I had wanted to go to Jammal, a fish restaurant near Batroun north of Beirut, for a very long time but had never gotten round to it. So, when my friend Jacquot (who is a fine bouche and always takes me to great places) suggested we have lunch at Chez Maggie, not far from Jammal, I asked if we could go to Jammal instead. I had been to Maggie’s. It’s fun but I knew from Mr Dabboussi, the handsome owner of the great Silver Shore in Tripoli, that Jammal was the place there. And so it was: a fabulous location, pieds dans l’eau as the French would say with the freshest fish (all caught locally) prepared to perfection, not to mention the super charming owner. You can see him in the clip below explaining about local fish, sadly for some in Arabic, and I cut just as he was about to tell me the name of the fish that many serve as red mullet but isn’t. Oh and the lady is not Jacquot who was sitting next to me.
The interesting thing about fish restaurants in Lebanon is that one tends to order more moderately than in regular restaurants mainly because people want to enjoy the fish and do not want to spoil their appetite eating too many mezze dishes. And it is exactly what we did at Jammal. We had spotted the most amazing shrimp thrashing their last breath in a tub as we entered the restaurant. We asked for some to be grilled and we also ordered red mullet (sultan ibrahim) which we asked to be fried.
With our fish, we ordered a rocket and fresh thyme salad which came from his garden and seriously good batata harra (spicy potatoes) even though I would have liked the potatoes to be a little more crisp on the outside.
We also had excellent baba ghannuge and the most delicious pickled cabbage rolls which you don’t really see in Lebanese restaurants. I normally have them in Syria, at my favourite restaurant in Damascus, Khawali. Jammal’s version is different. Less tart and fresher in a way. Almost as if they make them on a regular basis and don’t let them preserve for too long.
The crudités which are always served automatically in Lebanese restaurants also came from his garden and were supremely fresh.
To finish, we had tamriyeh (filo pastry filled with an eggless cutard and fried), a sweet that is not normally found on restaurant menus and that is prepared for religious feasts. The regular version is made into squares, sometimes triangles but they make theirs into rolls and I have to say, their tamriyeh is better than at the sweetmakers, perhaps because they fry it to order.
All in all, a wonderful meal in great company and in the the most fantastic setting — in the summer people arrive in their boats and Mr Jammal sends a dinghy to pick them up and bring them to the shore and the waiter always takes a plate of canapés to welcome the diners!
Jammal, Kfarabida, South of Batroun, Tel: +961 6 740 095, Mob: +961 3 640 095
Tagged : batata harra, batroun, fish restaurants, jammal, khawali, lebanese restaurants, local fishing, pickled cabbage rolls, prawns, red mullet, restaurants in lebanon, silver shore, sultan ibrahim, tamriyeh 6