There are so many amazing developments happening in Saudi Arabia right now especially in Jeddah and luckily, the Jeddah Hilton served as our gracious host for an entire weekend just recently! We were treated to a full hotel experience of their amenities, restaurants and its unique panoramic view of the Jeddah Waterfront Park. Since Janelle had to leave for the Philippines unexpectedly for a family emergency, I had to carry on our prior commitment to the hotel and luckily our friend JL came along to keep me company.
When we were booking our tickets ahead of time, Janelle and I decided to try out this new low-cost airline called Flyadeal. It turns out to be a new segment from Saudia Airlines in order to possibly compete with the other low-cost brands in the market. Everything was swift at check-in but there was a 30-minute delay caused by the airport ground staff so we didn’t exactly fly out right on schedule. But still, the casually dressed staff and the charging docks on every seat made the flight easy peasy in the next hour and a half.
We finally arrived at the King Abdulaziz International Airport and a limo driver from Jeddah Hilton was waiting for us at the gate with our names. He carried our luggage and ushered us into his shiny, black American car. This was fancy, I thought. Our last trip to Jeddah three years ago was hardly the case as it involved us having to endure a 12-hour bus ride to get back to Riyadh because of an airline mixup. Suffice to say, that was something we wanted erased from our memory. As we pulled up at the hotel’s entrance 20 minutes later, I started to forget about those bad memories and stepped into the revolving door, without even realizing I was about to make new, and better memories about Jeddah in a bit.
We were checked in at Executive Floor, with a Twin Deluxe Room with a Sea View. Guests who were booked at the Executive Floors 9 to 11 have their own reception on the 12th floor. From there, we were already given a preview of the hotel from the top, which gave us major ‘cruise ship’ feels. It makes sense for an oceanside property by Jeddah’s Corniche, located right behind a roundabout of a huge Amwaj (refers to waves in Arabic) statue. It caters to a total of 388 rooms, over five in-house restaurants, gym, salon, numerous meeting rooms and their infamous Hilton Halls, where lavish weddings and events in Jeddah usually takes place. Right beside them, is the Waldorf Astoria Jeddah – Qasr Al Sharq, a sister hotel of the Jeddah Hilton but with a much more majestic flair. I’ll talk more about it in my next entry. For now I want to focus on the Jeddah Hilton and all the awesome things we got to do (and eat) while there.
I arrived earlier to our room that day and was really taken by the view. I have to admit that I viewed the balcony space even before trying out the hotel bed because clearly, this is their vantage point. I gazed out over the new Jeddah Waterfront in front of me and breathed in the vitamin sea. Such a stark difference from where I was three hours ago in 5-degree weather. In Jeddah, temperatures were at 30-degrees that day and with the humidity, I really felt like I was in a different country already.
After settling in, I was able to meet with the hotel’s Marketing Executive, Ms. Ramlah and F&B Operations Manager, Mr. Jorge who both made me feel so welcome upon arrival and also delighted me with interesting conversations throughout my stay (not your regular, run-of-the-mill marketing small talk, mind you). They presented me with our itinerary for the weekend and it looked like I was going to eat, sleep and be merry for the next two days.
But first, coffee.
The Jeddah Hilton has three main restaurants, a cafe, an executive lounge and their Amwaj Room on the 12th floor that they convert into a brunch hall on Fridays. First up, let’s take a look at their international cuisine restaurant, Al Safina. This is where hotel guests can normally have their breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is decorated much like to a look of a ship since that is what Safina means in Arabic. For breakfast, they have over five stations of food to choose from. There’s the cereal station, Arabic breakfast selection, intercontinental breakfast selection, fresh juices station, waffle and pancake station, omelette station and the one I kept coming back to, the bread station.
Look, I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels already and have eaten in a lot of restaurants, but none of them have managed to capture my tastebuds and create an obsession in me for their croissants! I am telling you, these croissants were a work of art. I may not have taken the best photo of it but they are baked perfectly as if they came from croissant heaven. It had the right amount of flakiness about it, the bread itself was moist and slightly chewy as I liked it and the chocolate was the cherry on top. Honestly, if anything, I will go back to Jeddah Hilton for these babies. Standing ovation to their pastry chef, please!
Then there’s their Friday Brunch at the Amwaj Room. Normally, the Amwaj Room is a special function hall on the 12th floor for events and the reason its special is because of its panoramic view of the Jeddah Corniche and the Red Sea. It is a unique experience to dine up there with a splendid afternoon view of the city. We say afternoon because brunch in Saudi Arabia means it’s 1PM to 4PM, usually on Fridays. 😉 You’ll get used to it.
