Everyone is back to work after the Hajj break, but not for us. The Pink Tarha was on full work-mode during the last 10 (or was it 15!?) days of envy-inducing vacation from friends and readers who either spent their Hajj by traveling outside the country or by reuniting with their beds. We tried our best not to sulk during that time but perhaps it paid off when we received an invitation to visit the recently-opened Mövenpick Hotel Riyadh last Wednesday. Finally, something new to experience! Especially since it has been a while since we’ve seen the erected facade of the hotel and we always wondered when would it ever open despite their active and engaging social media posts. And here they are!
I personally think that hotels in Riyadh are a quick-fix to anyone dreading for a refined staycation with full services on deck. Whether you’re a worn-out employee or a family looking for a fancy getaway from the constricts of your home, I’ve seen many Riyadhizens do it. In fact, as we arrived there last Wednesday, I saw several Saudi families with kids in tow enjoying the hotel facilities. It seems word is getting around that this new hotel has opened and they were eager to spend some of their Hajj break vacation there.
The most noticeable thing that I felt once I entered their lobby was how refreshing it was in contrast to other buildings that can feel stuffy and rigid. I think it’s because of all the dome-like spaces that the architects of the building must have employed throughout the entire hotel. The lighting was mostly natural and there was something about all the round interiors that made it feel open and bright. The decor of the lobby was mostly understated with jewel tones of purple, green and brown with sparkling drop down chandeliers. Behind the main lobby was the Rotunda Lobby Lounge with an abstract statue in the middle. While we were there though, we could see that they were still working on the final touches.
We were met by Ms. Sarah, one of the hotel’s marketing officers and it turns out, she’s Drew Barrymore’s doppleganger! Yes I just had to say that because I couldn’t help but feel like a Hollywood celebrity was about to tour us around. I probably got so wrapped up in that that I forgot to take photos of the lobby! Fortunately, I was able to take photos of the rest of their minty-new facilities. She also told us that The Pink Tarha was the first “media” people that they have invited to preview their hotel. Cool!
Sarah took us through the first tower on the right which housed most of their dining areas and conference rooms. The first of which was the Horizon – Flavors of the World Restaurant. Here they feature international cuisines with a regular buffet and brunch during the weekends. It had a sleek and modern vibe with large windows that let the natural light in.
Next up, we passed by the other two restaurants: the Acacia – a French restaurant to be headed by the three-star Michelin chef, Pierre Gagnaire (popular for his modern French cuisine). Their restaurant was still closed during our visit so we moved on to Naya – a Lebanese restaurant that features a more refined take on popular Lebanese food. We were told that we’d have lunch there after the tour so more photos and reviews on that restaurant in a bit. For now, let me show you some of the other rooms that we visited while at the Mövenpick Hotel Riyadh.
All of the meeting rooms in the hotel are named after the other provinces of Saudi Arabia (like Qassim, Abha, Jeddah, Dammam etc) and in every meeting room, there is a painting or artwork that is relevant or from that province. Nice touch!
We were then taken to the largest space in the hotel which is the Grand Ballroom and it is where conferences or Saudi weddings can be conducted. In here, many traditional accents remained, possibly to uphold the solemnity of the events that will be performed there. Obviously spacious, it can hold at up to 800 people if used all at once. Note: there hasn’t been a wedding held there as of date, so who could be the lucky one to start it off? Maybe you? 😉
Later on, we were fortunate enough to be let in to one of the hotel rooms to get a glimpse of what their rooms were like. The basics were there of course, but one of the things that the Mövenpick Hotel was proud about was their eco-friendly features that make the rooms less reliant on consuming natural resources. I am not thoroughly sure about the sciences behind it, but it’s good to know that they are at least conscious of caring for the environment. By the way, if anything, I would have simply stayed for the pillows! They were a slice of heaven and I just wanted to sleep on them right then and there.
