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.


Saudi home-bakers cooking up sweet business on internet

Nada Kutbi started baking from home for family and friends before setting up her Sucre De Nada pastry shop to expand her home business. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 22 May 2019
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Saudi home-bakers cooking up sweet business on internet

  • Thanks to social media, business is booming for Jeddah’s cake and pastry makers

JEDDAH: Enterprising Saudi home-bakers have been turning to social media to help cook up some sweet business success.
The Kingdom’s food producers are proving to be some of the rising stars of the internet, and none more so than 53-year-old mom Nada Kutbi.
Her Sucre De Nada pastry shop in Jeddah has become one of the go-to places for homemade desserts and cakes, and the online side of her business is also booming.
Kutbi’s daughter, Nassiba Khashoggi, told Arab News: “She has basically been baking all her life, especially after having children. She used to make cookies for us and whenever she tried a dessert somewhere else, she would recreate it.
“In restaurants or gatherings, she would always analyze sweets and make them at home for her family. That was how she started baking.
“I don’t think she ever thought she could pursue it as a career, but everyone loved her baking and one of her closest friends encouraged her to start her business when she was a stay-at-home mom.
“It was in 2011-2012, and her friend basically forced her to start by telling her, ‘yallah! make a cake and I will buy it from you now.’”
Khashoggi added: “In the beginning we just went by word of mouth, but when Instagram came along, we made an account and started posting pictures and the customers loved her creativity and uniqueness. I don’t think many people knew what banoffee was before my mom promoted it.”
Although Kutbi’s unique takes and touches went down a treat with customers, it was not until Ramadan last year that she officially opened her bakery in Jeddah.
But stepping up from running a home business presented new challenges. “When you are running a home business there are few staff and it is easy to control,” said Khashoggi. But expanding requires you to put more trust in other people and that was difficult for my mom. Also, when we increased the number of our products it became harder to maintain the quality of goods.”
Kutbi aims to avoid storing, pre-baking or freezing her products and is not a fan of mass production and blast freezing, according to her daughter. “In short, she is against commercial baking,” said Khashoggi. “What is unique about my mom is that everything she makes is made the same day from scratch. It makes it harder for her to redo everything but that’s what makes her special.”

HIGHLIGHtS

• The Kingdom’s food producers are proving to be some of the rising stars of the internet, none more so than 53-year-old mom Nada Kutbi.

• Kutbi’s unique takes and touches have been a hit with customer, but it was not until Ramadan last year that she officially opened her bakery in Jeddah.

Sometimes customers even send pictures or pieces of dessert to Kutbi asking her to recreate their favorite foods.
Another Jeddah-based bakery thriving on the internet is Ganache. Run by Anas Khashoggi, 58, and Jamila Ali Islam, 48, the pastry business has been operating for almost 20 years.
Khashoggi supported his wife after spotting her talent for baking and took a leap of faith by giving up his job and starting an online bakery.
“At that time, there was no social media, but we made an introductory website, which helped us gain popularity,” he said. That was in 1996, and the couple’s first store opened later the same year.
“Ganache has its own unique spirit as a family business, and it is run by Saudi youth who are managing the bakery and understand the Saudi market. The family committee is the one that approves the products,” added Khashoggi.