We are in the final days of Ramadan now and if that feast with the family, friends or co-workers has yet to pan out, then here’s a grand iftar that does not disappoint.
Serving a lavish spread of Arabic favourites and international staples, the Grand Hyatt Dubai iftar is served in a glamorous setting at the hotel’s Al Ameera Ballroom. If you’ve stayed in the city long enough, chances are you’ve probably crossed its chandelier-lit threshold for at least one extravagant marriage celebration.
The iftar certainly does away with the excessive wedding paraphernalia, but it offers a meal that is just as dazzling to the senses.
Arriving just in the nick of time to break our fast, we noticed an archway pointing towards a Ramadan souq to be explored later, before hastily making our way to the heaving tables of salads, rice delicacies and meats that commanded prime space at the very centre of the ballroom. The first sip of the creamy lentil soup hit just the right spot, before we greedily tucked into the fresh salads and cold appetisers.
While my partner was already eager to get to the mains, I was still holding out for the hot appetisers to make their way to the table, considering they weren’t served as part of the buffet. Ten minutes passed and when no bite-sized nuggets had turned up, I finally made my over to a helpful server to make a discreet inquiry.
“Oh, they are served in the Ramadan souq,” he said.
Wait, so that’s not a market for traditional handicrafts?
And off I went to uncover a treasure trove of live cooking stations, much like a street market, but packaged in five-star digs. A cart to my left had a chef frying crisp falafels, while a vendor ahead had Vietnamese dumplings and noodles ready to be sampled. A katti roll station was fired up to serve the Indian delicacy piping hot, while a spread of finger food, including mini pizzas, fatayers, kibbehs and cheese rakakats were ripe for the picking.
I was in paradise. But already more than half full. Sadly, only picking tidbits to sample (including one of the best falafels I’ve had in a while), I returned to the main buffet for the next course. Three weeks into Ramadan and having already sampled my fair share of Arabic staples, a vegetable Thai green curry was a welcome relief to the taste buds; although, the popular lamb ouzi and the grilled meats were also on hand to satisfy the carnivores.
The dessert, oh boy, was a separate feast in itself, spread across several stations in Al Ameera Ballroom’s foyer. While I was eagerly lapping up the Umm Ali, the partner made a beeline for the DIY Kunafa Station, which is sure to delight young ones.
Those of you who want to hang out longer, the hotel also hosts a suhour in its Laylati Cafe Ramadan air-conditioned tent, along with a ladies-only one at Hia, its Lebanese Awtar restaurant.
Grand Iftar at Grand Hyatt, Dubai
Timing: From sunset to 9pm.
Price: Dh210 per person including soft drinks; Dh105 for children aged 6-12; children under the age of six dine for free.
Three others to try
Sheraton Sharjah Beach Resort & Spa
What: The beachside Ramadan air-conditioned tent is a family affair, offering an iftar with a view of the Arabian Gulf. A spread of traditional Arabic and international favourites is served, while guests can also take in the live entertainment, camel rides on the beach, a falcon show and a Ramadan night market.
Timing: From sunset until 11pm.
Price: Dh145 per person.
Le Royal Meridien, Abu Dhabi
What: For the 11th year in a row, the air-conditioned Layali El Hilmiya tent is serving an a la carte menu, as well as an iftar buffet of traditional Arabian and international fare. Ramadan favourites make an appearance with chefs cooking the stuffed fateeh savoury pastries and saj flatbreads in front of diners. The hotel also features food trucks that will serve falafels, and sugar-soaked kunafa pastries will be served.
Timing: From sunset until 8.30pm.
Price: Dh170 per person.
Waldorf Astoria, Ras Al Khaimah.
What: This around-the-world concept allows guests to pick their appetisers, mains and desserts from various restaurants across the hotel, including the popular Lexington Grill, Marjan and Japanese restaurant UMI. The dining deal can be arranged with a personal concierge assistant.
Timing: Sunset to 11pm or midnight, depending on the restaurant.
Price: Dh275 per person.