by Anissa Helou

May 2013

Anissa, internationally known food writer, art collector, journalist and broadcaster, is one of the leading experts on the cuisines of the Mediterranean and the Middle East.



The perfect breakfast

I have two favourite breakfasts: One is at el-Soussi to have the best ever fatteh made of layers of toasted bread, chickpeas and yoghurt and garnished with toasted pine nuts (open from 6 am to 2 pm, in Zeydaniyeh, +961 63 927 421) and the other is at Amal Bohsali for a sinful plate of k’nafeh, a sweet cheese pie that clocks in at a 1000 calories a bite (multiple locations including Alfred Nobel Street next the Le Bristol Hotel)

Your favourite home delivery

Seasonal fruit from my mother’s greengrocer in Ballouneh. All she has to do is pick up the phone and order whatever is in season. I try to go in the autumn for custard apple, fresh pistachios and persimmons and in the spring for fresh almonds, unripe greengages, loquats and strawberries.

Your best kept secret place

Ok, it’s not quite Beirut but Lebanon is very small and distances are short even from one end of the country to the other and if you are in Beirut you need to get out to Jammal, a fish restaurant right on the sea in Batroun. Most of his customers arrive by boat, wade through the little creek in their bathing suit and sit either on the beach or up on the terrace. Some even call Jammal to send their meal over to the boat. It tends to be very crowded in the summer especially at weekends and I like to go off season. Jammal is one of the very few who serves mostly local fish, always extremely fresh and perfectly prepared. His limited selection of mezze is also fabulous as is the selection of desserts: Jammal, Kfarabida, South of Batroun, Tel: +961 6 740 095, Mob: +961 3 640 095

The Sunday lunch

Another restaurant outside of the city and again not too far but it is where I can have the freshest raw liver, kibbeh and habrah because they rear their own lambs which they butcher in-house. Qal’at al-Rumiyeh, Main road, Rumiyeh area, Qley’at, tel: +961 9 952 535

Your Anniversary restaurant

Casablanca, a beautiful restaurant in a gorgeous old Ottoman house overlooking the sea, it is owned and run by Johnny and Cin Farah, one of Beirut’s power couples. Cin is Chinese and the food reflects her Asian origins but most of theingredients used are grown on their organic farm. Dar el-Mreisseh Street, mob: +961 3 856 111 tel: +961 1 369 334

The dinner with friends

Villa Clara, in Mar M’khayel, a charming restaurant in an equally charming hotel where the French chef, Olivier Gougeon, uses impeccably sourced Lebanese ingredients to prepare delicious simple French dishes.

If you lost your keys, in which hotel would you spend a night?

Villa Clara, each room is decorated differently and there are only 7. It’s home away from home!!

Photos Courtesy Roger Moukarzel and Celia Topping

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