Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Celebrating Amman

The most marvellous thing about Amman is the sunset. Like Bath, the city’s built out of a single type of light cream stone (‘Jordan stone’ is increasingly popular as a cladding material in the Emirates) and so, like Bath, it is transformed by the dying sun into a display of stunning colour and shade: sienna, umber, orange and red.

I’m staying, for a change, at The Kempinski Hotel in Amman – it’s a strange little place, although by no means unpleasant. It’s in the middle of Shmeisani, which is the central restaurant and general ‘things happening’ district of Amman: a version of Dubai’s Satwa, I guess. I’ve pretty much always stayed at the Grand Hyatt before, although I have occasionally infested the Four Seasons as well. And I’ve done a few stays at the Intercon. Once, in 1988, I stayed at the Marriott.

I’d recommend the Kempinski Amman in a mild sort of way if you’re looking for a reasonably priced short stay business hotel and you’re not too fussed about getting the Greatest Breakfast in the Middle East. As everyone in their right mind knows, this is only available at the Hatta Fort Hotel…

The Amman Kempinski gets a number of the little things right and the room rate’s pretty keen. The Grand Hyatt remains my favourite Amman hotel, though – and the new(ish) seafood restaurant there, 32 North, is stunning – if expensive. Just think landlocked Mediterranean desert country and airfreighted fresh Northern European seafood and you’ll reconcile the price gap, I’m sure.

As I’m in Amman, both literally and figuratively: some other Jordan recommendations. Eat with a noisy group of friends at Jordanian Sushi pioneer Vinaigrette, to be found at the Al Qasr Hotel (It was, until recently, the Howard Johnson Hotel – and is also home to the popular ‘Nai’ nightclub), known locally as ‘Vinny’ or experience the amazing Fakhreddine, one of the great Arab restaurants of the Levant in Amman’s romantic First Circle area of 1920s villas. If you want to get funky, do a smart-arty salad lunch at the Wild CafĂ©, the USAID sponsored joint that overlooks the archaeologically sculpted ages past of the central Citadel or even go for evening drinks at the Blue Fig in Abdoun, just because you want to get deep into Jordanian youth art culture. You could also indulge yourself in a vodka dry Martini at the Four Seasons’ wickedly expensive Square Bar which is, famously, ‘Alex’s treat’. In winter, do the same thing but do it sitting by the fireside in the downstairs lounge. The Patio, my favourite warm winter place in Amman, has sadly gone. But you can recreate its unique culinary ambience, if you like, by going here.

BTW: I always enjoy when the airport transfer driver asks the inevitable question: “Is this your first time in Amman, Seer?” Because I get to answer that no, it’s not. It’s my 58th. Which, I suppose, means that I should try to get out more or something…


TeeBee said...

Cocktails at the Four Seasons; Kempinski vs Grand Hyatt dilemmas; private jets. it's a helluva tough life you lead

Alexander said...

Tell me about it. I shed a little tear for myself every morning.

Mind you, I'm not swanning around the new world quaffing chilled white wine, snarfing through big agency funded buffets heaving with cheeky little cigales and topping it all off with a night at the casino, either.

Hey. Remember when I announced I was off on my annual three month leave and people believed me?

Who's-sane! said...

a wonderful post, and a wonderful blog for that matter!

Keep 'em rolling please :)

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