Last Friday we decided to revisit one of my family’s favourite haunts, Casper and Gambini, as we stepped out of our car, we saw that our favourite was no more- and it had been replaced by a newbie called Uptown 966! This was a bit of a shock, comparable to the shock that you get when you go to put on your favourite feel-good item of clothing only to discover it’s been ruined in the wash.
We entered the restaurant with a bit of trepidation, hoping for the best, while I secretly dreaded the worst. Inside, the changes seemed limited to slight changes in decor, certain glass topped tables had been replaced by low black wooden tables, and the big couches were replaced by smaller individual ones, but were just as snug. We grabbed out favourite spot near the big glass window, which sort of juts out over the restaurant entrance, and although it’s in the smoking-section we breathed a sigh of relief that there were no smokers seated in the area. I love this spot because its bathed in natural sunlight, which is a rarity for most Jeddah’s restaurants.
|The restaurant is well-lit by natural light, and has wooden floors and panels|
The menu arrived; the ‘look’ had changed: it was short booklet of recycled paper strapped onto a black card. But as I browsed through the menu, I noticed that the content was pretty much the same- with the addition of pizzas, and availability of shisha at SR42.
|A view of Andalus Street.|
We collectively ordered a Tomato and Basil soup, a Watermelon and Blue cheese salad, a Papaya Shrimp sandwich, and the Asian inspired Cashew Chicken, and for drinks we ordered their popular frozen Lemonade with a twist of mint and Lemonade with kiwi.
At the end our order, we asked the waiter the reason behind the name change. He politely informed us that it was a simply a change of ownership and now it was no longer part of the C and G franchise; instead it was now fully locally owned. He then reassured us that 90-95% of the menu was the same as before as well as the staff, and-crucially the chefs (so we need not worry).
Our Friday lunch tends to be rather late, so when they served us the assortment of bread with butter and tapenade, I devoured it much like a vampire does its prey. My favourite is the soft spongy bread which they serve while it’s still warm.
The tomato and basil soup arrived in a huge bowl, garnished with croutons and accompanied by a mini Panini bread/bun. This was not just a starter; it was a meal in itself. I sampled it and tasted lovely, the tomatoes were roasted then and pureed and seasoned with the right amount of basil, and a bit of cream/cheese to add depth.
The watermelon and blue cheese salad was beautifully presented in the form of a giant flower, the endive lettuce came in quite useful to create the flower petal effect, and pink of the water melon added colour, and julienne cut green apple added crunch and sweetness.. This salad is an acquired taste; the blue cheese dressing is tangy and at times slightly bitter, with a strong flavour and may not be everybody’s cup of tea so to speak.
The papaya shrimp cold sandwich was filled with succulent shrimp with a tasty sauce; it was accompanied by choice of either fries or salad, as we had ordered a salad we’d chosen fries.
The Cashew Chicken is served in a big bowl ideal for sharing, it is comprised of basmati rice flavoured with assorted spices, topped with crunchy slices of stir fried veggies, a generous helping of fried/roasted cashew nuts, round chicken pieces coated in batter and fried, and finally, topped off with an upside down fried egg, garnished with soya sauce! It may sound like a strange combination, but it works, and needless to say it is a very filling dish with a variety, of textures, and flavours that complement and satisfy.
Once we had finished our meals the waiter politely asked us if we’d like some tea or desserts. As we were having trouble deciding which tea we’d like, he brought over two boxes: One box contained labelled test tubes which contained different types of teas. You could select which ever tea suited your fancy, and pick out the corresponding teabag from the second box.
Between we chose green tea, earl grey, and ginger calm. The ginger calm tastes and smells as exotic as it sounds.
To conclude , the bill came to SR331, and I felt it was worth every riyal.
As we left the restaurant with a smile on our faces, and I thought to myself, our favourite wasn’t lost after all: a new name but the same great taste!
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