From street-stall shawarma to fine-dining fusion, Jeddah is home to a diverse bill of fare that’s becoming more cosmopolitan every year.
Ask a Jeddawi what the city’s definitive taste is and expect many different answers. Perhaps the pillowy spiced khubz bread of the Shukri bakery, open since 1928 in the Al Balad historical quarter. Or Red Sea hammour, cooked to order at the Saedi fish restaurant on the corniche. Others might point to the iconic Hijazi dish of saleeq chicken and milky rice, eaten in the evening breeze on the sea-facing terrace at Al Nakheel. Or even Al Baik fried chicken, which might look like a Saudi Arabian answer to KFC but is beloved by locals for its top-secret spice mix.
Jeddah has also always been a place open to outside influences. Look, for example, at Baco, which serves Asian bao buns and Mexican tacos; at bold Lebanese restaurants like Byblos or Mataam Al Sharq; or at the lavender lattes and avocado and parmesan toast at Black Cardamom, the city’s coolest brunch spot. In Jeddah, the ideas are as fresh as the fish that glistens on the counters of the Central Fish Market.
Jeddah is famous for its seafood, from flaky deep-fried hammour at Al Balad’s tiny rustic restaurants, to seafood platters at the Miami-style Blue Ocean and marina-side rock lobsters and langoustines at Al Qalzam Fisheries, in the north of the city. Shrimp is popular, and Jeddawis swear by the boiled version, which you can try served in a bag at Shrimp Anatomy, doused in garlic butter or cajun spices.
In a cluster of aquatic-blue buildings at the harbour near Al Balad, Jeddah’s lively Central Fish Market is the place to get a sense of the Red Sea’s fresh bounty, from kingfish and sea bass to pyramids of prawns, crabs and lobsters, all at lower prices than elsewhere in the city. It’s also possible to buy up seafood or fish – as the noise suggests, bargaining is expected - and have it cooked to order in the little restaurant in the market. Visit early in the morning, and they’ll even store your fish until lunchtime.
Jeddah’s fine dining options are as diverse as the city itself, taking in king crab sashimi at Zen-chic Nozomi, saffron lobster dumplings at low-lit Chinese Toki or truffle tortellini amid the airy greenery of The Social Kitchen. Many top hotels have serious restaurants, from Venetian cuisine at the Waldorf-Astoria’s Aromi to the Ritz-Carlton’s sea-inspired Saltz, where the standout dish is the ‘land and sea’ of Wagyu filet mignon with lobster or local jumbo prawns.
The northeastern city of Tabuk has long been a resting point for Jordanian and Egyptian pilgrims, with a rich Bedouin culture that can be felt in the bustling Souq Twaheen, which still supplies patterned rugs and goat-hair tent covers for modern nomads.