In many ways, the warm welcome we received at the reception of Liwan restaurant set the pace for a truly enjoyable iftar experience. Perhaps the décor played a role, too. Unlike some venues that can exude an impersonal vibe, the ambience at Liwan was inviting, thanks to the warm tones and well-lit interior.
Leading us to our table, the very pleasant service staff ensured we were comfortably seated before plying us with the house speciality mocktails – I had a passionfruit mocktail while my guest had a mint, lemon and green chilli crush. The drinks were perfect and whet our appetite for what was to come.
The well-arranged iftar buffet had the staples such as dates, hummus, mouttabel and breads at easy reach of the tables while salad lovers were spoilt for choice with a spread of healthy options to choose from; easily one of the best salad bars I’ve seen at an iftar.
Going easy on the salads – wanting to save my appetite for the mains and desserts – I found my way to the mezze where the moussaka was clearly the winner. The delicately flavoured stew of roasted tomatoes, aubergines and chickpeas was just perfect. I picked up a few kibbeh as well and enjoyed the subtly spiced and marinated mince croquettes deep-fried to just the right crispness.
A delicious bowl of harees (a porridge of wheat and mutton) later, I helped myself to a portion of chicken biryani. The chicken was succulent and moist and the rice cooked to perfection with just the right spices. Nearby was the traditional lamb ouzi (mutton on tenderly spiced rice). I decided to give it a miss although it looked inviting, instead opting for a portion of poached fish fillet from the international section of the buffet. A lover of seafood, I found the fish so delicious I had to return for seconds.
‘While we ensure we have many traditional dishes at the iftar buffet, we also include a good mix of dishes for every palate,’ said executive chef Akhilesh Singh, inviting me to try the Chicken Freekeh (chicken with wheat) and the Mandi (a Yemeni meat and rice dish).
I had to give them a miss, keen to indulge my sweet tooth having noticed the delectable spread of desserts. From traditional Arabic desserts such as umm ali, barbousa, kanafeh and baklava to bite-sized pastries, cakes and cheesecakes, the spread was as vast and varied as the main courses if not more.
Being a traditionalist of sorts, I went for the Arabic desserts finishing off with a slice of pistachio cheese cake. Absolutely delightful.
I might be returning soon.