We chose our table by the window of course, but others can still choose to dine in the middle of the hall to avoid the sun. Nonetheless, the view is so grand you won’t miss it from any point of the room.
The buffet selection in the Amwaj Room is made more extravagant by the addition of sushi and sashimi trays, lamb mandi and a fresh seafood and meat station where you can select your dishes to be grilled to your liking. Here goes another food trip!
After all seeing all that food, I really narrowed my choices to the tuna tatake, some salads, the fresh grilled seafood and a cup of ice cream and fruits to wrap up the brunch. I thought it was such a good decision to choose their seafood dishes because it really made me feel like I was being blessed by the sea with its produce and that view. I ended up sitting there and stared at the ocean for as long as I could.
On our last night in Jeddah Hilton, we dined at their latest restaurant on the ground floor called The Ginger Leaf. It’s been operational for over a year now and it’s been getting rave reviews on TripAdvisor and is getting to be known as the best fine dining Indian restaurant in the city. I had JL join me that evening and since she wasn’t a huge fan of Indian food, it was a big surprise that she ended up converting her opinion after our dinner. That’s says a lot!
Their restaurant manager, Mr. Guarav welcomed us to their establishment and briefed us with the dishes that he would most want us to try. As he explained the menu, JL was the skeptic and I was the over-eager one (since I lovvve Indian food).
It can be a bit alarming to find a piece of ginger floating in your dinner glass but this drink really made an impression on us. It is made of cucumber juice mixed with sparkling water, a tad bit of sugar syrup and a slice of ginger. It was truly refreshing to take a sip of it in between meals and that ginger was just the right amount of sliver that wasn’t too aggressive but still noticeable. Great concept for this one.
For appetizers, we were served with traditonal poppadums and dipping sauces, along with a medley of tandoori dishes that were the highlight of of our dinner.
We could not believe that these were just “appetizers”. Every element on this plate was rich and flavorful in their own special ways. The shrimp was juicy and married so well with the herbs and that covered it. The chicken tandoori was marinated in tomato, spices and yogurt, tender at every bite. Then there’s their lamb chops. A novel could be written about those lamb chops and they would be immortalized forever. It was cooked to perfection, with the yogurt and mint playing tag with the charred flavors on the edges of the meat. JL was mesmerized and cursed out how good the lamb chops were. When Mr. Guarav returned to our table, we were applauding aloud to the excellence of the dish. Like really, clapping you guys. It was THAT good. Those lamb chops were the champions of the night.
It then seemed anti-climactic to finally get our Butter Chicken, Dal and Seafood Biryani, but hey, we must taste it all! I for one have never had seafood biryani before so my enthusiasm was still there, even though the lamb chops caught our hearts already.
The main course was served in traditional Indian copperware and for this lot, we enjoyed the Seafood Biryani the most. The Butter Chicken and Dal were good, but the sumptuous and soft seafood underneath this rice was a song not to be forgotten quite quickly. It had squid, prawns, and scallops and the topping of yogurt made it ten times tastier. It has made me want to avoid the usual chicken biryani from now on.
We were already very stuffed after the mains that we weren’t sure if we could still have dessert. But in order to cap off our night at the Ginger Leaf, we tried the Carrot Halwa for our last dish. I liked this more than JL did because it was a mild type of dessert that wasn’t too sweet. The fact that it was made out of carrots made me feel I was eating a healthy dessert too.
Finally the next morning was our flight back to Riyadh already. That fast? Yeah, we know. But before leaving, we still had to try the breakfast at the Executive Lounge so we went there to enjoy the food and the view for one last time.
The breakfast buffet at the Executive Lounge is fairly the same as the selections at Al Safina, only at a lesser scale since the lounge is normally open for guests staying at the Executive Floors at certain hours of the day. We got ourselves some toast, omelettes, bacon and yes, more croissants as we relished our final view of the Jeddah Corniche – because really, it is the highlight of the hotel experience.
The staff in Jeddah Hilton were always all smiles and greeted us every time we entered the hotel. We didn’t experience any problems with the concierge and when we wanted chicken nuggets and ice at 3AM, the room service was at our door 15 minutes later. The wifi was fast! Their limo service even indulged us to stop by the Jeddah Waterfront Park for several minutes as we took photos before going to the airport for our flight back to Riyadh.
Thank you, Jeddah Hilton for an amazing weekend! There’s more to see on our tour of their neighboring property, Waldorf Astoria Jeddah on my next entry. For now, check out the Jeddah Hilton for your next trip to Jeddah!
Corniche Rd, Ash Shati, Jeddah
Website: Jeddah Hilton Hotel