Enjoying summer to the full in Lebanon is all about the beach and the night life. As the sun sets in Beirut, the madness of its streets subsides and the city’s eccentricity moves across to the bars and the nightclubs. Beirut offers some of the hottest roof-top bars in the world, but other places offer some interesting bars as well. In Batroun and its surrounding suburbs, beach and night life come together in what is known as beach-bars. These are some of my favourites because of their casual atmosphere, and their proximity to where I usually reside.They offer an interesting concept where swimming, food, music and drinks are offered under the same roof. You can enjoy it both day or night. On this last trip I discovered Ô-Glacée.
It was love at first sight. Ô-Glacée has this warm, inviting feel about it. What attracts the eye immediately is the salted natural splash pool with fresh water springs bubbling up, hence the name which means chilled water. A long bar stretches on the side and a timber deck surrounds the pool. The outdoor furniture is a combination of timber and coloured fabric sun-lounges, and white leather sofas with coffee tables. The beach was super clean made up of both pebbles and sand. Swimming in it was quite an experience, the area is full of water springs popping up in the middle of the sea, and as you swim you tend to go through both cold and warm waters. Interestingly the surface of the sea is much cooler than the centre.
So we swam and sun-baked and then we feasted on a wide variety of Mezze platters served with tannour bread, flat bread cooked in a tannour oven, sourced locally. Two dishes in particular caught my eye, the first was a vegetarian cabbage rolls dish served cold and the other was a marinated fish dish that bears a close resemblance to ceviche. Everything we tasted was so fresh and delicious, from the fish kibbe balls with nuts and herbs filling to the tender lemony calamari, garden salad and shanklish with tomatoes and herbs.
I got to speak to the owner and asked him about the cabbage rolls and the fish dish. He explained that for the marinated fish, he uses fresh white fish that is cubed and marinated in both lemon, salt and vinegar and left to cook in it for a couple of days in the fridge. As for the vegetarian cabbage rolls, it is a local dish where the cabbage leaves are blanched not boiled. They are then cut and stuffed with a filling made up of ground walnuts, carrots, garlic, salt and chilli. They are rolled and served with a drizzle of oil and lemon. I will definitely have to try making it, but I was warned that regardless of it sounding so simple, it is not easy to get right.
The place took on another feel as the sun started setting. Autumn has arrived, and unlike the loud weekend nights of summer, our night was lit by a lantern placed on the centre of our coffee table. The music was playing gently by now, accompanied by the rhythm of the waves crashing on the seashore. The bar was lit up with soft lights, and as we chatted and laughed, hundreds of tiny crabs were having a party of their own on the rocks near by.