FACT Review: Soulful Levantine favourites with a modern twist at Niyyali

FACT Review: Soulful Levantine favourites with a modern twist at Niyyali



If the sound of falafel, fatteh and fattoush makes your stomach rumble, you’ll want to visit Niyyali.

“You must try Niyyali,” a friend tells me when we meet for coffee in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. “It’s the hottest reservation in town”, he gushes. “Last time, I had to wait ten days for a reservation.”

By sheer coincidence, this modern Middle Eastern restaurant sits on the third floor of Shangri-La Jeddah, the hotel I happen to be staying in during my first trip to Saudi Arabia’s second-largest city. Better yet, they’re able to squeeze in a solo diner on an otherwise busy Saturday evening.


Niyyali spans an indoor dining room and garden terrace where families gather to dine with views over the Red Sea and Jeddah Corniche Circuit. It’s an inclusive and charming setting perfect for catch-ups with friends and families, juxtaposed against the dancing illuminations that shoot up the side of the hotel once the sun has set. Inside, the sophisticated spot boasts arched ceilings with shimming chandeliers and an open kitchen with a roaring wood-fired oven that is used to create pillow-light bread and other specialities. A soundtrack from Charlie Puth, Craig David, Eminem and Sting is imbued with an Arabic twist to elevate the atmosphere.


Hot and cold mezze and abundant kebabs are popular choices at this upmarket Levantine spot. Signatures include Smoked Salmon Labneh (SAR 100) and the Seafood Salad (SAR 135). However, I’m immediately enamoured with the Hummus Truffle (SAR 70), which offers a smooth and silky rendition of the Middle East’s most recognisable dish. Topped with mushrooms and pine nuts for texture, the earthy truffle and velvety hummus perfectly surmise the Niyyali concept, where classic dishes are given a modern re/interpretation.

As the name suggests, the Chilli Potatoes (SAR 40) are a fiery hit. Perfectly cubed, crisp on the outside, fluffy within and coated in garlic, cumin and coriander. A spicy showcase that appears on every table, and should rightly have its own Instagram account. 


The Shrimps Provincial (SAR 70) is a tart choice thanks to a generous dousing of lemon and pepper paste across the plump sautéed shrimp. However, the Mixed Grill (SAR 140) is where Niyyali truly excels. Available for two or four guests, expect a platter laden with tawook, beef cubes and minced lamb, presented with sensational seasoning and a preferential char. While mixed grills often have a tendency to be overcooked and chewy, Niyyali’s succulent meats require minimal mastication. 

With just six desserts on offer, diners can indulge in traditional Um Ali (SAR 45), Chocolate Pistachio Karabij (SAR 45) or the ever-popular Kunafa Cheese (SAR 45). The latter is a lighter-than-expected cheese semolina dough stuffed with cheese and served with a sweet and alluring flower syrup.


Translating as “how lucky I am” in Lebanese, Niyyali draws inspiration from Lebanon’s rich culinary heritage. Under the guidance of Chef Ali Al Haj and General Manager Gilbert Kfoury, Niyyali has taken comfort food favourites and transformed them into an upmarket dining experience.

Like the hotel in which it resides, Niyyali sets the standard for high-end hospitality in Jeddah.

Niyyali is open on weekdays from 4pm to 1am, and weekends from 1pm to 1am.

GO: Visit www.niyyali.com for more information.