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THERE’S something sensationally cookin’ at the Gulf Hotel Bahrain Convention & Spa as preparations are in full swing to deliver spectacular servings throughout the Holy Month at special Iftar and Ghabgah gatherings.
The property’s stunning Khaimat Al Khaleej Tent was opened to a select group of journalists and special guests for a preview evening last Wednesday and we were greeted by recently-appointed GM Fares Yactine.
You could see the excitement on his face, for this time, rather than being a guest as he has been in recent years, he’s leading the team and making sure the final touches are in place for the month ahead.
Only hours before the opening the specially-designed newly-imported furniture had arrived and was unwrapped and put in place just in time for the hordes of photographers to capture the creativity of the tent’s stylish inner sanctum.
There are sections for adults and families, including an impressive children’s play area, which received such rave reviews when it was first introduced last year.
But, for the majority of guests who will have fasted all day, the food is the first thing on people’s minds. And, have no concerns, the culinary virtuoso from Verona Executive Chef Carlo Cirone and his team of chefs are manning more live cooking stations than ever before so guests can actually watch as their choices are freshly prepared.
There are, of course, some fabulous international additions to traditional fare conjured up which I will come to later but I was particularly awestruck by the preparation, presentation and end product on one of the standout Arabic staples.
Syrian Chef Ahmed Ghalla from the Gulf Hotel’s Lebanese restaurant Zahle was chopping a chunk of fresh lamb into tiny pieces using the largest Turkish knife I’ve ever seen, mixing and blending it with onion, tomato, parsley and a touch of salt and pepper in a continuous rhythm of culinary cool on a chopping board. It was like watching poetry in motion.
The mighty mixture was sprinkled on to a colleague’s prepared dough and placed into a pizza-style oven.
What came out was a slice of succulent heaven. I can honestly say, after a little suggested squeeze of lemon juice on top, I have never, ever tasted anything as divine as this mighty lamb bajien Lebanese manakish. Mouth-wateringly magnificent.
The accompanying buffet choices are vast. There’s warming soups, salads galore, alongside main dishes such as Chicken Biryani, Hammour Sayadia and, of course, the famous Quozi Mofata lamb on a bed a rice.
But, once again, the live stations are what make this tent stand out from the rest such as a beautifully prepared Indonesian soup with noodles, stir-fried prawns from the Japanese section, and a larger BBQ section for the fusion of Brazilian and Argentinian meaty marvels. Don’t miss the marinated ribs, slowly-cooked hanging over the coals, another absolute masterpiece of culinary excellence.
I almost forgot about the desserts, until I bumped into Charbel Hanna, executive assistant manager, who kindly pointed me in the direction of dynamic Executive Pastry Chef Daniel Lajoux, who had another culinary wizard working immediately behind him conjuring up an astonishing Teppanyaki ice cream.
They are two words we never thought would go well together. In our minds, Teppanyaki is a Japanese way to grill meat, seafood and vegetables on a burning hot metal surface, so it was weird trying to visualise someone dropping a melting scoop of ice cream onto a sizzling grill. Fear not, this Teppanyaki is actually a frozen metal surface and creates a stunning chilled dessert, especially with fruit added to the milky mix.
And with sweet dishes in my mind, the Cheese Kunafa, Turkish Rice Pudding and Um Ali are up there with the best, and don’t forget to leave room for a slice of Cajou Pear Tarte Bourdaloue, a touch of French ‘magnificence’ by Chef Daniel.
* The Gulf Hotel Bahrain Convention & Spa is celebrating Ramadan with its famous Khaimat Al Khaleej at the Awal Ballroom. Iftar and Ghabga will take place daily, and will feature live Teppanyaki grills, chocolate fountains, a date tower, and live traditional entertainment. Priced BD20++ for Iftar from sunset until 8pm, BD18++ for Ghabga from 10pm onwards on weekdays, and BD20++ for Ghabga from 10pm onwards on weekends. Special rates available for Prestige Club members. Children up to five years enter free of charge, and between six and 12 years receive 50 per cent discount.
To find out more about the offer and special packages, call 17713000.