Monday, 13 June 2011

A new Deli – Mackenzies

There's a new kid in town. Well, actually, it has been around for a couple of months, but we only just heard about them. Mackenzies Deli is the first serious attempt to bring gourmet products to Muscat residents. Australian Angus Beef, Scottish seafood, like salmon, lobsters and scallops, and prime Scottish Pork, all can be ordered by email from Mackenzies, and delivered to your home.

As the company also supplies the hotels and restaurants with their products, you can be sure that products are fresh and of a high standard. This is what they had to say themselves:

We noted a demand in the market for prime quality products and aim to fill this gap with our current product list and with new international products coming on board every week.  The focus is very much on quality.  Our main beef product for example is Australian Black Angus or Grain Fed Tenderloin, our salmon has freedom foods accreditation and our Oysters are from Loch Fyne, one of the UK's most recognised suppliers. We have recently begun to offer Highland Spring Water, the best-selling sparkling water brand in the UK along with Ireland's favourite tea, Barry's.  We are delighted to see our existing customers coming back again and again and also to see our customer base grow daily.
There is a webshop in the making, but until that is finished, you can contact them for a price list and place your order by phone or email. Prices are, admittedly, not low, but that is to be expected with specialty products.

We do sincerely hope that Mackenzies will be a success, and that they will be able to offer a growing range of fine products. Check out their website here and send them an email to for more information.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Cheese and Wine Club at the Radisson Blu Hotel

A very good initiative from the Radisson Blu Hotel, a Cheese & Wine Club. The idea is simple: assemble a crowd of wine and cheese lovers, and organise a monthly theme night to showcase the wines of one or two specific producers. Serve cheeses that match the wines, and you're all set to go. As a bonus, the Radisson also promises the occasional guest appearance of a winemaker, who will give inside information on his/her own wines.

We love the idea and hope the evenings will be a big success. The first Cheese & Wine Club evening is tomorrow, April 12th, from 6PM to 9PM. Cost is 15.- OMR per person. Reservations are necessary, contact the Radisson Blu Hotel to secure your place.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Our Opera Mall Wishlist

Somehow we missed the news that the new Opera Mall will feature a Bice restaurant. This is good news. Although they are a chain, Bice restaurants are renowned for there good quality, upscale Italian cooking. If they get things right here in Muscat, they should be able to compete with the likes of Tuscany and Capri Court.It is to be hoped, of course, that this restaurant is going to be licensed.

Now that the Opera Mall is apparently beginning to shape up, it is a fun exercise to think up a short wish list of venues that we would love to see in this mall.

1. Carluccio's
A chain of restaurants and foodshops, initiated by the Italian-British cook Antonio Carluccio. Simple, but well made Italian food, in a relaxed setting. There are already three Carluccio restaurants in Dubai, where they are a success. Next to the food, we are also looking forward to the foodshop, where you can find a fine selection of products, from olive oils to pasta, and from vongoles to pesto. Definitely something that is still missed in Muscat.

2. Jones the Grocer
More or less the same setup as Carluccio's, but with a bonus: an incredible cheese selection. This Australian concept has expanded to Abu Dhabi, and will soon see its first outlet in Dubai. We've been to the original Abu Dhabi outlet, and it has a great, lively atmosphere. Great for lunch, or just a quick cup of coffee. The food store offers a wide selection of products, including coffee (and coffee machines), jams, and much more. The seperate cheese room is a great experience. You'll be able to buy a variety of high quality cheese, unlike anything else available here in Oman. If Jones would decide to expand to Muscat, we will be regulars.

3. Bistro Vue
If Shannon Bennett still doesn't want to end his Omani adventure after the closure of Vue, we can very much recommend him to re-launch the Vue brand in a bistro setting. He has one already in Australia. Classic French dishes, served with the Bennett flair, but without the pretence (and price tag) of the Vue restaurant, as it was in the Al Bustan Hotel.

4. Oscar's Vine Society
Although we had a fair bit of criticism during our visit to this Dubai wine bar some two years ago, we would still like to see it (or something like it) here in Oman. Basicly, it is just a relaxed place, with a decent selection of wines by the glass and per bottle. Something we don't have here in Oman, and that we would love to see. A possibility for a liqour license is quite obviously a must, but the same goes for Bice as far as we are concerned.

It is probably too good to be true to have any of these here, but we can all dream, can't we?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Restaurant Review - Al Marjan Bistro

The average Muscat diner didn't really 'get' Vue. Maybe the cooking was too complicated, perhaps the pricing to ambitious. We don't know, but we were sorry to see them leave.

And now there's Al Marjan Bistro. Sitting in Vue's former location bordering Al Bustan's lobby, and set in exactly the same interior, Al Marjan wants to distinguish itself by serving seasonal, classic French dishes, with a refined touch. Ok, we get that.

The menu looks promising, and the wine list has been simplified, with a better choice of value wines. We quite enjoyed our food, although there were some ups and downs. The terrine of duck foie gras was disappointing; its fat content was extremely low, causing the liver to be dry and bitter. Whether or not foie gras is ethical, is open for debate, but you have to make a choice. Either serve foie gras as it is meant to be, or give it a different name on your menu. The second starter, lobster salad with mint tabouleh, fared much better. The lovely fresh tabouleh was a very nice counterpart for the rich lobster.

Of the mains, the braised beef cheeks were most memorable. Ultra-soft, very rich and with a good red wine / cranberry sauce. A classic dish, very well prepared. The other choice, scallops served on fresh herbs, was also enjoyable, but a bit too salty. Dessert (crème brûlée) was very tasty, although –if we're being very picky– it could have been a bit less cold.