As we headed back down, we caught sight of their pool and gym area. I really liked how the orange colors popped against the blue pool. There were some kids enjoying the kiddie pool on the side while the lifeguards were dutifully looking after them. Unfortunately, only men and children can swim and their patient mom was just sitting on one of the lounge chairs. I commented that a women’s only outdoor pool should someday be available to us in hotels like these so that we can have our own swimming fun under the sun.
Right beside their free-form pool is a fully equipped “Rio Gym” that’s for men only. It was quaint but looked unique because of the circular orientation of the machines overlooking the view of the pool. Like I said, you’re going to see a lot of circle-references within the hotel because it’s everywhere.
Adjacent to the gym would be the Aurora Spa by Joelle, which will be exclusive to women (finally something for the ladies!). It will have a sauna, Jacuzzi, steam rooms and beauty rooms. They were still working on that part so we weren’t able to take a look. So we then proceeded to have our lunch at the Naya Restaurant.
We were welcomed by courteous staff who led us to our table. The ambience was warm and cozy with bundles of artful flameless candles adorned overhead the private dining spaces. In the more open area, again, it’s the large windows acting like walls that help make the dining space bright and welcoming.
As we were seated, we asked the waiter for his recommendations and he indulged us at presenting some notable dishes that Naya had to offer. Here is what we had:
For Cold Mezzas (Appetizers):
Of all the starters, J liked the Mhamara one best and even kept it from being taken by the waiter when the main course was about to be served. I liked the Tagen Qraydis for the complimentary combination of the poached shrimp and tahini sauce. I was anticipating how any more special fattouch can get and it turns out, with the right Sumac-infused vinaigrette, it can take it to another dimension.
Granted my experience eating Arabic food from various restaurants in the past, again, I was skeptic at how special can a shish tawouk get. But one bite from this skewered delight dispelled any of my doubts as it turned out to be the juiciest, most tender piece of Chicken Shish Tawouk that I have ever tasted. On another note though, the grilled button mushrooms and cherry tomatoes that come along as a garnish were something I salivated over. It was crunchy and juicy, both at the same time. I tried to fish the rest of them off from the serving plate.
The natural light just gave these lamb cutlets justice as it shows how they were seared to perfection. A nice squeeze of lemon on top made it more delicious than it already was. It wasn’t too tender nor was it too tough and I liked the seasoning very much. If I hadn’t enjoyed the shish tawouk earlier, I would have equally eaten this dish with as much gusto thus, I only had one piece. 🙂
Finally, for dessert, I settled for my “comfort zone” when it comes to Arabic desserts, which is the Kunafah. Meanwhile, Sarah recommended this Lebanese dessert that she grew up with (but we unfortunately forgot what it’s called) but it did look like this and it was made of labneh and some form of soft-steamed pastry dipped or sprinkled with some sweet syrup. It was delicate and made me feel like it was a comfort food.
For drinks, I had the Sumac Blossom drink while J had the Captain Iced Tea, which I believe was apple-flavored. Initially, I was hesitant to try out a possibly-sour cocktail but it ended up being very pleasant and the aroma from the sumac blossom made it more memorable.
And on that sweet note, that is our tour of the Mövenpick Hotel Riyadh. At our time of visit, there were still parts of the hotel that were being finalized (like the Rotunda Lobby and the Gift Shop), granted that they only opened for business right before the Hajj break so we expect a smooth sailing service once they have everything completely up and running. If you’re looking to discover something new in Riyadh one of these days, then pay them a visit and try one of their restaurants as well. Personally, I am eager to try out the Acacia Restaurant on my next visit! Oh and before I forget, it may serve you some good to know that they have a “Happy Hour” every 5PM, where in one of their pastry chefs welcome their guests in the lobby with free chocolates to those who pass by. Hopefully, they’d offer their signature Mövenpick ice cream flavors soon too! 🙂
Mövenpick Hotel Riyadh
King Fahad Road/Al Ma’ather Road