Best places to eat in the Middle East and North Africa.


The World’s 50 Best group is localising its famed annual list of restaurants for the Mena region this year, in an attempt to promote food-related travel.

“Regional lists show us that diving deeper into a certain culture and market has great benefits … for a region’s cuisine and hospitality sector, as well as for people interested in gastro tourism, wherein they travel not only to see a new place, but also to be part of its food scene,” says William Drew, director of content for the World’s 50 Best.

On February 7, at a ceremony in Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers, the 50 best restaurants across the Middle East and North Africa will be announced – chosen by a panel of 250 anonymous voters from the F&B, travel and publishing industries.

In the run-up to the awards ceremony, correspondents from The National’s various bureaux put together a list of recommended restaurants – based on our predictions and predilections. Whether any (or, indeed, all) of these establishments make the final cut-off remains to be seen, but here’s a guide to 20 much-loved eateries in Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the UAE.

Bon voyage and bon appetite.


Fusions by TalaSea bream carpaccio with bambar ponzu, hibiscus-pickled daikon and golden tobiko by chef Tala Bashmi.

Tala Bashmi is doing nearly the impossible: something unique. The award-winning chef is the recipient of the first Middle East & North Africa’s Best Female Chef Award, and is reinventing Bahraini cuisine to appeal to younger and wider audiences. Bashmi takes traditional recipes, and uses her western training and influence from renowned chefs to create utterly innovative dishes: lobster and mango spring rolls; black-lime-marinated beef tenderloin on khubiz with bone marrow jus and edible “charcoal”; and green tea tiramisu. These are creatively plated and served in a beautiful and vast restaurant housed in Gulf Hotel Bahrain, one of Manama’s oldest and best-known hotels.


Located in an alley in Downtown Cairo, Fasahet Somaya serves different dishes depending on seasonal produce chef-patron Somaya El Assiuty finds in the markets each morning. The set menu is announced on Facebook before the restaurant opens, from 5pm to 7pm.

Promoting Egyptian cuisine is at the heart of Fasahet Somaya, which offers dishes such as molokhiya soup, slow-cooked lamb with chocolate,kawareaa (beef knuckles with spinach), mombar (sheep casing stuffed with rice and meat), stuffed pigeon, sheikh al bazenjan (eggplant with rice and meat), zucchini in Bechamel sauce and meat with prunes.

What the Crust?

Recommended by Kamal Tabikha

The family-owned Neapolitan pizzeria is the only African restaurant to be certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. Located in the upmarket Maadi neighbourhood in Cairo, the restaurant offers pies handcrafted by a pizzaiola certified in Naples, and all the ingredients are imported from Italy.

On the menu are classics such as marinara, margherita and diavola as well as versions with buffalo mozzarella, anchovies and pesto. For dolci, sample the Nutella-filled calzone dusted with sugar.


Jadiriyah Floating Restaurant

Jadiriyah Floating Restaurant is moored on the Tigris. Photo: Haider Husseini / The National

Set in the upmarket Jadiriyah neighbourhood in Baghdad, the restaurant is housed in a huge ship moored on the Tigris. It serves Iraqi and western dishes, but is best known for its version of Iraq’s “national dish”, masgouf, a grilled fish, which is cooked using the traditional method of hanging the fish vertically on two wood sticks in the centre of an open-flame “fire altar”. This and other dishes can be enjoyed to the sounds of a live band performing classical Iraqi maqam.


Italian cook Luca and his Jordanian wife Hind run this cosy, communal kitchen in the heart of Jabal Weibdeh in Amman. The focus is very much on healthy, locally sourced and socially responsible ingredients, and the seasonal dishes change on a daily basis – and on chef Luca’s inspiration for the day.

The five-dish menu is made up of a soup, juice, pasta, vegetarian and meat option. Recent dishes have included soups of potato-fennel and spinach-lentil; pasta with basil, tomato and Parmesan sauces; minced veal stew and chicken steaks with marinara sauce for mains; veggie options such as black rice with sweet potato; red quinoa with beetroot, sunflower seeds and a balsamic dressing.

The restaurant doesn’t deliver and encourages patrons to bring their own containers for takeaways.

Romero Rest House

The Rest House boasts views of a valley, a lake and the hills all at once. Photo: Romero

While all the Romero restaurants dotted around Jordan are known for delicious meals, the one in the Decapolis-era town of Umm Qais is particularly special, thanks to its elevated position and scenic surroundings. The rest house has a wonderful view of the Golan Heights and Lake Tiberias, and serves simple but tasty Middle Eastern mezze, plus the famous Jordanian gallayeh, a traditional dish of sliced meat, vegetables and fresh herbs, sauteed in a savoury sauce.


The first thing that strikes patrons on entering the lush space on the ninth floor of Hotel Albergo is its distinctive decor, which has everything from Persian rugs and Ottoman chandeliers to tables inlaid in the Damascus mother-of-pearl style.

The food is a masterful mix of Mediterranean dishes, with a penchant for Italian flavours – from sliced Portobello mushrooms with goat’s cheese and salmon served on a cedar plant to a soul-warming minestrone – and comes in generous portions.


No best restaurant list can be complete in the current culinary climate without a vegan contender. An interesting option comes by way of the family-owned, farm-to-table restaurant Coara, which is located in the ancient village of Deir Al Qamar (Monastery of the Moon).

Lebanon’s first 100 per cent vegan eatery puts a plant-based spin on popular regional dishes, including shish barak dumplings, baked quinoa kebbe, zucchini lasagne with a creamy cashew sauce, pizzas with almond cheese, and even does a vegan knefe.


The trattoria and cafe in Hamra serves a lovely mix of Levantine and North African dishes (the carrot, halloumi and coriander starter is a must-have). Perhaps more importantly, it is evocative of Lebanon’s enduring spirit – Mezyan turns up the music on Friday nights to encourage people to get up and dance, if only between its socially distanced tables. The owners also recently opened a bookshop near by, a brave decision considering the current economic crisis.


Hidden in an alcove above the olive sellers in Marrakech’s grand bazaar lies Tiznit, with its fluorescent lights, rickety plastic chairs, oilcloth-covered tables – and the most glorious b’stilla you might ever eat.

Perfumed with rose and orange blossom water and stuffed with a perfectly seasoned mixture of eggs, coriander, cinnamon and chicken, the dish is served as an individual pie rather than tyre-sized rounds, maximising the crunchy pastry-to-filling ratio.

Other specialities include a fragrant sweet and savoury rabbit tagine served with fluffy air couscous.


Kathi rolls at Mumtaz Mahal.

One of Muscat’s oldest fine-dining restaurants, Mumtaz Mahal is located atop a hill overlooking the Gulf of Oman on one side and the lush Qurum Park on the other, with views of Muscat city glittering below.

The focus is more on quality than quantity here, but the heartiness and deliciousness of the North Indian fare make up for that. The restaurant offers a variety of chicken, seafood and meat tikkas, kebabs and rolls, plus spiced curries that can be enjoyed with naan or a rich biryani. It also has a large and tasty vegetarian selection.

The Beach Restaurant:

Set in the opulent Chedi Muscat, this restaurant redefines luxurious beachside dining. It’s located just a stone’s throw from the water, so you can hear the waves lapping at the shore. The dim lighting, long columns and stone fire displays add to the exotic ambience, even as the menu makes good on Oman’s coastal cuisine, serving fresh seafood delicacies, from Omani lobster and tiger prawns to Dover sole fillets.

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