IDULGING THE SENSES IN THE MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA

Mary Gostelow is often called the world authority on luxury hotels. In addition to being global ambassador for International Luxury Travel Market Events (www.iltm.com) she has a daily travelogue (www.girlahead. com). In this report, she takes us on a tour of HER choice of high-end gastronomic destinations – spotlighting the Middle East.

IN DUBAI, GOURMETS HEAD FOR STEAK – SLAPPING THEATRE AT NUSR-ET IN RESTAURANT VILLAGE, JUMEIRAH BEACH.

Alain Ducasse’s largest restaurant in his growing global empire opened last December, literally atop the picture-book Emerald Palace Kempinski in Dubai. Why “picture-book”? The resort’s owner, Never Mkhitaryan, wanted the ultimate European- style palace, and he designed and built it, a 390-room hotel with a lifetime supply of gold leaf, over 6,000 priceless crystal chandeliers and 390 sumptuous rooms, smallest size 65 sq m. Mkhitaryan added his favourites, a Blüthner grand piano, and a 400 – seat miX Alain Ducasse restaurant. Book ahead for the 12-seat Chef’s table under the dome, go for hammour couscous, followed by lobster with artisanal pasta. Elsewhere in Dubai, gourmets head for steak-slapping theatre at Nusr-ET in Restaurant Village, Jumeirah Beach. Nusr-ET is named for Nuret Gökçe, and best-sellers are ribs, and what is said to be the area’s best baklava.

For diners who want more discreet experiences, however, here are two of the elegantly casual alternatives. At Dubai’s logo hotel, Burj Al-Arab, as iconic as its Opera House is to Sydney, try indoor- outdoor Scape Restaurant & Bar, on the hotel’s floating platform, made in Finland, all 12,000 sq m of it, and towed round here, to UAE. It’s large enough to host massive pools and cabanas, and this restaurant. Soak up the sun and go for lobster tacos followed by a traditional sundae with salted caramel ice-cream and brownies, served by St Barth’s types in icecream-pink polo shirts and white designer shorts. Alternatively, head for Park Hyatt Dubai, surrounded by golf course, Creek and a new white-sand beach. Enjoy a Hendricks-and-tonic in seventyseventy bar before The Thai Kitchen’s soft-shell crab in garlic pepper sauce.

You’re surrounded by stark jagged mountain rock at Anantara Al Jabal al Akhdar, 200 metres up and an hour’s drive from the Omani capital Muscat. After rock-climbing, hiking or generally lazing around the pool, watch the usually sensational sunset from a glass-sided viewing platform cantilevered over a valley void. Al Qalaa (“The Fort”), with a 12-variety salt collection – black from Hawaii and pink from the Himalayas through to seaweed- studded salts – drink Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve before a copious mezze followed by Omani lamb shank braised with local spices (perhaps you have already booked for a take a culinary masterclass, tomorrow, perhaps balanced by a Detox & Weight Loss workout).
Surrounded by endless desert, El Fayoum lake, 90 kms west of Cairo, is a green oasis. The compact village, still inhabited, includes Olivier and Nanette Masson’s ultimate eight-room hideaway retreat, Lazib Inn Resort & Spa. At its Blue Donkey restaurant, named for the full-size resin sculpture hanging upside-down from the ceiling, try the signature Fayoum pigeon stuffed with barley, served on RAK plates from Ras al- Khaimah, UAE.