Friday, October 20, 2017

April

What an amazing month March turned out to be, we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary for an entire week, starting of at Le Meridien Al Aqah and finishing at Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa, with a trip to Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Emirates Golf Club inbetween!!  The weather has finally broken and we are experiencing a rise in temperatures, it's no secret I prefer the hotter months over the cooler ones. It's Easter this month, so I hope the Easter Bunny is really kind to you all. Have a fabulous month wherever are you are.

GA

It is no secret in the world of Social Media that I am a huge fan of Alexander McNabb. It is solely down to him that I even have a twitter account let alone know how to use it.  His persistence in assuring me that it "works" made me even more determined to become part of the twitterati and see for myself whether Social Media was as effective as he claimed.  He, of course was correct.

I had known for some time that Alex had written a book which he had not been able to get published, so when I heard that he had self published I nipped straight out to Jashanmal and bought one.  I am not a great reader, more an internet junky so Olives ended up on my bedside cabinet until we had our weekend away at Le Meridien Al Aqah a few weeks back.  It was there, due to enforced relaxation that I started to read Olives ....

I have never read a book ever in my entire life where I actually knew the author in the real world, Alex is real, he is a human being, one who if I am fortunate enough, manage to bump into every so often and have a chat.  I also listen to the show he co-hosts on Dubai Eye every Wednesday from 12 - 2 pm.  Paul Stokes, the lead character in the book for me was actually Alex, his voice was Alex's, it was all quite bizarre as I am reading a book about a fictional character who to me was real, at one point I was actually starting to wonder whether Alex had actually lived as his fictional character, but I know that isn't true.

I am not going to tell you anything about the storyline of the book, suffice to say it kept my attention and interest which when it comes to reading doesn't happen with me that often.  I recommend you grab yourself a copy ASAP, it won't take you long to read, each page leaves you wanting more.  If you enjoy Olives you may well enjoy Alex's other ramblings which can be found on his blogsite here.

Enjoy!

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It has been a big week in Casa GA, as some of you may know we celebrated ten years of marriage in style this week kicking off with a fabulous weekend break at Le Meridien al Aqah in Fujeirah, this was followed by Dinner at Jumeirah Beach Hotel on the actual day of our anniversary and then a special private luncheon at Emirates Golf Club for close friends and family.  But could we end it there?  no we couldn't, and I quite promptly contacted Chef David and booked a table for four for Afternoon Tea at Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa yesterday afternoon.

Following a late start to the day, four very tired and fragile (due to the Lunch) people dragged themselves into the Pajero and hit the Al Ain Road to explore the delights of Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa. I have been before so I was able to brag a bit and pretend I knew where everything was.  we were greeted on the terrace by Radi who swiftly directed us to the Bar where Afternoon Tea is served.  A big smile greeted us from Vivek who along with Chef David and Chef Sebby looked after us for the next few hours.

Afternoon Tea at Al Maha is not a grand affair of over filled cake stands dripping in cream and manicured sandwiches, on no it's better than that, there are no sandwiches but a selection of tiny hors dóeuvres that melt in your mouth.  Chef David (infact all the Chef's at Al Maha know) that we enjoy a good creme brulee, so they made us five, yes five different ones to try!!  Raspberry, Pistachio, coffee, pink grapefruit and saffron. Now you are going to want to know which one was the best, well I can't tell you, I ate all five and each one has its own unique surprise.  Vivek very kindly made us some fruit cocktails of Mango, Mint and Tabasco, now they really are something different! after working our way through the creme brulees we tried everything else on the display, the tiny scones were so light they crumbled on your tongue, and who would ever have thought that rhubarb jam with clotted cream would be a winner!  that is where Maha is different from everywhere else, they DO think outside the box, they do go that extra mile to make it different. There is a selection of teas and coffees available with the Afternoon Tea too.

Chef Sebby (I want to insert a heart at this point) very kindly showed us around the resort, which was a great treat for my guests.  We visited the Timeless Spa and met the lovely therapists who made us more than welcome.   After that we headed down to the kitchens for a catch up with all my old *colleagues*, it was so good to see everyone again, I am getting a bit worried that Al Maha is starting to feel like home, not as worried as my husband is though.

In the bar on the wall there was a huge picture of a leopard resting in a tree, I admired it the first time I was there, much to my delight I was able to buy the print which pleased GM Patrick as I am pretty sure he thought that I would end up taking the original from the wall!!

Anyway it's a fabulous way to spend a very very relaxing afternoon, and nice to get away from the hussle and bussle of Dubai itself, and at just 120 Dhs a head, it's worth every single dirham.  I took some photos which you can find here.  The heart at the bottom is for Team Al Maha.