All in all, some very good food. That said, we are not convinced that Al Marjan will be a success. First of all, it is very expensive. With starters between 6.500 and 10.000 OMR, and mains ranging from 14.000 to 18.000 OMR, you can be sure that your bill will be a hefty one. We spent over 70 OMR for two, excluding wine. That's a lot. Too much, we like to think, for the type of food that is served. Our other concern is the interior design. It worked well for an upscale restaurant like Vue, but it is lacking the kind of atmosphere that you would expect in a bistro. The fact that only four tables were occupied during our visit didn't help. Just as with the foie gras, it seems like the management of Al Marjan needs to make up its mind. Only then will this restaurant have a chance to survive. Until they do, we don't really 'get' it.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Les Saveurs d'Ici et d'Ailleurs

We told you about the Saveurs du Terroir evenings in the InterContinental Hotel before. If you are a true lover of food, you will surely have visited one of these evenings.

There was a temporary hold on these evenings after the former Resident Manager, Marc Lambert, left last year. But Didier Gourmaud, his successor, made the wise decision to continue, albeit with a slight change in theme. Under the title Les Saveurs d'Ici et d'Ailleurs Gourmaud will not only serve classic French dishes, but also explore other regions and flavours.

The first evening is planned on March 15th. Contact the InterContinental Hotel for more details and to be added to the mailing list.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Exit Vue, enter Marjan

The Al Bustan Hotel announced the opening of the French bistro Al Marjan on their Facebook page with this text:

Al Marjan Bistro is open today at Al Bustan Palace InterContinental Muscat. A stylish and distinctive seasonal restaurant, Al Marjan Bistro will bring the quintessentially French passion for great food to Muscat’s dining scene.

So, after they found out that Muscat's dining scene wasn't quite ready for Vue's innovative cuisine, the Al Bustan team decided to revive an old formula. There is still a slight chance that this isn't the end of Shannon Bennett's adventure in Oman, as we heard rumours that a BistroVue may open in the Royal Opera House Complex, once that is finished. Let's wait and see. In the meantime, we'll give Al Marjan a try.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Taste of Dubai – 3-5 March 2011

Taste of Dubai is coming up again. From 3 to 5 March 2011 you'll be able to taste your way through Dubai's finest restaurants in a relaxed outdoor setting. We enjoyed the last two episodes, and although the organisation was a bit of a mess last year, we still recommend a visit. Have a look at their website for specifics on events per day.

Well underway already, but still worth mentioning is Gourmet Abu Dhabi. More high-brow and serious than Taste of Dubai, but also a chance for some unforgettable experiences. How about a dinner in the company of Katharina Prüm, Joh. Jos. Prüm's winemaker? With a tasting of their fabulous Mosel wines of course. The festival only lasts for another week (until the 15th), and many of the events are already sold out. If you plan a visit, you'd better check the website soon.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Caramel French Bakery

There is a buzz going around in town. Wherever we go we hear people asking eachother if they tried 'that new bakery' yet. They mean Caramel, the French bakery that recently opened in Ghubra. We knew it was coming, so we were excited to try some of the products once the store finally opened in January.

Caramel offers breads, pastries and a selection of food products such as Valrhona chocolate. The bread we tasted was very good, but we got really excited after trying the pain au chocolat. Puff pastry is not something that any of the other bakeries in Muscat master. But Caramel is different. Made with the proper flour and butter, their puff pastry gives you an instant feel of holiday in France. We loved it. The meringue au citron and hazelnut cake were equally good.

Wonderful products, with great attention to good ingredients and detail; Caramel is a very fine address for Muscat foodies. You might struggle to find the store, as its location is a bit of the beaten track, so have a look at their website before you go.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Oman Food Festival

A festival dedicated to Omani food, wow. As part of the yearly Muscat Festival, the first Oman Food Festival is held in the Qurum Natural Park from Frebruary 5th. In co-operaration with the Oman Tourism College, the festival will be a showcase of traditional Omani Cuisine. Next to that, a number of the four and five star hotels will present dishes from their international restaurants. The website of Muscat Festival gives precious little information on this event, but you can read a bit more in these articles in the Oman Observer and The Week.

We will, of course, pay a visit to the festival and see if it is as good as it seems. More to follow.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Restaurant Review – Sammak (As Sifah)

Hello, we're back. It's been a while since our last post, other things are keeping us occupied at the moment. But we plan to post a bit more regularly in the future.

In order to create some goodwill after messing up our favourite beach for a weekend getaway, tourism development company Muriya opened a seafood restaurant on the As Sifah Beach, called Sammak. The restaurant is part of a larger piece of beach development, including a smack of palm trees, watersport facilities, and a playground. Opened late 2010, the restaurant still looks new and fresh. Although Muriya was the developer of it all, Sammak is managed by locals from the village of As Sifah, and the menu is filled with the daily catch of the local fishermen. All good news for local development.

And it must be said, Sammak is a very enjoyable place to spend a lazy Friday afternoon. The food is simple, but good. Our catch of the day (koffer) was fresh as can be, which is exactly what you want in a place like this. Don't expect any culinary surprises, simply enjoy the food and the great surroundings. And while you're there, have a look at the construction work on Jebel Sifah, that's going on close to it.

Any downsides? Sure. Service is clumsy and slow, the menu isn't very clear (there are some choices written on a blackboard, but everybody seems to receive the same grilled fish), and the prices are a bit on the high side for this kind of food (about 7.500 OMR a person for appetisers, main and a soft drink). But still, we left with a positive feeling.

What's more (and probably worse) is that many of the new buildings are already showing signs of decay. The showers are falling apart, and the toilets are a mess. Let's hope that Sammak is just as nice to visit in a year's time as it is now. If it is, we will surely be regulars.