Kofta on the Shore
Jordan is a country rich with history and tradition. From the stunning temples at Petra to the forum of Jerash, humanity has survived and thrived in the region for tens of thousands of years, creating a strong culture that survives to this very day.
Al Manara, A Luxury Collection Hotel celebrates that legacy in a modern, palatial surrounding that pays tribute to indigenous history.
As executive chef of the hotel, Eyad Ammouri’s job is to carry that through to the location’s two concepts — Taybeh Al Manara Restaurant and Kubba Levantine Restaurant.
Ammouri has extensive experience, starting with Grand Hyatt in Oman before moving to Hyatt Regency in Belgrade, Serbia. Since then he has opened hotels in Dubai, India, Seoul, and Germany, prior to settling into his role as executive chef in Jordan.
It’s that experience that allows him to take traditional Levant cuisine, so beloved in its home region, and give it a western twist to appeal to both local and international hotel guests.
He tells us: “Our concept here is to provide guests with Levantine food and Western food in a fusion. This I believe is a very good experience and is something different in the region. It’s something new for the guests to try.
“At Kubba we have a fattoush burratta. It’s a twist to have the fattoush from Levant and the burratta from Italy. We also have a variety of mezze from Levant also with a twist.”
There are still the old classics such as a mixed grill and different types of kofta, but Ammouri thrives when creating something that will make people sit up and take notice.
His F&B manager, Mohammed Al Qawas, a Jordanian national from the capital Amman, says he keeps a close relationship with his executive chef, praising Ammouri for his ability to “maintain a good quality of food, good quality of service overall, and a good selection of products, while making sure that even though the products are good they are not too expensive.”
Al Qawas also speaks of the importance of Kubba standing out from its competition. He says: “We wanted to get away from the market and do something different. We didn’t do it the way of other Arabic restaurants, it’s more the Arabic version of Buddha Bar [the popular Dubai venue]. The high ceilings, the lounge, the capacity — it’s a massive restaurant — it’s more of a lifestyle venue.”
Indeed with a 300 capacity, Kubba offers much more than just a simple dine-in experience, with mixology and cocktails a driving force behind keeping customers in the venue.
For the other restaurant, Taybah, Ammouri oversees an Italian head chef in a concept that aims to move away from traditional expectations of all day dining. Rather than focus on a buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it’s mainly a la carte, taking guests on an epicurean journey through Arabia and educating them on Jordan itself.
As Ammouri says, “the menu engineering is very important” and he “works with senior chefs in the kitchen to create an indigenous menu from different parts of the world”.
He’s able to do that with a kitchen team from all over the globe. Italy, Germany, Sri Lanka, India, and, of course, Jordan are all represented and work “hand in hand to create the concept”, Ammouri adds.
To bring that team together in Al Manara, the team focused on building partnerships with the big universities in Jordan to find “young, motivated people” according to Al Qawas.
“The main focus was to get educated people and to educate everyone on what is hospitality, what is the Luxury Collection. We had a few challenges in terms of suppliers, in terms of people, in terms of understanding the market, but to see how far we are now six months after opening is a positive,” he said.
Ammouri tells us he plans to add more profitability to the hotel by increasing the number of events, using the beach and terrace area to provide great F&B at outdoor occasions, with a variety of live stations to spice things up.
However, he will have his hands full shortly with the next dining destination in the hotel set to open up in Q1 2019. Amwaj will be a smokehouse seafood restaurant, and Ammouri says it will focus on “ingredients and seafood from the Red Sea.”
It’ll be another challenge but the Al Manara team have proven equal to them all so far.