Ramadan is a time of spirituality, self-control and self-reflection. Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset choosing to spend the holy month mostly with family and close friends. Iftar is the evening meal, the breaking of the fast that becomes a special occasion every day. Whether we choose to dine at home, or savour the meal outside, it becomes more than simply a meal and takes on a higher meaning.
When it comes to dining out at Iftar time, Jeddawis are positively spoilt for choice. Food courts and malls become packed and popular restaurants reach their peak. However, what about those restaurants tucked away from mainstream? Those elegant venues not openly advertised, but the quality of their food and service is whispered about in closed circles?
In our latest blog post, Jeddah Blog’s extreme foodie Abdullah Yahya spills the beans on one of the hidden gems of Jeddah’s food scene, French restaurant Le Traiteur. After reading this review, you’ll be sure to want to experience the elegance, quality and personal touch of this fine dining restaurant.
Do you know of any hidden gems that you would recommend? Secret restaurants that only a select few know about? Let us know in the comments below.
I don’t know about you, but in Ramadan I try to avoid going to open-buffet restaurants for Iftar. They are usually overcrowded, way overpriced, and they induce overeating. I know many foodies like myself who are hesitant to dine out in Ramadan because of that. That is why if you are anything like me, you should consider visiting Le Traiteur. Tucked away in a beautiful small villa in a residential area in Ash-Shati Dist., Le Traiteur is a hidden gem that not many know or talk about.
It’s a fine dining French restaurant that I can only describe as simply elegant. The restaurant is small and intimate, it has perhaps 10 – 15 tables at most, and when you enter from the main door, you feel you have been transferred to a French ballroom.
I have dined at Le Traiteur several times during the years, but I have not been there for what seems like forever, which is something the restaurant manager noticed as he greeted us at the door, saying ruefully: “Mr. Abdullah, it’s nice to see you again, even though we only see you in Ramadan lately”. It struck me that he is absolutely right. I should be visiting more during the year, because even though I enjoy dining there in Ramadan, just like many restaurants in the city, they swap their regular menu in favour of a more Ramadan themed one, which in not necessarily in keeping with the restaurant cuisine.
As we sat at the table minutes before the Maghrib (sunset) calling for prayer. I was busy admiring the elegant surroundings, from the classic furniture and wallpaper, glass displays of China and glassware, elegant table cloths and silverware, to the napkins that were folded to resemble the restaurant emblem. The dim lighting gives you an intimate candle-lit feeling that enhances the experience, and just shortly after the prayer ended, they began to play some classic music in the background that added majesty to the whole ambience.
The service was ever-friendly and attentive, and our waiter took extra care of my 15 month old child and made her feel welcome too.
As soon as it was time to break our fast, dates, water, laban (buttermilk), and Arabic coffee was served, with pita and French bread, and a plate of Arabic appetizers. The appetizers consisted of a variety of cheese samosa, beef samosa, kibbeh, and spring rolls. I enjoyed the samosas, and I thought the kibbeh tasted good, but was too brittle and fell apart in the plate.
Then it was time to head to the buffet and choose a soup. There was a choice between creamy seafood soup and lentil soup, and we opted for the seafood soup, which did not disappoint; it was hearty and warm, but was not heavy. I took a glance at the foul jar next to the soups pots, but then I decided against it, as I needed to be more selective.Next was time to visit the salad bar, and there were more than enough items to keep us happy for the next portion of our meal, and they tasted good as well.
Our waiter then asked us to choose our main course. Every day there are three dishes to choose from, and on this particular day the choices were between Beef Picatta, Chicken Cordon Blue, and Fish & Chips. We opted for the chicken and the beef and neither disappointed, especially the chicken, which was fantastic. I liked the beef too, but by the time I swapped plates with my wife, it was a little cold, but the rice was excellent and I wished I had room in my stomach to finish the plate.
Finally, we got round to dessert, and they were no dearth of choices, as the dessert buffet was full of many choice sweets, whether Arabic or Western.
There were also many fresh cuts of fruits, and even a chocolate fountain. I especially liked cheesecake and mahlabia (rice pudding) with pistachio and flower essence, and my wife was smitten by the chocolate pudding.
Overall, we were very satisfied with our experience in Le Traiteur. It is a place for one who wants to savour one’s meal slowly in a sophisticated ambience. The price is 150 SR pp, which is moderate if you compare it to similar iftars in similar restaurants in Jeddah.
The choices are not very wide making you feel the need to binge, but they are varied enough that you feel satisfied. So, if you want to escape the crowds and have a pleasant experience away from the hustle and bustle of Ramadan buffet in five star hotels, here is your chance. However, if you’re still not convinced that you need to go out in Ramadan, I understand, just make sure to visit the restaurant after the holy month for the same elegant treatment only with proper French cuisine. Note to self: “Practice what you preach, and make sure to visit the restaurant yourself after Ramadan”.
Soups, salads, and appetizers 9/10
Main dishes 8/10
Value for money 8/10
Address: Abu Al Abbas Ibn Abdulmutalib, Ash Shati, Jeddah 23513, Saudi Arabia
Phone: +966 12 605 5111