The new kid in town. Bistr’eau. This place holds a very special place to my heart as it is my husband’s hard earned success. If you’ve been following us for a while, you know my husband Jean (initially an electrical engineer and financial consultant) is a food lover and amateur Chef. His dream for the past few years was to have that restaurant where he would go crazy and work on his passion. This summer, he found it. Continue Reading “Bistr’eau Batroun”
If you’re faithful readers of this blog, you’ll know that half of my heart lives in London, the city of my childhood travels and last student year. What’s more, is that my sister’s been living there for the last three years so I’ve been visiting frequently. Inspiration strikes when I’m there and we constantly find loads of things worth sharing. So if you frequently visit London for work or to visit family and friends, here’s a series destined to give you a glimpse of the city through our eyes.
This week, it’s all about workweek lunch. Here are 5 places to grab a quick lunch in Soho/Covent Garden.
Sunny weekends are still ahead of us and we’re all looking for creative things to do. One of my favorite places in Lebanon is Batroun. The beautiful scenery brings you back refreshed and ready for another busy week after the weekend. There are so many things to do there other than lying on the rocks and soaking up the sun. Be it during summer or on sunny winter weekends, Batroun and its surroundings is a great destination for all kinds of activities.
Here are some ideas around the region for weekends ahead. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone!
When I say Batroun, I’m also talking about its surrounding towns, like Tannourine, Chekka, Anfeh, Douma and others. So here goes:
1- Tannourine: Start with an early morning hike in the beautiful reserve. The Tannourine forest is actually the biggest one. It starts in the Batroun casa and ends in the Bechareh casa.
2- Saydet el nourieh: On your way down from Tannourine to the beach, pass by Saydet el Nouriyyeh for a spiritual hour and a breathtaking view on the shore.
3- Make sure to pass by ‘Helmeh’ for a nice and refreshing lemonade!
4- Visit Batroun’s old town, it’s beautiful and untouched.
5- You can now go lie down on the rocks and take a dip in the sea. There’s a lot of choice when it comes to which beach you can go to. You can choose between Bonita Bay, White Beach, and Pierre and Friends, or go to Joining beach or Dany’s Bar for a less mainstream experience and great fish.
6- Make sure you stay there till sunset, you won’t regret it a single minute. Those places are great for those who love fishing as well.
7- If you choose to sleep and spend the weekend there, two of the best places I’ve been to are Beit el Batroun and Mayouli. Beit el Batroun is simply the loveliest and most relaxing place. Mayouli is a bit different than Beit el Batroun as it’s more of an ecological place, with the freedom to have barbecues in a corner of the garden.
8- Go up to one of Batroun’s vineyards the next day for some wine tasting. Ixsir has the most magical setting, and Aurora is another great choice.
9- Have a late BBQ lunch on the rocks. You can find a lot of public beaches with clear blue water and settle there.
10- For a nice late afternoon drink, try Colonel Beer. The setting is relaxed and the beer is excellent!
There you go! A perfect weekend in Batroun 🙂 I’d love to hear about your suggestions!
Don’t forget to tag us if you try our recipes and tips: #breadonbutter
It’s definitely summer and getaways are fast approaching. Everyone’s making plans on where to go and which country to visit. There are obviously countless places to see and different kinds of trips to make (road trips, backpacking trips, island relaxation, or lovely Tuscany), so I thought I would start by summing up 20 things about Paris for those of you who are Euro-tripping this summer. You can check 20 things about London here, Rome here and Istanbul here. And of course, stay tuned for more. To find all the places I mention, I suggest you use the Google Maps app for addresses and for you to know your way by foot, metro, bus, or car.
1) The French Bistrots – A good steak, veau or fondue can be found in the typical French bistrots all around Paris. My favorites are: Boucherie Rouliere, Chez Fernand, La Petite Cour, Le St. Séverin and Chez André for a good bouillabaisse.
2) Place Saint Michel – Head there for an early drink outside before continuing to dinner.
3) Tour Eiffel and Champs de Mars – No matter how many times you’ve been to Paris, you must visit our beloved Dame de Fer once. If the weather is nice, a fun picnic on the champs de mars would be a perfect lunch idea.
4) Carette and Angelina – I love Carette on a rainy day for a large macaron and black coffee. The place is ideal for a nice conversation in a cozy place. For an excellent and dense hot chocolate, head to Angelina. I even spotted their products on sale at the airport!
5) Places for a fast and healthy lunch – For a fast but healthy lunch in the center of Paris, I fell in love with Boco (an organic place where you can eat your healthy meal without any guilt – I’ll be posting about it next week) and Twenty Peas (where your food is also measured and put in a box).
