A Swanky Sunday Brunch at Kempinski Summerland Hotel
Even the road leading there feels distinctly un-Lebanese: wide, serene, evenly paved, with residential high-rises spaced noticeably apart for breathability. You’d never know you were mere miles from Beirut International Airport to the south and Pigeon Rock to the north.
The Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort beautifully embodies its descriptor. Featuring its own private beach and marina, the hotel is defined by a maze of pools and secluded Jacuzzi bungalows. As we passed through the main gate and descended toward the complex, images of Kassandra in northern Greece – specifically the Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort – cascaded through my mind with longing and nostalgia.
Beirut’s newest five-star property perches on the Mediterranean as prominently as the Manara Lighthouse, boasting 153 rooms and suites designed to exploit the breathtaking views of the sea. There’s a venue for every breed of guest, from a Cigar and Single Malt lounge for the stogie-whisky aficionado, to a gourmet restaurant called Candelabra straddling both indoors and out. As self-professed gourmands, we elected to discover the latter.
Arriving on a sunny spring-like Sunday just before 1 PM, we were invited to pick our own table. Silly Lebanese protocols don’t seem to fly here – guests have free reign over where they want to sit.
We happily installed ourselves where the terrace begins, canopied beneath the shade of the building. A labyrinthine pool lay before us, reflecting the pacific blue skies. Leaving it to the sommelier to situate us with a bottle of fine Italian red, we made our way to the buffet with uncontainable curiosity.
Food comes plentifully, but not obscenely so. You’ll find a corner for boiled shrimp and raw oysters on ice; another for salad ingredients; yet another where molten Raclette is scraped onto lightly toasted sliced bread; a tartare station; and a cheese and charcuterie table.
The main attraction is the hot foods section strategically positioned in the center of the restaurant and manned by a trio of young, animated, Lebanese chefs. Here, let your eyes feast on a meaty shawarma spit; a heaping pan of frikeh and roasted lamb; prime rib; smoked beef; baked salmon; pasta a la minute – spaghetti, gnocchi or penne; and half a dozen trays of stews and other specialties.
|Frikeh and lamb in foreground; shawarma in background|
Yes, choice abounds, but you won’t feel entirely at a loss as to where you might begin. The ending, of course, is a sweet array of Lebanese and exotic marvels, counting among them shaabiyet (filo turnovers stuffed with clotted cream), tiramisu, and Bahamas blanche.
|Where diets die|
|Bahamas Blanche is everything!|
But back to the mains. A nutty frikeh smothered with sautéed kernels and succulent lamb. A beautifully seasoned beef shawarma best doused in silky tahini. Prime rib that cuts like butter, accompanied by your choice of oyster mushrooms, white and green asparagus, or broccoli.
|Prime rib and oyster mushrooms|
|Prime rib grilled to medium-well doneness|
Cleanse the palate with Manchego or Gouda before diving into decadence with semolina bars (aka maamoul madd) and coffee-rich tiramisu. Or go au naturel with fresh mango and pineapple. Kids will derive pleasure from the marshmallows, Smarties, and Chupa Chups on offer.
|Cheese and nuts|
|Deceptively innocent and dainty!|
Around 2 PM, a female violinist swayed through the dance floor, lifting the tranquil setting with her lively tunes. We hardly noticed the sommelier replenishing our wine glasses as our eyes followed the musician and scanned other guests for their effusive contentment.
Brunch as therapeutic as it was, one can only wonder how divine the spa center must be. Mother’s Day may be done and over, but I know where I’ll be heading on my next spoil session.
Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort, Beirut, Lebanon
Candelabra Sunday brunch: 12:30 - 4 PM
USD 65 - Brunch with soft drinks & mocktails
USD 85 - All'Italiano (offering Prosecco & wine)
USD 119 - Le Brunch (offering Champagne & wine)
For reservations, call +961 81 312 004.