Living, as I do, in the Middle East the onset of Ramadan brings with it a whole new way of life for one month of the year. People become more spiritual but they also become somehow calmer and kinder. Even those of us who are not Muslims get involved in this very special month, looking forward to Iftar, the meal associated with the daily breaking of the fast and long leisurely evenings catching up with family and friends. Over the years Iftar has moved out of the home and into restaurants and hotels allowing people from all walks of life, nationalities and religions to experience the breaking of the fast.
This week AOC Brasserie at the Sofitel Hotel on Jumeirah Beach previewed their sumptuous Iftar buffet in preparation for the Holy Month of Ramadan which commences on around 26th May this year. And I was not disappointed with what was on offer!
In traditional Iftar style a small plate of dates and dried fruit and nuts was placed on the table ready for the breaking of the fast. A selection of fresh juices, perfectly chilled, on hand to quench that day long thirst along with a never ending supply of water by unobtrusive yet attentive staff.
I am always happy to indulge in Arabic cuisine as there are always lots of meats and salads, the difficulty is saying no to the mountains of hommous, moutabel and labneh which pre-Graves were a staple when eating Middle Eastern food. However at AOC Brasserie there was so much more to choose from; a bowl of beautiful, fresh veggies on the table – one of the ways I used to get my kids to eat veggies back in the day, a salad bar with a rainbow of fresh veggies along with fragrant olive oil and fresh lemons to create a simple dressing. One of the other things I love about Arabic food is the amazing array of pickled vegetables and olives. AOC certainly did not let the side down with their selection.
Whilst I did not indulge in the breads, I have to give the fabulous open bread kitchen a mention. The variety, the smells…my mouth is watering just writing about it.
The selection of main courses was a little more challenging to negotiate for someone who is trying to avoid so many food groups but it was by no means impossible. I opted for a slow cooked lamb dish that literally fell apart on my plate, I paired this with some steamed veggies to create a satisfying main course. There were rice and potato dishes on offer too. Other items on offer were shawarma, fish, ouzi, and kofta. There was no shortage of choice!
Then it came to dessert… My favourite Arabic dessert is hands down Umm Ali but sadly, with is bread base, milk, nuts and sugar it is a no-no for me. Never mind that I was so full by this stage that I might have exploded if I had had even a spoonful, but I can vouch for the aroma – yes I was the weirdo sniffing the Umm Ali. The rest of the dessert buffet was made up of a colourful array of traditional Arabic and more Western style cakes and puddings; from mousse to baklava, chocolate cake to sago puddings and a live cooking station where the chef turned out delectable crepes.
In addition to the wonderful food the evening featured a live musician and a henna artist so you were able to leave with a temporary memento of the evening.
Never let it be said that a strict eating plan stops you from exploring the wonderful world of food.