ONE TRUE COVE
Along Batroun’s crowded coastline, Jammal Restaurant is one of the few places to have retained a semblance of peace.
In the high season in Batroun, an afternoon sunbather could almost forget the marine freshness amidst the sound vibrations, promiscuity, alcohol and heat. Jammal Restaurant is one of the few places to have retained a semblance of peace.
It is reached by car, or even better, by boat: it is possible to anchor offshore and take a kayak to reach the land. Yes, except in Lebanon, places like Jammal have become so rare that their simplicity makes them exceptional.
The restaurant serves fresh fish and some house specialties like Kabbis malfouf — rolled cabbage with green pepper, nuts, and almonds. Here, the freshness of the seafood is guaranteed. Shrimps by example, are eaten barely out of the water, as sashimi.
“Our kitchen is simple. It has the taste of the raw material, fish, nature fished well, “says Michel Jammal, 28, director of restaurant. At dawn, at four in the morning, sea bream, cuttlefish, squid, shrimp and other seafood products are purchased at auction of Tripoli, the largest in the country. Much of the menu is also from an adjacent garden. This is where Michel, who, holds a degree in hospitality, cultivates tomatoes, parsley, mint, wheat and olives — delicious ingredients for the restaurant’s fattouches and tabbouleh, and served as an accompaniment.
It’s difficult finally leave without having tasted the tamriyeh, the famous dessert semolina cream, essential after a day of beach.
“Our specialty, is to roll. My grandmother was the the first to offer the restaurant now it’s everywhere in Lebanon, “says the restaurateur.
Four generations have preserved the modest marine charm of the building, a former tobacco factory built in beginning of the century by Youssef Jammal and Farida, great-grandparents of the Michel before being converted into a restaurant in 1981 by Joe, their young son.
“My father had just finished finance studies in California…. When he came here, there was absolutely nothing to do. So he put the table in the water, invited his friends childhood and installed the barbecue, “says Michel, whose childhood was rocked by the noise forks and dishes he heard from his room.
“At the time, there was more fights because the Syrians were there since 1976. The region was cut off from the Mount Lebanon and Beirut. There were people who came to party, many militiamen who laid their guns on the table. It was surprising to him, since he’s experienced the atmosphere of the 1970s hippie,” he continues.
In 1992, at the end of the war, checkpoints open and the restaurant gains customers and expands its reputation. Yes, visitors are more and more numerous, but unscrupulous developers flock also.
“To the right of the restaurant, there is a big lot that didn’t exist before. The owner wiped out the caves with dynamite illegally to build a pool and create a complex. It did not succeed because we launched a lawsuit to stop the project, but it has already destroyed half of the bay,” says the young man. So far, the family managed to preserve the simplicity and usability places that house, even today, the family home.
“My grandparents live still there,” says Michel. In 2016 the restaurateur plans to open a hotel complex with small houses overlooking the beach. From bed to water, there will be only one step.