6) La Fayette Gourmet – Enter every foodie’s heaven when you step foot in La Fayette Gourmet.
7) Éclair de Genie – If you’re a fan of the famous éclair, do not miss this charming little place with dozens of eclairs of all possible tastes. Heavenly!
8) Montmartre – One of my favorite places on earth, Montmartre is like stepping into happiness. It takes a while to get there (especially that we went there walking!) but it’s so worth it. The place is filled with people and great food. Make sure you pick any restaurant and sit outside while you enjoy a nice glass of wine with a plate of moules frittes, boeuf bourgignon, or coq au vin. You can also grab a Merguez baguette as an appetizer 😉
9) Montparnasse – Known as an artistic neighbourhood, Montparnasse reminds me of my parents who used to live there for years. It has lots of waffle and crepe places to try. Make sure you try the Aligot (mashed potatoes and garlic) and the meat at Le Plomb du Cantal.
10) Au p’tit grec – talking about crepes, this little Greek-owned place at Rue Mouffetard should not be missed!
11) The Maille store – this place is paradise for all food and cooking lovers. It is only dedicated to the Maille mustard brand and is filled with mustard pots everywhere. You even get to taste all of them with mini grissinis to decide which ones to take back home.
12) Le Pont des Arts – On this bridge that crosses the river Seine, lovers have taken the habit to attach love locks (padlocks) with their first name on them, then throwing the key into the Seine as a romantic and eternal love gesture.
13) The Marais neighborhood – A historic district in Paris, it was long aristocratic before it became a popular and active commercial area. The architecture is fascinating and you can even spot Victor Hugo’s ancient house! Take a walk around the neighborhood and pass by Fleux’, a concept design store we fell in love with, and Pouchkine for French-Russian inspired patisserie. You won’t regret a bite!
14) Colette Paris – This is for Design trends lovers. You must all have heard of Colette and the product selection (from fashion to tech and culture products).
15) Le jardin des tuileries – The ideal place to relax after a long walk in the city is le jardin des tuileries. Grab a hot chocolate and a chair and open your book for an hour of pure relaxation.
16) The Louvre – A must-see at least once in a lifetime. I’m sure we were all identically disappointed by the size of the Mona Lisa though.
17) Pastavino – I know we’re in Paris, but this lovely Italian place was so lovely I have to recommend it. European cities are made to try different cuisines anyway, so if you have time, do try this magical Italian restaurant located on the top of an Italian delicatessen shop.
18) Asian food – We tried La Muraille de Jade for a nice Bobun and Mme Shawn for a thai lunch.
19) Markets – You can ask around the neighborhood you’re staying in for markets and their opening days. You’ll find anything from cheese to choucroute and aligot.
20) Notre-Dame de Paris – Breathtaking and touching, you must visit it if only for the sake of Quasimodo.
21) Extra bonus: Breakfasts! You can choose between a simple baguette with butter and coffee or juice, and eggs and croissant. Have it all is my advice 🙂
And voila! Anything you might want to add? I’d love to hear!
Don’t forget to tag us if you try our recipes and tips: #breadonbutter
Every culture has its own way of interpreting one dish. They all add their twists and spices, making it particular to their tastes and habits. Restaurants too have to gratify the palate of the people they are serving. One thing I’ve noticed about Italian restaurants in Beirut is that they add crème fraîche to a lot of their pasta sauces. Almost all Italian people I’ve met are quickly revolted by the act of adding cream to pasta sauces. They also consider the use of a spoon to roll your spaghetti as a disgrace. But here in Beirut, it is considered to be the proper practice of eating Italian food. Where did these habits come from you ask? From restaurants, of course. Who started it? I think it’s a chicken and egg type of story.
But it’s safe to say that the way the Lebanese have adapted Italian food has somewhat strayed away from the original cuisine. So because we can’t go to Rome everyday (check out 20 Things about Rome), we’ve been on a quest for ‘real’ Italian restaurants in Beirut.
My judgment of ‘what makes a restaurant Italian’ is personal but of credible experience. I’ve been to Italy a lot, read about their food, talked to people and been in their kitchens, cooked a carbonara and more with them, and visited their restaurants accompanied by locals.
In my mind, the ones that serve the famous spritz or bellini have the knowledge, the ones that serve dishes cooked with fresh ingredients have the quality, and the ones that present the place and the dish well have the honesty and authenticity.
