Last night, I had some business to attend to near le Mercure, né & aka Sofitel. The kind of business that required queuing, or more accurately crowding and jostling, for nearly an hour, to ask a question at a desk, to which the answer was 'no'. Usual stuff. While crowding, I was consoling myself with the thought of the meal I was going to have later, in Sofitel's 'La Villa' Mediterranean restaurant. I know the menu well and was swithering between Couscous Royale and the grilled tuna steak. The tuna was winning through; I could almost smell the distant melted butter, lemon and parsley over the top of the manikchand gutka by my left shoulder.
For the past few years, I've treated myself once or twice each Ramadan to a good dinner in La Villa. OK, there's no wine in the Holy Month, but if you steer clear of beef and lamb (which demand a robust red and will take industrial action if denied) you can still enjoy a thoroughly good dinner with a bottle of San Pellegrino.
But it was not to be. This year, the Sofitel appears to have forgotten that it is an International Hotel. Even as I was summoning the lift, a Fresh-Faced Young Duty Manager informed me that the bar was closed for Ramadan. "I know. I'm going to La Villa for dinner". FFYDM went on to explain that this year La Villa was only open for Suhoor (around 3 a.m.) but I was welcome to take Iftar now in the Brasserie. Sorry, not in my game plan.
Just behind Sofitel. there's a cheap and cheerful Indian restaurant called Desman. One masala poppadom, one channa masala, two tandoori roti, one jug of filtered tap water, one fresh salad thrown in for free. Half an hour and 13 Riyals later, I'm well set up for the hot walk home. Your loss, Sofitel.