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For just 40 years the Meridien Group of hotels has been offering hospitality to weary travellers in over 50 countries around the globe, they have quite a presence in the United Arab Emirates, and I have stayed in the three main Hotels in Dubai, but never the one on that much talked about East Coast, so last weekend we ventured over the Hajar Mountains and into Fujeirah to experience the delights of the Le Meridien Al Aqah.

There was of course a reason for this little road trip, and that was to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary and the fact that I was on my feet and back to "normal", one of my main challenges on the road to recovery was to meet Team Al Aqah.  When I walked through the door of the Hotel I felt immensely emotional at the fact that I had actually achieved it!  My first point of contact was Diaa who checked us very swiftly into our room and explained the layout of the hotel and the facilities it had to offer us during our stay.  The room was just breathtaking, not in it's decor as such but in the effort that had been made to personalise it to our taste. The floor was littered in flower petals and a bath towel, much to Mitten's amusement had been changed into an elephant!  You can find all the photos here.

Le Meridien Al Aqah is set on the East Coast of the United Arab Emirates and faces the amazing Indian Ocean, the view from our room (all rooms are sea view) was quite spectacular, a clear view of sea and mountains with the occasional fishing boat dotted along the shore. The overall feeling was one of total calmness and relaxation.

After checking into our Club room (photo's can be found here), we quickly changed into our swim gear and headed down to the pool area to investigate!  Le Meridien Al Aqah is one of the smallest hotels on the coast (room wise) but it boasts the biggest pool/beach/garden area. As the hotel is just a decade old the gardens are well developed, and of course beautifully maintained.  The afternoon was spent on sun loungers relaxing into the Al Aqah experience.

Later that day as the sun went down we headed into the hotel to explore what the Al Aqah had to offer its residents. There is no time to get bored during your stay, there is everything from a Spa to diving! boat trips to manicures!  there is absolutely no need to leave the resort (unless you want to) during your time at the Hotel.  There is a super well equipped kids club which is well staffed, what I particularly liked was the fact that you had to physically collect your child, which could give you an extra 20 minutes of solitude if you needed it.  Mitten particularly enjoyed the crazy golf course, I have always felt you need to be a bit crazy to golf!

That evening after a fabulous dinner (I am writing a separate article on the dining experiences at Al Aqah) we made our way back up to our room to share a glass of something sparkly and enjoy a good nights sleep, not before popping my USB into the huge flat screen television and catching up with a bit of UK drama.   The next morning we opened our curtains to gaze out at the view to find an Anniversary wish carved into the sand!!  There is nothing this hotel won't do to make sure their guests have an amazing Al Aqah experience.  If you are visiting the hotel don't be shy, tell the team why you are there and they will ensure they make it special for you.

After two glorious nights we headed back to Dubai, the journey took us just over two hours but we did stop at The Friday Market to buy a rug, which has lovingly been christened Rug Al Aqah.

All I need to do now is to thank Patrick and the rest of Team Al Aqah for their overwhelming hospitality, we will never forget our 10th Wedding Anniversary experience, thanks to everyone who went that extra mile to make it so so special, in particular The Italian One but you will hear more about him in my Le Meridien Al Aqah "The Food" article.

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Today is a wonderful day for the females of the species who have reproduced and brought some Kittens into this world.   Whilst I don't really celebrate all these commercialised annual events I do quite like Mother's Day, not because I get some flowers and a card but because it reminds me that I am a Mother and how special that actually is.  It is an absolute honour to be called Mum, it's a title I never thought I would ever have as I was a bit of a late starter compared to most in that department.

Whether you are a Mum or a Dad for that matter, make sure you remember the most important woman in your life today, your very own Mum! pick up the phone and make her smile wherever you are in the World.

I love you Mum

xxx

Last weekend we stayed at Le Meridien Al Aqah for the weekend, you can find the article here.  I didn't get time to write about the glorious restaurants though so here it is, food @ Al Aqah.

We arrived just in time for lunch and Mitten was keen to swim so we headed for Baywatch Village which is a rather quant beach bar right in the centre of the pool area and gardens.  I ordered my favourite salad ever Prawn and Avocado and the husband opted for one of his favourites, fish and chips. The food seemed to appear in minutes and was really good, the Nile Perch was cooked to perfection with a good crispy batter.  It was here that we met The Italian One (Boss Chef) who was to come a real big part of our weekend, and after a quick chat about what I like I was told that I would be dining at Gonu that very evening and that he would personally oversee that I got yet another seafood kick.  When I am out and about I tend to opt for seafood as I am basically useless at cooking it at home.

