With nearly every café or restaurant putting on an Iftar, there are no special ways to stand out from the pack. On the other hand, being situated a few kilometers away from the hustle and bustle of the city has its perks.
As much as I prefer homemade food, the food lover in me is constantly searching for a new place to dine. In fact, I wanted to try something new from the familiar buffet spreads in town which explains why I hopped on a boat and made my way to Maafushi. It was a gloomy day but it was breezy – just the way I liked it. Contrary to the anxiety telling me that the seas would be rough, it wasn’t. A short ride later, I arrived on the island and a buggy took my friend and I to our destination, Liyela Retreat. Being new to the boutique hotel, I had a look around. The rustic charm and tranquil essence made the place stand out, and I fell in love instantly.
We made our way to the rooftop restaurant, Raha. The view was gorgeous and the ambiance was, for lack of a better word, cozy. Raha offers an indoor area along with more comfortable chairs outside, where one can enjoy a cuppa coffee or have a Shisha while watching the sun set on the horizon, or simply admiring the view. We, however, opted to stay inside.
The table was already set. My eyes caught the hummus and bread – at this point I wasn’t sure what kind of bread it was. Needless to say, I was impatient. As soon as I heard the prayer call, I broke my fast with a date and moved on to the gulha and masroshi before indulging in the mashuni and roshi.
After I had had my fair share of appetizers, I filled my plate with some of the glorious looking chickpea hummus and dug into it with a piece of homemade Turkish bread, as it turns out. The hummus was rich in flavor – the tahini gave it a slight nutty taste – and not at all plain, they even got the texture just right; it was excellent. Paired off with the light and fluffy bread, it seemed like a meal fit for a Greek God.
Moving on to the main course, I added a bit of everything to my plate. The Greek salad was made with the usual sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers and onion, topped off with feta cheese and olive oil. The chicken tagine, a traditional Moroccan dish, contained chicken pieces braised in a myriad of spices; it smelled divine. The gravy was thick and added a number of distinctive flavors. The grilled beef with garlic sauce proved to be more of an appetizer than a main. I must say, the Greek salad complemented the chicken tagine and Lebanese chicken rice perfectly.
At long last, it was time for dessert. Along with some fruits, we had a generously portioned chocolate and walnut fudge slice and rice pudding. While the fudge didn’t quite deliver that rich chocolaty taste I was hoping for, the rice pudding didn’t appeal to my taste buds either. This was the least enjoyable part of my meal but it didn’t leave me disappointed either.
To wash it all down, I gulped down my watermelon juice and took a sip from the glass of juice next to it. It tasted curiously like pomegranate iced-tea. Turned out, it was pomegranate and mint juice; definitely a must try.
With everyone seeking something novel, Raha offers a beautifully curated Mediterranean menu and a change of scenery. The enduring quality of the spread invites repeated visits – call me curious, I’d love to check out the rest of their menu.
Words & Photos by Nashwa Saeed