Enjoy a tête-à-tête over tea at the Kempinski Al-Othman in Saudi Arabia’s Alkhobar

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If you have a sweet tooth, this is the perfect spot. (Photo courtesy: Shaistha Khan)
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The lounge offers a wide array of treats.
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The food and service are impressive.
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From sweet treats to savory delights, this lounge has it all.
Updated 05 November 2017
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Enjoy a tête-à-tête over tea at the Kempinski Al-Othman in Saudi Arabia’s Alkhobar

DAMMAM: As you walk into the five-star Kempinski Al-Othman Hotel in Alkhobar, you know it will be a memorable affair. A sweet smell of hydrangeas and soothing music welcome you as you step into the foyer. As you head up to the second floor, toward the Sky Lounge and Sky Bridge, you are greeted with stunning views of the Alkhobar skyline.
Once you are comfortably seated in the plush French Bergère-style arm chairs, you can fully admire the passion for European luxury that the Kempinski brand embodies. With its high ceilings and chandeliers, the Sky Lounge is reminiscent of the many upscale cafés of Europe. What is particular to this one is that amidst the art and chandeliers are larger-than-life date trees that add a lit bit of Saudi Arabia to the European aesthetic.
The words “high tea” conjure up images of aristocrats dressed in their finery, discussing their affairs over a cup of tea and dainty food — all following very specific etiquette, much like the qahwa culture of Saudi Arabia. In modern times, high tea has become so synonymous with British culture that it is obligatory to visit the likes of Claridge’s in London to experience this British affair in its entirety.
The high tea at the Kempinski Al-Othman comes very close in my opinion. The server is discreet in bringing out the spread and even explains everything that is on the three-tiered platter. Starting at the top, there were dense chocolate and raisin scones served with whipped cream, strawberry jam and apricot jam. Then, we worked our way down to the last tier, which was reserved for canapés, including avocado and chicken, egg and mayonnaise, tomato with mozzarella and pesto bruschetta options.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, there is a five-tier platter of pastries, ranging from classic French macarons in raspberry and mango flavors to the traditional esh Al-bulbul kunafa (the bird’s nest kunafa). The first tier includes bite-sized brownies and apple crumble cakes. Between sips of tea, be sure to sample the fresh fruit chocolate and caramel meringue tarts. The options available for the most important part of the afternoon, the tea itself, included English, sky, lemon and red berry tea. The teatime spread also includes fresh carrot juice shots and a scrumptious blackberry-yogurt concoction.
While being prim and proper, do remember that not all tea sessions need to be pretentious and, more importantly, are about having a good time. It is all about enjoying the tea and delicacies interspersed with hearty, enjoyable conversation. Needless to say, be sure to take two hours or more of your time to indulge in the lavish treats, enlightening conversation and the beautiful sunset over the city.
The spread costs SR180 for two people and is open from 1:00pm to 7:00pm every day. If you wish to book your table, reservations can be made in advance.


Dhaka relishes traditional ‘Dhakaia iftar’ in Ramadan

Chawak Bazar Iftar market vendors on a busy Wednesday afternoon. (AN photo)
Updated 24 May 2018
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Dhaka relishes traditional ‘Dhakaia iftar’ in Ramadan

  • While much has changed in Dhaka, its tasty Ramadan dishes have stayed the same in the 400-year old city established by the Mughal dynasty.
  • The exquisite variety of kebabs attracts food lovers from far and wide, reminding them of the existence of Mughals through different food menus — offering tikka, shutli, jaali, shami, irani and other kinds of kebabs.

DHAKA: “To me it’s like a festival. During Ramadan, all of us friends regularly gather at my house and have the ‘Dhakaia Iftar’ together,” said Abdullah Alamin, 48, a city dweller of old Dhaka.

While much has changed in Dhaka, these tasty dishes have stayed the same in the 400-year old city established by the Mughal dynasty.

“Chawak Bazar Iftar market of old Dhaka has a history of more than 100 years. Many things of the area have changed with the passage of time but the Chawak Bazar Iftar remains unchanged,” said renowned historian Muntasir Mamun, a professor at Dhaka University.

Chawak Bazar became the city center of Dhaka during the Mughal regime in the early-16th century. The iftar bazar is a continuity of the retail market set up since then, Muntasir said.

During Ramadan, people from all over Dhaka get something more to add to their regular iftar menu.

In Chawak Bazar, vendors in makeshift shops offer a variety of iftar items. These include “boro baper polai khai” (only the son of an influential father eats this), shahi jilapi, shahi paratha, beef, chicken, mutton, pigeon, quail roast, keema roll, keema paratha, doi bora, borhani.

The exquisite variety of kebabs attracts food lovers from far and wide, reminding them of the existence of Mughals through different food menus — offering tikka, shutli, jaali, shami, irani and other kinds of kebabs.

Boro baper polai khai is the most popular iftar item among the locals. People from old Dhaka can simply not complete their iftar without having a piece of it. This is an exclusive food of the city made of chicken, minced meat, potatoes, brain, chira, egg, spices and ghee.

“This is a traditional food of old Dhaka. I saw my grandfather enjoying eating boro baper polai khai,” said Hajji Joinal Molla, 79, who has been living in the Lalbag area of old Dhaka for many years.

“We love to treat our special guests with this dish,” Joinal said.

Most of the 200 vendors at the market are second- or third-generation businesses. 

“My 11-year-old son is very fond of shami kebab at Chawak Bazar. Today he has invited some of his friends to our house, which brought me here to this iftar market,” said Shamsuddin Ahmed, 55, a resident of Uttara, new Dhaka.

“These traditional Iftar items have become an integral part of our iftar culture,” Shamsuddin said.