There are many criteria that can lead you to judge a restaurant as being typically Italian and accordingly, I’ve ranked the top 10 I’ve tried in Beirut, keeping in mind that all of their menus contain dishes adapted to the taste of the Lebanese audience (hospitality rules oblige).
#1 Harry’s Bar
Harry’s Bar is my recent favorite. It is THE place to fine-dine, enjoy great wine and beautiful dishes. The staff is extremely friendly and knowledgeable. The sommelier recommends excellent wine and the service is the most professional I’ve seen in a while. When it comes to the food, you won’t regret one bite of it. Apart from being exceptionally tasty, every dish is carefully crafted and full of colors. The presentation clearly reflects their recent Michelin Star touch. Don’t hesitate to go there for a nice, romantic dinner or even for a business lunch, where you’ll find a set menu for the circumstance. Make sure to try their Fleur de Courgettes with ricotta cheese, beef carpaccio, beetroot risotto and panna cotta. An unforgettable Italian experience in the heart of Beirut.
When walking into Totò, you’re struck by the simple yet uplifting décor. The way they managed to give an identity to the place while keeping the original charm of this old house is admirable. Waiters and staff are not only nice and helpful in your choice of dishes, but they also have a sense of humor. Their seafood risotto is one that I won’t forget. I also love their pizzas and their Totò Express concept upstairs for a more relaxed dinner experience or for takeaway and pizza night at home.
Every time I visit Rome, I go to my favorite place (Vicolo 88) for an absolutely delicious Spaghetti al Vongole. In my mission to find it in Beirut, it’s at Marinella that I discovered one very close to the taste I never forget. The interior is refreshing and the changing menu gives you the certainty that their ingredients are freshly picked. The presentation of their dishes is lovely and the waiters are friendly and professional.
#4 La Traviata
La Traviata doesn’t serve pizza but they sure make it up by serving the freshest pasta dishes in town. If I’m looking for a place to have a calm, relaxing lunch or dinner with a good dish of traditional pasta, this is the place I think of. They also have generous service, offering bites and nibbles before your order comes through, and great knowledge about Italian wine. Oh, and no ketchup allowed! Their carbonara, tiramisu and most importantly their tortellini al cioccolato are a must-try.
The best thing about Cucina is its location. Located in the most modern and trendy part of Beirut, it’s a good place for hip lunches in the sun and dinners. The staff is welcoming and friendly. Their appetizers and risottos are a good choice followed by pain perdu for dessert, which is worth a try. I’m heading there for a friend’s birthday tonight to enjoy a nice setting for this special occasion rather than the relatively average food.
Al Dente’s risottos are a must-try as well as their desserts. This hidden place gives a feel of authentic old Italy mixed with a refined character. Their appetizers include the famous Melanzane gratinate alla Parmigiana and Mozzarella di Buffala which is one of my favorite mozzarellas. It’s an excellent place for a special occasion.
Dottore is the type of place where you go for comfort food and good wine. Burrowed in one of Hamra’s inner streets, it’s the perfect place to spend a cozy night with a few friends. All you need is their wooden-oven baked pizzas, the spinach crepe and really good Italian wine that the staff will perfectly recommend, and you’re set for a great night.
Nestled in one of the inside streets of Mar Mikhael, Mario e Mario offers a very special menu. Get ready to taste dishes you haven’t before, as this fine-dining Italian knows how to use fresh ingredients and transform them into a beautiful and innovative dish. The place is charming and romantic and the table is set with special little touches. I also love the use of fresh ingredients in all of their dishes. You’ll also be very happy with their famous olive oil and bread served before your main order.
#9 La Posta
If you’re planning on booking a night out at La Posta, make sure you ask to be seated outside. The staff shows gusto for Italian food, and their pizza is not too thick or too thin. Their portions are generous but you can be sure you’ll get a refined presentation. Go for a seafood linguine with a nice wine or head there for Saturday brunch with friends or family.
If you’ve been to Italy, you must be familiar with the Aperitivo concept. L’Osteria is one of the rare Italians in Beirut that master the Spritz and its accompaniments. Their dishes are also appetizing and typically Italian. You can head there around 7 pm for a fresh Spritz and a cheese/cold cuts platter. They also serve homey dishes that will satisfy your tasty Italian food cravings.
Any Italian place to add to the list?
Don’t forget to tag us if you try our recipes and tips: #breadonbutter
Even though the rainy weather is still surprising us on those May nights, the season for drinks at sunset is here. Like every month of May in Lebanon, the crowd’s sole excitement at the moment is to go drink the sunset away to celebrate the opening of the happy-go-lucky summer season. 🙂
For this occasion, I’ve compiled a list of 6 places to watch the sunset while having a cocktail in Beirut.