That evening, we headed back down to the beach area to meet The Italian One and have our Gonu Experience.  Gonu is a small Bar/Restaurant right on the beach, with a sea view table we were in our element. We had a Seafood Platter for two, with grilled vegetables and steak fries. It was absolutely superb, if you ever or I should say when you visit Le Meridien Al Aqah you have got to try Gonu.  Gonu was built after Cyclone Gonu hit the East Coast in 2007, if I remember rightly Gonu was the brain child of The French One.  My husband said it was the best steak he had in a long long time, and he likes his steaks cooked to perfection.  The Lobster was so fresh I think it had just walked up from the beach. Following that we were served with Ginger Creme Brulee, georgous, but don't worry Team Al Maha you are still the winners of Best Creme Brulee in the UAE.

That was our first days dining experience we shall now move onto day two.  Breakfast is served in Taste if you are staying in a Club Room which we were but I still opted to try the busier Views Restaurant, located on the lower ground floor of the hotel. We would save our Taste Breakfast experience until the following day.  There was a great selection of food, typical of most 5 star hotels in the UAE, I am not a great one for a big breakfast so I opted for eggs and toast.  Mitten was somewhat disappointed as there was no chocolate fountain, the worrying thing about that is if The Italian One had known that he would have found her one!!

Later that morning Chef Bybee came to find us by the pool and took us on a tour of his amazing kitchens, I am getting rather into these Hotel Kitchens these days!!   so much hussle and bussle and creativity going on, I was particularly amused by the guy who was carving huge polystyrene Easter Eggs for the forthcoming Easter Weekend.  I would like to personally thank Chef Bybee and the rest of his team for being so welcoming during our time at the Hotel. 

Before we knew it was lunchtime and Chef Bybee came up trumps with some King Prawns and Mahi Mahi with vegetables, served in Sapore. Sapore is a small Italian Restaurant at the Pool Side, beautiful decor and fabulous bread! all baked in-house.  The fish, and prawns were superb, the butter orange sauce was what made it so special though!  Following this we had a chocolate and vanilla layer cake with raspberry coulis, divine. 

Now you would think that we couldn't possibly eat any more food but we did, we managed a very small afternoon tea in the Club Lounge, beautiful tiny scones with clotted cream and a nice pot of coffee, with a sea view too!! beautiful.

That evening, and by this point in time I am really struggling! more food!  yes more food, this time it was time to try out Taste, the Hotel's Thai Restaurant.  We met the lovely lady Chef who I am guessing we should call The Thai One, she personally prepared me a half portion of crispy duck and my husband had the Masaman Chicken Curry.  I love Crispy Duck, who doesn't!  It was fabulous, really tasty, moist and well seasoned. 

Day two over and now onto our last day and we returned to Taste to experience the A La Carte breakfast menu, Eggs Benedict for me and Chilli Omelette for the husband, he had to get more chilli's but I know for a fact that they will remember the next time and put loads in so that he ends up in a sweat!!

Well that was our dining experience at Le Meridien Al Aqah, a very very fine one at that.  If you want to see some photos you can them by clicking here, and if you so wish you can like my page too.

(I would like to add that we left the Hotel and didn't eat another thing until the following morning!!)

Thanks again to Team Al Aqah

GA

On a sunny October afternoon in 1969 students returning home from their institutions noticed a board on a Katrik Road pavement. The Board read Cafe Student.  The Founder, a 40 year old man was standing behind this board with a few plates and a tumbler full of aromatic, flavoursome rice that he called biryani. Passerby could not resist trying this unique food item.  This was the beginning of Cafe Student. From a humble start to a trend and and from a trend to an icon Cafe Student has come a long way.  This has of course been possible through extreme hard work, a clear vision and unfailing customer loyalty.

And I only found out about it a couple of months ago!!!!

Today at long last I found Student Biryani in Al Barsha, blink and you will miss it, once you find it stands out like a beacon.  It was totally not what I was expecting, Student Biryani is a chain of Pakistani fast food outlets.  It is a bit like Pakistan's version of KFC, with one essential difference, they serve good food. There are various food options to choose from and I ordered the Chicken Handi meal deal, which came with raita, salad, two naan breads and a soft drink.  The other half ordered the Haleem (mutton) meal deal which came with biryani rice, naan bread, and a soft drink.  Service was quick and the food was brilliant.  My chicken was tender, beautifully spiced, served in a fabulous little pan with piping hot naan breads. The biryani rice was one of the best I have tasted, full of flavour.  I have posted some pictures of our food here.

You can enjoy a dine-in experience or a take-away, they do home deliveries and you can even order online.

Total dining experience came to 54 dhs, you really can't complain at that.

Enjoy!!

 

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