From the silver screen to social media, Saudi star celebrates clean eating

Reem Al-Habib is in her element in her vegetable garden. (Photo courtesy: Reem Al-Habib)
Updated 09 January 2018
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From the silver screen to social media, Saudi star celebrates clean eating

JEDDAH: Health awareness has risen in recent years, but do we really know how safe what we consume is?
Saudi director, actress and healthy living advocate Reem Al-Habib, a passionate supporter of clean eating, makes a point of educating herself and others about what she and her family consume through her various social media channels. Al-Habib, who trained as a lawyer, has starred in a number of TV shows on television networks and even in feature films. She is a strong advocate of women starring in Saudi Arabia’s rising film industry and her passion for clean eating is just as strong.
A working mother of two, she grows her own food and has launched her own YouTube channel on clean eating and how to be green. Called Fasila Organics, the channel has 41,868 subscribers and is a treasure trove of content related to gardening, healthy eating guides as and question and andwer sessions
“A good friend of mine hated eating vegetables and always complained of hair loss. I tried to encourage her to grow her own plants but she went for the easier option, buying from the market,” Al-Habib told Arab News.
“Her doctor told her she has consumed a lot of toxins and he was concerned. I became intrigued to know why.”
Al-Habib set out to find out about production processes in farms and to educate others via her YouTube channel.
She talks about how easy it is to grow your own food and gives tips on how to do so. Her video on the dangers that American company Monsanto poses to the agricultural system went viral and has more than 600,000 views.
“One of the most profound issues I have with having to buy produce from markets in my city was not knowing if they’re safe to eat,” Al-Habib said.
“I’ve always wanted to eat healthy and organic, but once I noticed that three-quarters of the produce we buy in markets are sprayed with pesticides, I had other ideas. I knew growing my own vegetables at home was the best option.”
She is currently working on content to teach children how to grow food in schools and is giving workshops in various institutes. She has constructed a school curriculum teaching young children about the health benefits of growing your own food, using their love of the great outdoors as a tool to help kids to stay active and understand how to care for plants.
She says with the right tools, the proper amount of nitrogen in the soil, planting and irrigation, growing your own food is easier than one would think.
“Planting gets you the beneficial bacteria. Rodents won’t attack healthy plants. You’ll only find moths, caterpillars, beetles, lady bugs and other insects that are beneficial to the plants,” Al-Habib said.
“There could be some insects that could be harmful to the plant but aren’t transferrable to humans. I don’t use chemicals and I don’t recommend using them.”
She is very active on social media — she regularly streams live feeds to her 13,200 Instagram followers on her account @reem_alhabib — and engages with her fans. Her passion is evident from her following and in the care she gives to her plants.
In her live feeds, she helps followers better understand supermarket food labels, and promotes healthy products that are tried and tested.
“I create curiosity and educate people. I’m a consumer and I need to know what I’m eating. I ask questions and it’s up to companies to answer them,” Al-Habib said.
“We don’t have a farming culture and we just eat what we can find, so it’s understandable that we don’t know much about farming, but it’s not an excuse anymore.”


The London Project: Unpretentious high-end dining in Dubai

The London Project resturant in Dubai. (Supplied)
Updated 21 January 2019
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The London Project: Unpretentious high-end dining in Dubai

  • The London Project is located on Bluewaters Island off Jumeirah Beach Residence
  • The menu features “flavors from the boroughs of London where dishes are designed to be shared”

DUBAI: We’re fans of visiting restaurants before they reach Instagram-level hype, and so during an outing to Dubai’s newest neighborhood, we had to pass by The London Project. This establishment — which opened late last month, and is located on Bluewaters Island off Jumeirah Beach Residence — is the latest addition to the emirate’s ever-changing culinary scene.

It won’t be the first eatery you’ll come across when you arrive from the mainland; it’s tucked toward the far end of the marina, near the giant, yet-to-open Ain Dubai.
Offering glorious views of the Ferris wheel attraction and the Beach JBR, the venue has launched at the right time: perfect weather makes for perfect outings.
Upon entering, there’s an instant ‘Secret Garden’ feel to the place, with bespoke plants adorning every corner right up to the top level. Try and get a table on the terrace — the views are unbeatable.

The star of the show, naturally, is the food. Designed by chefs Christopher Walker and Robert Fairs, the menu features “flavors from the boroughs of London where dishes are designed to be shared.” The food is certainly eclectic, ranging from chocolate-fed wagyu steaks to salmon flatbreads. It is a tad disappointing that each dish doesn’t come with a story of the borough it’s inspired by though — that would have been a nice touch on the menu.
We opt for small plates to share, and they’re impressive. The buttermilk chicken is perfectly juicy with just the right amount of crunch, while the braised beef in the pulled beef soft shell tacos is melt-in-the mouth. The heirloom tomato burrata is another delight: fresh and topped with a smoked raspberry sorbet that surprisingly works; while the Ika Mata ceviche marinated in coconut cream is a sight to behold.

For dessert, the restaurant’s signature is a vanilla yoghurt parfait served with fresh strawberries, and strawberry parfait.
The food, then, certainly passes the test. Another plus point? The friendly service. We were met by smiling hosts and that welcoming, laidback attitude remained throughout service. The décor and dishes are upscale, but without the air of pretension often associated with venues like these. It’s so refreshing to see.

As you’d expect with any new establishment, however, there were teething problems. While the ‘adult’ beverage menu was extensive, little information was offered regarding soft drinks, and a staff member had to take a minute to check which sodas were available. It’s important for any restaurant, not just in this region but everywhere, to understand its clientele, and be knowledgeable about ‘zero-percent’ options. After all, non-alcoholic drinks are in demand more than ever in real London, too.
We visited midweek, avoiding the more-manic weekend. However, we were distracted a couple of times during our meal by staff members discussing the evening’s service in a group huddled together right behind our table. We know that it’s important to cross-check things with colleague — it just might be more professional to do so in a quieter area away from diners.
Nevertheless, it’s evident that a great deal of detail has gone into The London Project, and if it maintains its food quality and friendly, laidback style of service, then it will fast cement itself as one of Dubai’s restaurants to watch in 2019.
And the eatery recently announced that it is now brewing its own brand of coffee, Queenie’s Estate.
“The Queens first ever official, unofficial roastery in Dubai,” the restaurant’s Instagram page stated this week. “Obviously named Queenies, and obviously roasting coffee that is strong, sophisticated, and has a touch of sass — just like Ma’am herself!”
That gives us one more reason to pay another visit.