served with mushroom cream sauce, steak fries and rice. There was a buttery taste to the steak and it was a hit from the word ‘go’. There was also the Turkish Tabouleh, a marvelous dish with different types of lettuce, mint leaves, arugula, boiled wheat and pomegranate seeds.
The texture of the salad is not like its Lebanese counterpart: citrusy or finely chopped. Instead, it’s leafy with a hint of pomegranate molasses mixed with oil and lemon. It was divine. My new favorite salad dish to date.
Our visit to the restaurant ended with a plate of three different flavors of one of its signature deserts, the Magnolia pudding. The Magnolia wasn’t really a pudding; it felt more like custard mixed with pudding kind of dish. Guests are able to choose from three different flavors such as banana, strawberry and chocolate. It’s a very light type of dessert and absolutely delicious. There were chunks of fruit inside the pudding making it very pleasurable to the taste.
The restaurant has made efforts to create a family-like atmosphere. It is a must-visit. With reasonable prices, the food is definitely worth it. Although, it is still in its early stages, there are plans to expand the franchise in Jeddah and to other locations in Saudi Arabia.

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