If you are planning to visit AlUla’s many wonders, especially the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra, do not miss out on the nearby mirrored Maraya and its rooftop restaurant, Maraya Social.
The establishment is one of chef Jason Atherton’s newest restaurants and offers a refined experience.
Atherton, a popular British chef, opened his flagship restaurant Pollen Street Social in 2011 in Mayfair, and earned a Michelin star within six months.
The Social Company, Atherton’s group, has since grown into a globally renowned name, with a portfolio of restaurants now including Maraya Social.
Atherton provides a set menu of European cuisine with inspiration derived from AlUla’s local produce. Guests can enjoy the freshness of the farm-to-table experience.
Our dinner kicked off with a welcome drink, a sparkling ginger kombucha, and freshly baked rosemary focaccia with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for dipping.
We then had seasonal vegetables served with uniquely flavored dips, an Italian salad made with tomato cubes, black olives, basil leaves, and shallots, followed by salted baked beetroot with smoked goat’s cheese and gel made from AlUla’s oranges.
Our main dishes were a salmon confit served with Moroccan couscous, a tender and juicy beef rib-eye steak with peppercorn sauce, and roasted cauliflower risotto with a pistou of green vegetables and parmesan.
For dessert we were served the AlUla date and banana pudding topped with spiced toffee sauce and crispy caramelized hazelnut and gold flakes that complemented the luxurious vibe.
Our feast concluded with a delightful cheesecake topped with lemon jelly and a layer of meringue.
Surrounded by mountains and the magnificence of ancient AlUla, Maraya Social’s spectacular outdoor ambience is relaxing, featuring a view of starry night skies.
Check out its Instagram @marayasocial for updates.
Indulge Thyself — where sustainability is always on the menu
The region’s first zero-waste private fine-dining restaurant is tackling food wastage with ‘sustainable practices and culinary methods’
Updated 05 June 2023
JEDDAH: Indulge Thyself is a zero-waste private fine-dining restaurant and catering service established to demonstrate that following sustainable practices need not compromise on quality and taste.
The region’s first such operation, Indulge Thyself promotes innovative environmental solutions by using leftovers and organic waste to create natural compost.
According to the General Food Security Authority, about SR40 billion ($10.6 billion) worth of food is wasted every year in the Kingdom, or about a third of the total produced. It is an issue that requires awareness and sustainable solutions to maintain our planet’s health.
Indulge Thyself is based on an ideology that always keeps the bin in mind. It was conceived from a desire to create innovative and quality dishes while demonstrating respect for the environment.
The restaurant was founded by Saudi chef Yasmin Hamza and her sous chef Hawazen Zahran who believe that there is space for sustainability in the fine-dining culinary world. The restaurant is run by Hamza and her team of female chefs.
On the topic of environmental responsibility, Hamza told Arab News that it “must stem from the understanding that we are nature, when we begin as humans to understand that our separation from our environment is merely an illusion, we can then start to initiate action as we are of this earth.”
• Indulge Thyself offers private fine-dining experiences and catering service.
• The restaurant’s organic waste and leftovers are composted and turned into plant fertilizer, which is then used in growing produce.
Explaining the restaurant’s sustainability ethic and strategy, Hamza added: “We promote an array of sustainable practices and culinary methods ensuring that we have no waste; like sourcing local farm-to-table produce and using a head-to-tail cooking method, fermentation, pickling, as well as using reusable packaging and more.”
At Indulge Thyself, organic waste and leftovers are “composted and turned into plant fertilizer, which is then used in growing our own fruits and vegetables,” she added.
From the filtered tap water to avoid plastic bottles, to the use of upcycled materials for the interior design, Indulge Thyself pays attention to sustainable and eco-friendly choices.
The dining experience at Indulge Thyself involves a sequence of dishes that take the guest on an international culinary journey — featuring some of the best cuisines while honoring core sustainability values, such as by sourcing 95 percent of the ingredients from local produce.
Hamza commented on the restaurant’s name, saying: “We wanted to show people that you could indeed ‘Indulge Thyself’ in a fine-dining setting whilst incorporating respect to our produce and awareness of our surroundings.
“We can confidently say that we currently offer the best fine-dining food and beverage experiences and catering services in Saudi Arabia.”
With a professional background as a fashion designer focused on sustainability, Hamza decided to shift focus toward the culinary industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sustainability remained a core value in that transition: “It was only natural that I would entrain my business’ core value in sustainability as it is truly my passion.
