Old buildings with traditional mashrabiya woodworking palm tress in Al Balad, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

With a rich trading history and diverse population, Jeddah is among the most cosmopolitan cities in Saudi Arabia. The country's commercial centre abounds with fresh, innovative interpretations of age-old Middle Eastern recipes and, thanks to its Red Sea location, beautifully fresh fish and seafood. From the city’s tastiest breakfasts to the most exciting culinary fusions, here are the best food experiences you’ll find in Jeddah.

Savour a Middle Eastern breakfast

Shakshuka, a popular Middle Eastern breakfast

Shakshuka is a popular Middle Eastern breakfast dish made with poached eggs in a spicy tomato and bell pepper sauce (Photo: Getty Images)

Locally renowned for its superb breakfasts and brunches, Ext Seventeen will bring a positive start to anyone’s day. Modern in design and eclectic in its approach, the restaurant is often praised for its truffle-scrambled eggs, pistachio-packed oatmeal and flavoured teas.

Over at stylish Maison de Zaid – also known as Dar Zaid – in the Al Rawdah district, breakfast is a veritable feast. Not only does the menu feature the traditional Middle Eastern breakfast dish, fuul, a blend of fava beans, olive oil and cumin, it also serves hearty Arabic platters, expertly cooked shakshuka and, for the sweet-toothed, delicious pistachio pancakes. There’s a separate bakery tempting guests with its freshly baked goods, too.

For an eclectic take on breakfast, Meez, on Sultan Street, also hits the mark. Inspired by traditional Middle Eastern markets, the restaurant takes a fun and light-hearted approach to dining with friendly staff and an airy, plant-filled setting. While caramelised French toast and avocado on sourdough bring an international feel to the menu, dishes like the creamy fava bean cake, flaky babka and cornflake-topped maasoub pancakes offer an enticingly fresh perspective on Middle Eastern classics.

Explore the maritime influence on Arabic culinary traditions

Middle Eastern cooked fish topped with herbs and garlic

Jeddah’s proximity to the Red Sea has led to a unique fusion of maritime flavours in its dishes (Photo: Getty Images) 

As a city that’s located right on the Red Sea coast and has evolved from a small fishing village, first founded some 2,500 years ago, seafood is abundant in Jeddah. Travellers keen to dine on the city’s freshest fish can stop by the aptly named Feast at Sheraton Jeddah Hotel. Alongside a rich variety of international cuisines, diners can savour everything from fresh crab and sautéed lobster to prawns flavoured with fragrant lemongrass and chilli sauce. The convivial Friday brunches, terrace and delightful sea views also make this a must-visit spot.

Among the other fish restaurants in Jeddah, Al-Qalzam Fisheries garners attention for its high-quality, fresh produce, generous portions and big flavours. While favourites such as lobster and jumbo shrimp can be enjoyed with various tamarind and spice-based sauces, more traditional Middle Eastern cooking styles, where the fish is filled with herbs and vegetables, are also on offer.

Sample some of the city’s finest meat dishes

Middle Eastern lamb skewers

Jeddah is known for its succulent meat dishes, with popular options including kabsa and mandi featuring fragrant tender meats served with mint sauce and rice (Photo: Getty Images)

Travellers hoping to make their break in Jeddah an unforgettable one should reserve one of the sought-after tables at Pampas Restaurant, located at the artistically designed Assila, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Jeddah. Inspired by Latin American cuisine, the restaurant attracts an international clientele, with a team of chefs who use only premium dry-aged steaks while harnessing open grill techniques using specially selected acacia wood. The result is a menu of deliciously seared wagyu burgers and beef fillets, as well as hearty salads laced with piquant habanero sauce.

Taking a Mediterranean approach to cooking, Labeeb, too, excels in cooking succulent meat dishes. Consider opting for the mixed grill platter or choose from their myriad styles of shawarma. Or, for something different, try the Lebanese-inspired shredded chicken dish known as chicken fatteh, or the mankouche, where meat is served pizza-style, spread across a flatbread.

A more traditional Jeddah venue to try is Al Saddah, a local favourite that offers both dining and takeaway, and where standout dishes like lamb mandi – traditionally slow-cooked in an underground oven for the most succulent, flavourful result – give the venue its authentic feel.

Delight in traditional Middle Eastern sweets

Jeddah baklava with pistachio on a display

Pistachio baklava is a delicious dessert made from layers of phyllo dough filled with crushed pistachios and sweet syrup, creating a sweet and nutty pastry (Photo: Getty Images) 

With a mastery of myriad international cuisines, Reyhana Restaurant takes its guests on an unforgettable culinary journey through flavours from across the world. Alongside its opulent setting, at The Ritz-Carlton Jeddah, this palatial venue also attracts attention for its excellent desserts. Dedicating an entire room to the final course, Reyhana Restaurant excites the most sweet-toothed clients with Middle Eastern treats like flaky baklava and deep-fried katayef, as well as various pistachio-based delights.

For more of a café vibe, Sucré Salé Patisserie, in Jeddah’s Al-Rawdah district, is also worth a visit. While the pastries here span myriad international styles, the ghorayeba, a pistachio-topped shortbread, and maamoul, a delicious date-filled cookie, are must-try Saudi favourites.

Immerse yourself in a fusion of Arabic flavours

Traditional Middle Eastern Dolma

Dolma is a traditional Middle Eastern dish that involves stuffing various types of leaves or vegetables with a flavourful mixture of rice, herbs, spices, and sometimes meat (Photo: Getty Images)

Twenty Four Restaurant stakes a claim both as the best buffet restaurant in Jeddah and a great example of the city’s approach to fusion cooking. Located at Assila, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Jeddah, this all-day dining spot sits right by mid-town’s fashionable Al Tahlia, or Tahlia Street. The spread includes everything from speciality breads and Arabic-style salads to freshly made dolma accented with tangy pomegranate seeds. The restaurant's 'surf 'n' Turf' Saturdays, featuring barbecued meat and seafood, are considered a weekend treat by in-the-know locals.

Another local favourite is sleek Niyyali, a 2023 arrival to Jeddah's dining scene. Lying a little north of Jeddah Waterfront Harbor and the Atallah Happy Land amusement park, the restaurant serves Lebanese and Arabic-inspired grills, delicious seafood salads and innovative takes on labneh.

A stylish venue for special occasions like Iftar – the evening meal that Muslims enjoy after sunset during Ramadan – is the old-meets-new Tamees House. Taking a modern approach to traditional Saudi architectural style, the restaurant's setting instantly makes an impact. So, too, does its eclectic menu of Hejazi-style regional dishes, distinguished by their generous use of spice, pickles and bold flavours. The restaurant's approach – offering its inspiring range of tamees bread, meat-filled moutabak and classic liver sandwiches on modern serving boards with a side of fries – showcases the innovative mindset that makes it one of Jeddah's culinary gems.

Published: October 27, 2023

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