Sporting Beach Club
There’s nothing better than to have a late lunch at the Sporting Beach Club terrace, then sit there and watch the sunset while you drink your Mexican Beer.
Four Seasons Hotel Roof
If you’re in need of a calm escape to quiet your thoughts, the four seasons rooftop is the place to be. It’s also very romantic.
One of the most relaxed places in Beirut.
O Monot Rooftop
The best place for a fancy sunset drink with a small group of friends.
Zeitouna bay is great for an afternoon jog then a sunset lemonade or coffee at one of their cafes.
Iris – and you thought I wouldn’t mention it 😉
Iris is familiar to every Beiruti. It’s a favorite place to go for a drink, or even -most recently- brunch until 6 pm.
Any place you’d like to to add to the list?
and don’t forget to tag us if you try our recipes and tips #breadonbutter
Two years ago, along with a group of friends, we came up with a tradition. Since not one of us is really into Valentine’s Day and the buzz around it, we decided to have dinner together on the 14th of February. Our first dinner was Armenian and delicious and the habit took off from there. It’s been two Valentine Armenian dinners. The very last one was at Onno. The initial plan was to head to the original one in Bourj Hammoud. But we then heard a new branch had opened its doors in Badaro so we booked our 20 (s)eaters’ table for the 14th of February. We now swear by this great and homey Armenian Bistrot.
When I approached the managing team over at Onno to chat with them and Karnigue Nigolian (the original person behind it), they happily accepted. So today, I bring you their story and a small glimpse of the atmosphere and the characters behind this cozy and welcoming place.
I first sat with Saadi Hamady and was later joined by Karnigue (both owners of ONNO).
Saadi first told me about his relationship with food. How he started in the food and beverage industry in the States in 1988, dealing with various domains such as dry food, groceries, delis, coffee shops, restaurants, and even airline catering. Then, like any Lebanese at heart, Saadi came back to Lebanon after spending 29 years in the States and opened up the very first fusion-cosmopolitan food places in Beirut called Cello. He quickly expanded his restaurant openings and other businesses related to the tourism industry.
His new baby is ONNO. The story is actually one of those coincidences (if they do exist) we love to hear about. Saadi’s plan for an evening out was to go fine-dine with friends somewhere upscale. But he wasn’t convinced that was the atmosphere he wanted and begged them to take him somewhere more relaxed with a proper glass of Arak. His friends, without hesitation, decided to take him to ONNO, this cozy little homey place in Bourj Hammoud where a nice glass of Arak was guaranteed. Right then and there, Saadi fell in love with the food and Karnigue’s personality, who made you eat as he pleases. He then absolutely wanted to take ONNO in his hands and expand it like it should be. Karnigue had been approached by many and had humbly refused. But Saadi managed to convince him. “I didn’t come as an investor who wanted to take. I came and told him we would work together hand in hand. We think alike a lot. Sometimes I think about something and then he comes and says it to me!” Saadi.
So a joint-venture was established and ONNO is now quickly expanding. They are open in Badaro and will be open in Hamra in June.
The Badaro branch was a great success for the ONNO team. They saw a great feedback from people who loved the food and the place.
Onno succeeded to attract the mass clientele, which was the biggest challenge. You can see people in their 60s and 70s but also in their 20s. This was basically the idea of opening up a bistro. It serves only one purpose: good food. “In our bistro, they only come to eat, not for the drinks or music, just the food.”
For Saadi, it’s simple. It’s all due to their Bistro’s atmosphere, philosophy and values behind their work.
The values they follow are quite natural. According to Saadi, in all businesses and in anything we do, if there is no honesty about what you do, what you serve and give your clients, there is no success. To him, ethics are the most important thing in business. “We pick our ingredients, we have no shortcuts. The cost doesn’t matter because in the long-term, you are the winner”. “My value is my honesty.”
“I believe you are what u eat and food to me is very dear to my heart, I’ve been doing this for a long time so have good customer service, good products and value for money and then the people will come to you. It’s that simple.”
One very important thing Saadi mentioned was the importance of the authenticity in the dishes one serves at his place.
“When I started working in Lebanon, I saw that if, let’s say we go out to eat penne arrabiatta, we notice the same taste in all of Lebanon even though it’s not a real arrabiatta. So people start thinking it is the real taste because not everyone knows the real taste. They all taste the same because it’s all the same ingredients. So this is where we said: let’s give them the real taste, the authentic taste and then let them decide if they like it or not. Give it as it is and let them decide. Every time you give something authentic, it will be liked.”