“I worked with my cousin in the kitchen for a day and I was hooked. The energy, speed, creativity, and quick feedback fit really well with my personality. I then decided to expand my culinary skills and work with some of the best fine-dining and Michelin-star restaurants worldwide,” Hamza explained.
She worked at The Samuel in Copenhagen, Silo London, KOL London, and The Sea, The Sea in London.
Indulge Thyself offers private fine-dining experiences for two people, and also 10 to 20 with three experiences, and the option of five to eight courses. The restaurant also has a catering service.
Promoting sustainable practices also takes center stage in Hamza’s collaborations with other projects and companies. She recently participated in a culinary class for children at the Islamic Art Biennale. There was also a catering tie-up with Cartier, and a collaboration during Ramadan with Kia Corporation and the Waste Lab, a woman-owned composting company based in Dubai.
For the Kia “Cycle of Life” initiative, Hamza hosted a farm-to-table iftar at Indulge Thyself to celebrate the region’s environmental advocates.
Speaking on the collaboration, Hamza added: “Serving iftar to sustainability influencers and seeing them enjoy it and give raving feedback was a highlight in our career.
“To top that off, it was all filmed for the anti-food waste campaign and launched all over the Middle East to highlight our efforts in combating food waste … that was a very rewarding feeling for our whole team.”
Where We Are Going Today: Avak - Mediterranean dishes in Riyadh
Avak has been pulling in the crowds for some time now and ratings on popular websites show just how much appreciation there is for the restaurant
Updated 04 June 2023
Avak was supposed to be strictly Armenian. Then the owners developed a menu with Italian, Greek and Arabic dishes, and called it Mediterranean. And we’re glad they did.
At this northern Riyadh restaurant you’re not limited to just one cuisine — go where the mood takes you. Take a short hop to Beirut with everyone’s favorite tabbouleh as a starter, then whisk yourself off to Italy for some saffron and chicken risotto, beef and cherry tomatoes or maybe a spinach truffle tortellini.
Why? Because you can.
Then order some kebbeh with pine nuts and pomegranate garnishes to bring you back closer to home. Go on, they’re delicious.
But don’t forget the Armenian food, which is always a treat.
Gapama — a huge hollowed pumpkin stuffed with rice, dried fruits and meat, baked, then topped with even more meat — is one of Avak’s most popular dishes. While it’s usually for Christmas, we can dig into this delight any time of the year.
Avak has been pulling in the crowds for some time now and ratings on popular websites show just how much appreciation there is for the restaurant. Foursquare and other sites are filled with great reviews: “The mixed hummus is a must,” “Try date salad 10/10,” “Go for vine leaves fata!” There’s a lot of love.
As for the venue, the general vibes are calming, the seating is comfortable, the dining tables are wide so it’s good for large groups, and the waiters and waitresses are friendly.
The interior is inspired by classic Greek decor, with dark and rich colors adding warmth and coziness.
For more information, visit their Instagram @avak.sa.
Where We Are Going Today: Afis Table Greek cuisine in Riyadh
Mouthwatering plates of grilled souvlaki tawouk chicken are served on top of a bed of vegetables along with crispy fries
Updated 02 June 2023
The fine-dining Greek Hawaiian restaurant is known for its outstanding BBQs, gyros, and souvlaki meals, as well as its crispy cone fries, including beef and chicken gyros, Amsterdam fries, noodles shaker, poke bowls, sushi burritos and souvlaki grills.
It also serves freshly squeezed juices, including beetroot, detox and energizer, and nutritious smoothies.
The Greek fish burger, a fried fish tempura served with cheese and tzatziki sauce, combined with cocktail sauce served with Amsterdam fries, is one of its signature meals.
Mouthwatering plates of grilled souvlaki tawouk chicken are served on top of a bed of vegetables along with crispy fries.
Try the marinated salmon poke if you enjoy spicy salmon poke bowls with seaweed, beetroot or mango.
Prices are reasonable.
The restaurant has two branches in Riyadh, one in Alfaisal University and the other in Al-Sulaimania.
Where We Are Going Today: Meatin Grill’s barbecue house in Riyadh
Updated 03 June 2023
RIYADH: A taste of Korea is available to Saudi diners at the Meatin Grill’s barbecue house in Riyadh.
Located on Anas ibn Malik Road in the city’s Al-Yasmin district, the self-cook eatery has become a popular meeting place since its opening two years ago.
Featuring Korean-style BBQ grilled meat, the outlet brings authentic cooking techniques to the table with a wide selection of raw marinated beef, bulgogi beef, spicy chicken, and shrimp.
Side dishes include kimchi, pickled radish, fried eggs, steamed rice, seaweed salad, and dipping sauces.
