A couple of weeks back, a reader asked us where to go for good hotel buffets in the city. That prompted me to think, “have we ever been in a hotel to eat in their buffet?” because if not, I’ll be disappointed. We’ve been eating out for as long as I can remember and not trying a buffet in any hotel in this city is a crime for the supposedly “guide” to Riyadh.
Well, I have tried a few but I don’t think they actually count. I remember my family and I tried the Malaysian buffet of Hilton Garden Inn during the Global Food Festival 2013. It’s good but it’s not available all-year round. We’ve also had our suhoor buffet in The Globe in Faisaliah. Obviously, that too is no longer available since it was just for a special event. So where to go for a good buffet in Riyadh?
Don’t ask me. I’m not good at buffets. I know I look like I eat a lot but I swear I’m no good at buffets. First, I cannot eat a lot in one seating, even if you give me hours in there, so I cannot comment on the food that much. Second, I cannot pay that much money only to eat that little. It’s called waste of money in my vocabulary. And third, I’m judgmental of hotel food. They’re mostly bland and so-so.
But, here’s one buffet that surprised me. It’s actually good!
Welcome to Garden Barbecue in Hotel Al Khozama in Olaya Road beside Faisaliah Tower. I’ve been reading a few reviews on this restaurant and they say that the food is delicious and the ambiance is nice. Now that’s a good feedback so it really piqued my interest. I invited a friend with me for a post-birthday celebration. (Oh please, she’s a girl! Haha!) I reserved three days in advance and like a true blue expensive restaurant, they even texted me a reservation code.
My friend and I were a bit early because I didn’t know where it was located in the hotel. I had an image in my mind that since it’s a garden restaurant, it would be in a floor above the first and will be in a terrace. Silly me, I didn’t think that it’s called a “garden” for a reason. Turns out it’s located in the lawn outside the hotel. And yes, on the ground floor.
Here are the reasons why I like Garden Barbecue… and why this is the buffet I would suggest to anyone who’s asking.
Disclaimer: Because we’re in a hotel restaurant, we are semi-formal and acting all posh and chic and conyo therefore we didn’t take our selfies and food photos because it’s dyahe (embarrassing). Who does that in such an expensive resto?! Nahhh kidding! Hehe. Of course we took photos! But they’re a bit dark and grainy because the lighting in our area is dim.
1. The informal yet lively the setting. The restaurant is set up in a manicured lawn with wooden chairs and tables. It’s not that warm; there are mists that cool the place. The open air set up prevents diners from smelling like barbecue. It’s also surrounded by shrubs decorated with firefly lights for some privacy.
There’s a huge screen for sports afficionados. There’s no sound though so it’s still good for conversations. The only gripe I have is the muddy area near the appetizer line. Other than that, I like the ambiance and place very much. It’s one of those pocket spots in the city that doesn’t remind you of Riyadh… until you look up and get a good view of the Faisaliah Tower.
2. It’s simple; a quality over quantity kind of buffet. The buffet section is divided into three main parts: appetizers, main course, and desserts. That doesn’t sound a lot but for me, it’s well-curated. And a well-curated buffet is enough. The choices and selections are great and appropriate for what they offer: a barbecue feast.
3. Delicious, freshly-cooked food. I hardly ever use this in my buffet experience so maybe you should believe me. But then again, I haven’t been to a lot of buffets so my comparison is a bit limited. But still, I loved their freshly-made khubz with their hummus. I didn’t get the right names for the appetizers I really liked but one has shrimps on it, another is a salad with the softest beef strips, and another one has very refreshing watermelon slices with mint.
And the barbecue selections… my oh my! The meat and seafood are lined up on enclosed trays. Beside them are the master grillers. You can choose any thing you want and they will grill them for you. Right on the spot. In which way you like. Sit back and relax for a while until they deliver your order to our table!
The key to enjoying this buffet is to not be takaw-mata. In English, takaw-mata roughly translates to “Wee, that looks delicious, I’ll have that! And that too! Oh, and that too! They all look delicious! I’ll have every thing!!!” The choices are all enticing so you’d be compelled to choose a lot. There are seafood (salmon, shrimps, octopus, etc.), steaks (sirloin and T-bone), sausages, chicken kebabs, and lamb burgers. My companion and I wanted to try all (because yes, you can select all) but in the end, here are the items that I really, really liked: T-Bone steak (so tender and tasty), lamb burger (juicy), and grilled mussels (so fresh and sweet). I’m so full from all that so I might have ignored the side dishes ergo I can’t comment on those.
The desserts are also good. They have the usual sweet mini cakes and bread pudding. I really liked the ice cream that I had to momentarily forget that I was suffering from cough that week. Maybe it is the reason why I still have cough now but it’s quite good, especially with the crispy flakes and chocolate syrup I smothered it with.
4. Great service. The staff are all nice and attentive. And the one who took our orders for our main courses didn’t bat an eyelash when we rattled off the meats we want to have them grilled. He could’ve said “Really?! That’s only for the two of you?!” But he didn’t! He even said we can order any thing we want! Wooot! Snaps for him. Our waiter also offered us free coffee and tea at the end of our meal.
|Enjoy a night outdoors!|
We were so full! But it was a delightful kind of full! I love this garden barbecue concept!
The Garden Barbecue buffet is priced at SR 195 per person exclusive of drinks. Dinner buffet starts from 7:30pm to 11:30pm. This buffet is worth it. Garden Barbecue Restaurant is truly an oasis in the city! ~ Sundrenched
Garden Barbecue Restaurant
Olaya Road, Riyadh, KSA
Finally! Something different from the usual mall and batha. Thank you. I would like to ask the following questions. Is it strict here? Can you remove your abaya if your inside hence the smart casual attire written on their website? Can you stay for the whole duration of the opening hours of the buffet? Are there any reservations or any prerequisite when dining there?
Sorry I just pretty much skimmed through the whole thing. The answeres were rigjt infront of me. Is it hard to make a reservation? Can you bring a "boy" with you? No questions asked or no mutawas involved?
@Anonymous 12:15AM: No, it's not hard to make a reservation. The restaurant doesn't get full all the time. A "boy"? Haha! Hotels are not too strict about gender segregation and not related male and female. However, I cannot guarantee that they don't get checked. I haven't experienced muttawas in hotel restaurants but we'll never know. I have no idea of their policies
Can you wear anything? Backless dresses or the like?