Saudi cooking is heavily influenced by the ancient nomadic way of life, using simple ingredients that are readily available and in keeping with Islamic regulations. For a true taste of Middle Eastern cuisine, visit the restaurants of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital city.
Middle Eastern dining is becoming increasingly popular in the west, but those who have a taste for it will know that the only way to truly eat like a local is to take a trip there. Our Radisson Blu Hotel Riyadh is perfectly positioned for feasting at some of the Saudi Arabian capital's finest traditional restaurants, whether you prefer gourmet cuisine or sizzling street food.
Jump in at the deep end with a dining experience that makes no concessions to western ways. This restaurant sets the tone from your very first step inside; coming in from the dusty streets, the richly patterned rugs and stone floors will transport you to another world and a bygone era. Visitors take their seats on ornately patterned rugs and cushions and work their way through huge portions of regional delicacies. The star dish is the incredibly tender camel kabsa, served with heaps of rice and sweet peppers with juicy dates on the side.
Areej Art Café
Anyone who likes their dinner with a splash of culture should add a trip to Art Café to their itinerary. Saudi fashion designers and artisans exhibit here, and you can even take an art class before eating. The cooking fuses Arabic and European cuisines, but the menu’s highlights are the more authentic items. For a light meal, try the fattoush, a salad made from crisp pitta breads tossed with fresh vegetables and spiced with sour sumac. It'll leave just enough room for some luqaimat, sweet dumplings drenched in syrup and topped with crunchy pistachios.
After midday prayer on Friday, Riyadh's locals flock to the buffet at Al Nafoura for the incredible array of seafood. Nip in as soon as prayers are finished to beat the crowd and tuck into piles of succulent lobster and crab claws, as well as local favourites like fish sayadieh, a spiced rice dish served with caramelised onions and pan seared fish. There's a huge choice of desserts as well; the ma'amoul, delicious biscuits filled with nuts and dates, are particularly good.
Set Al Sham
If you've got a special occasion to celebrate, this is the place to go. Guests are greeted at the gate before being ushered into the restaurant, which is decorated in the luxurious style of a Syrian palace. Dine in a private room for an intimate experience, or soak up the ambiance at a communal table. It excels in indulgent dishes like muhallabia; this creamy milk and rice pudding flavoured with rosewater is the perfect end to a Middle Eastern meal.
To sample Saudi street food at its best, head to Mama Noura. This restaurant is just as popular with locals as it is with tourists, who mainly visit to try its unbeatable shawarma: spit-roasted meat carved into generous slices and stuffed into warm pittas with a salad garnish. The queues for this special dish can be long, but the service is famously efficient and friendly.