Karnigue came to sit with us at this point. His first sentence was: “It was a dream. It was a dream to open a restaurant one day and make food for everyone.”
He went on saying he hadn’t learnt cooking in any school or institution, that his school was his home when he was younger, his mom and his grandma. But the most essential school of all is experience and love for food. Everything he learnt was from testing with his clients in his small homey restaurant in Bourj Hammoud.
“He sometimes surprises you with a dish you didn’t even order!” Saadi
When asked why he chose ONNO, Saadi had a clear answer: “Because it’s one of the tastiest restaurants I’ve ever visited in my life and I’ve tasted a lot, everywhere. I remember the first bite I had there. This is why I chose ONNO, but also because you see something good, you want people to try it. It’s too bad if they don’t. ONNO has to be known. And I now have a belly donut.”
For Karnigue, the most important thing is to see the customer happy. “They’re happy, I’m happy. There was a couple outside just now, I said hello and gave them the menu. He asked if I was Onno, I asked how he knew, he said I speak differently. Always talk to the people.”
Onno is indeed a story. It is a story of partnership, chance and good authentic food that is just waiting to be shared with the world.
The menu is a work of 20-25 years of experience, trial and error. If you haven’t tried it yet, you must!
Click here to watch a short video about Onno and to get an idea of the warm atmosphere and the people behind it. 🙂
Have you been to Onno? We’d love to know your thoughts!
All of us who live in Beirut know how wonderful it is to drive somewhere far and beautiful for the weekend. But we also know the exhaustion we’ll feel when getting back during traffic hours (which are basically at almost all hours). So there are weekends where we decide we can’t do it, stay in the city and go somewhere for brunch, lunch or coffee. But! the places we go to don’t have to be that confined. You can still escape city life while staying in the city. Here are our top places to go in Beirut to escape city life within the city.
Escape the city within the city: Breadonbutter’s Top 4 Escapes in Beirut
Not only does this place remind you or shows you how life in Lebanon was before and during the war, but you also get great food. There’s nothing better than to enjoy those “provencal shrimps” and fried calamaris with happy faces. This place is like going into a vintage picture full of colors, people sunbathing and indisputable happiness.
Mention Rawda Café and my mind goes straight to my early university days when we used to go there for a Labneh plate and Turkish coffee. Take a walk on the Corniche on Saturday morning and get a nice rest at this Café afterwards.
3- La Plage
When the weather is pleasant, head to La Plage on late afternoons and enjoy a nice glass of wine right by the sea. You’ll feel like you’re on a boat somewhere far away from the city.
Grant it, to get there you need to brave the traffic, cars and works going on around the Biel area. But once you get to that concrete road built right by the sea, with a view on our beloved port giraffes, you’ll be away from it all.
Don’t forget your books!
Any other suggestion?
I can’t complain about our national food. The mezza and everyday dishes are nothing but healthy (unless you over-use oil or fatty ingredients) and full of flavor. But my weakness for spices and that mix of different ingredients that varies from one culture to another, gets the better of me every time I have to choose where to go out for a meal. I’m afraid to say that I prefer a great ethnic meal over our traditional food contrary to Jean’s opinion, but we’re working towards a compromise 😉
What I mean by the word “ethnic” is precisely what I mentioned above. For some (like myself), ethnic is food from other cultures, in which ingredients we know are used differently and ingredients we don’t know are there for us to discover. For others, the meaning of ethnic is different as it is only meant for specific cultures or countries around the world.
So when we don’t feel like cooking at home, here are the top ethnic food places we visit in Beirut that give my palate what it needs to feel satisfied.
1) Mótto, Mar Mikhaël, Beirut. This charming bohemian-style little place is located in one of Mar Mikhael’s streets. We went there several times for brunch (once for Sri Lankan and another time for Palestinian which was cooked by my good friend Hisham from Cook in 5 m2). I heard they also make exquisite Ethiopian meals so that’s on my list!
2) Little China, Monot, Beirut. If you’re looking for a simple and authentic place to have a casual dinner with friends, that’s your place to go. Food is delicious and affordable.
4) Jaï, Clémenceau, Beirut. Thaï food places are rare in Beirut. Jaï satisfies your Asian food cravings provided you reserve in advance as the place is tiny. They deliver but I’d advise you to go and have your meal there for a fresher experience.
I have yet to try one of the Indian restaurants here in Beirut and let you know which one is my favorite. Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated 🙂
What are your favorite ethnic food restaurants in Beirut? I’d love to know!