Designed for comfort, the restaurant’s interior has electric grills attached to dining tables which customers can use to safely cook their favorite dishes. Metal chopsticks and utensils are also provided, and attentive staff ensure food supplies keep coming.
The dining experience costs SR150 ($40) per person, with drinks an additional SR8. Open from noon until late, including weekends, more information is available on Instagram at @meatingrills.
Recipes for success: Chef Dennis Koll offers advice, a tasty beef tartare recipe
Updated 31 May 2023
DUBAI: Chef Dennis Koll is something of a gastronomic visionary. The German culinary maestro, currently at the helm of Dubai’s fine dining restaurant Reef and Beef, has captivated diners with his finesse, ambition and unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of taste.
Koll’s passion for cooking has been evident since his early years. “It was very much inevitable that I would become a chef. My mom is a chef herself,” he tells Arab News.
He started his career in Germany, working in Michelin-starred restaurants, then moved to Dubai in 2014, working at several properties within the Jumeirah Group. He joined Reef and Beef earlier this year.
His passion for his work is apparent throughout our conversation. “You have to cook with your soul,” he says. “You have to smell it, feel it, taste it throughout the process to understand what is happening. It’s like making a nice painting — there is no recipe for that.”
Here, Koll discusses exploring new flavors and the importance of quality ingredients, and shares his beef tartare recipe.
When you started out as a professional, what was the most-common mistake you made?
I underestimated the precision and sharpness of our tools. I still have the reminders on my hands.
What’s your top tip for amateur chefs?
The main thing is to cook from the heart. With that said, you should focus on your ingredients too, because if you don’t start off with amazing quality ingredients, you cannot produce amazing quality food. Ingredients are the key to success. But you have to respect them; you have to cook and prepare them with love. One more thing: Don’t be afraid of failure. If you make 10 dishes and nine of them go wrong, it’s fine. The one that goes right will make up for the mistakes.
What ingredients can instantly improve any dish?
Coriander and lime. I once served a coriander ice cream for a starter. People were a little confused. There were so many red flags about doing this, but when they tried it all the red flags vanished. They were like, ‘Wow, this is genius!’ So, it’s not a magic ingredient, but when you eat it, it feels like magic.
When you go out to eat, what’s your favorite dish?
Over the last three years, I frequently find myself eating (the traditional Gulf dish of meat, rice and spices) mandi. I even tried to cook it once in Germany, but I wasn’t happy with it. If I’d served this to someone in the Middle East, then they would have probably laughed at me. There are certain things that are better left to professionals. The culinary world is so complex, you don't have to be perfect at everything. Focus on what you’re good at.
What’s your favorite dish to cook?
Maultasche (a German meat-filled dumpling). My mom makes it better than anyone else in the world. She made it significantly less frequently than (I would have liked) because it needs a lot of work, so I understand, definitely. But every single time she made it, I’d be excited all day at school about what’s for dinner.
When they think they know everything better than you. I've had a few encounters where they literally talk you through how to do your job. So, you’re like: ‘OK, well, I’ve been doing it for 17 years, why don’t you put on my chef jacket and show me how it’s done.’ You know, I always try to respond with humor.
As a head chef, what are you like? Are you a disciplinarian? Or are you laid-back?
I’m always supportive. I’m always there for you. I’ll never give you a silly answer unless you’re asking me a silly question. However, during service hours, when we have people paying good money to enjoy high-quality food, there’s no room for error. That’s the time where I switch character to a person more focused on details.
CHEF DENNIS’ BEEF TARTARE
For the main dish:
100g tenderloin beef; 2g chopped capers; 3g chopped shallots; 3g chopped gherkin; 2g chopped parsley; 2g chopped chives; 3g base mayo; 3g lime juice; 3g tabasco; 3g ketchup; 2g Dijon mustard; pinch of salt and black pepper; 3g truffle shavings; 5g truffle mayo; rice cracker
For the base mayo:
200g egg yolk; 30g Dijon mustard; 10g salt; pinch of white pepper; 100ml corn oil
15g lime juice; 40g rice vinegar
1. Cut the beef into small cubes. Place in a salad bowl, add all the ingredients and mix well with a fork. Put the beef mixture into a ring mold and place in the middle of a plate.
2. Gently press down on the beef, remove the ring and cover the beef with the base mayo, truffle mayo, and rice cracker, then drizzle with olive oil.
For base mayo:
Place the egg yolk in a salad bowl, add mustard and whisk. Slowly add the corn oil and continue to whisk until it becomes thick. Add in the rest of the ingredients and whisk well.