alking into the Layali Zaman majlis at the Le Meridien Dubai, it’s difficult not to wonder at the sheer size of the place. Of course, with its capacity to seat 400 guests, it helps that the hotel chose to use its Falcon Ballroom for the transformation — still, it takes a few moments to get your bearings and figure out the buffet stations and seating options.
The ‘ big’ draw of the place is not the size of the venue though — it’s the size of their menu that features a plentiful array of Middle Eastern and international specialities. About half a dozen counters take up the far end of the room — and it’s all you can eat for Dh149 per head.
The mezzes — both cold and hot — are a great start, and you could be in danger of filling yourself up with savoury t r eats l i ke Fried Kibbeh, Spinach Fatayer, Cheese Sambousek, as well as other classic culprits like Hummus, Tabbouleh, Beetroot Moutabel and Fattouch.
An entire station is dedicated to salads — with 10 different kinds to choose from. The bread station offers assorted bread rolls and baguettes, the soup station a selection of three kinds of soup, and the cheese station is a treat for the eyes, with a variety of English and Arabic cheeses to indulge in ( albeit, a tad guiltily).
You’d think they’d given you all you could fancy by way of appetisers, but the majlis even has an Indian street food station, with Gol Gappas, Chaat and Sev Puri! Let the record state that we didn’t even try to resist. In fact, my dining partner thinks he made the server’s day when he challenged him to make his gol gappa as spicy as possibble, and the young man lit up and began putting the request together with much enthusiasm. The more adventurous diners can look out for the beef tongue being offered too — but you’d have to tell us how it was; unfortunately, neither of us was feeling very brave that night!
As you can see, you’d need to practically bridle yourself to keep from filling up on the starters alone. But it was time to explore the mains — the counters for which stretched along two walls. The whole Ouzi ( braised lamb on a bed of spiced rice) takes pride of place at the head of the counter, followed by an array of meat and fish dishes, such as the Mixed Grill, Hammour Hara, Chicken Maklouba, Cashew Chicken and Lamb Tajine. We were a tad disappointed to note that there weren’t many options for vegetarians, save for the Potato Gratin and Pasta with Marinara Sauce.
The servers are polite, materialising almost magically and clearing your table as soon as you’re done. The ambience is very relaxing, and it’s easy to lose track of time — sipping on drinks like jallab ( a type of fruit syrup) and rooh afza ( concentrated squash) with milk — while also getting lost in conversation.
Rounding off the offerings is the desserts counter — you can’t miss it, given the large camel statue placed on it that is almost the first thing to catch your eye as you enter the room. The assortment on the table lends itself to a sweet haven, as you’re spoilt for choice with Mixed Baklawa ( filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sugar syrup), Mahalabia ( milk pudding), Kunafa ( cheese pastry), Umm Ali ( bread pudding) and Mamool ( traditional cookies with various fillings). And those are only the Middle Eastern desserts. Cheesecakes, caramel, carrot cakes and ice creams also beckon — and we’ll take our hats off to you if you manage to sample them all.
In the end, if there’s anything you’ll come away with after a feast so sumptuous, it’s that these guys sure know how to lay out a spread.