Nothing says vintage like a 19th century palace face-lifted into a luxury hotel in the heart of the green Shouf. And if like me, you’ve grown to appreciate taking the old and improving it with the new, then you should drive up to Mir Amin Palace Hotel for lunch at The Terrace on a Sunday.
The Terrace, a spacious patio jotting out into a sea of wilderness, offers a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains overlooking Beiteddine Palace, capturing the quintessence of what put the long lazy Lebanese lunch on the map. Add to that a traditional Lebanese mezza, some local arak and one of the happiest two-man Bedouin duo playing instruments that look like they belong in a museum and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Unfortunately for us, and although we had booked two weeks in advance, we were unable to truly take in the breathtaking view as we were seated away from the rails. And although we had arrived early and most of the tables were empty, the head waiter was not flexible. However, what we lacked in scenery we made up for with food because we were strategically close to the buffet.
The food was no fuss and straight to the point. All your favorite real-deal mezza dishes that grandmas make in the village. From a perfectly balanced tabbouleh, to a sumac topped fatoush, outstanding vegetarian okra in tomato sauce to juicy stuffed vine leaves and perfectly shaped fried kibbeh. It was one of those buffets that made you leave only because your plate was overflowing with promises of coming back for more. And come back for more we did!
The mere thought of the hot dish section left me feeling giddy inside. It had one of my old-time favorite classics, a slow-roasted lamb cooked to perfection on a bed of rice and a beef and chicken shawarma station. That’s right- our very own shawarma station with all the right condiments! The chicken was probably one of the best I’ve had in Lebanon thus far.
It took an enormous amount of will-power for me to control my item intake; I had to carefully manage portions to ensure I made enough room in my belly for everything. It was a little difficult given the rich selection but I knew it was a success when I made it all the way to dessert, which I probably should have avoided all together, as it had a not-so-rich selection of mediocre traditional Lebanese desserts, and an unnecessary selection of international pies mostly stuffed with tasteless cream.
The place got packed, and the atmosphere started to pick up as soon as the Bedouin band began playing some old classics as they approached each table. People would sing along, some even dance as everyone sipped on arak and nibbled on favorites. It had none of those superficial types you’d encounter at other places but rather everyone was there to enjoy their Sunday and genuinely have a good time.
The Service: Old-school, attentive, but there is big room for improvement.
The Price : buffet is around $40 per person sans alcohol, lunch for two with two or three glasses of arak would cost you around 100$.
The Verdict: No Lebanese summer will be complete without a Sunday lunch at Mir Amin Palace.