You could wind your way into the alleys of Abu Hail and grab some Moroccan treats at Marrakesh Bakery. Live a little more with a breakfast plate of Moroccan pancakes or beghrir.
Take home two of the cream-coloured dappled discs, spoon over a knob of homemade Moroccan breakfast butter (which wins points for being sold in little plastic tubs unlike the labelled, sterile-feeling store-manufactured gloop), and then drizzle over a fat thread of honey. Or you can skip all the above and tip over the jar of Marrakesh's rich liquidy nut butter, Amlou, made with almonds, honey and Argan oil. Let's face it – if you’re going to chuck that diet down the drain, you may as well make the sinful act a bit exotic.
Amlou drizzled over crumbly shortbread-like Harcha. Though I personally prefer Amlou with beghrir.
Or try one of Marrakesh’s juicy almond-stuffed briouats. Fried sticky-sweet triangles filled with moist almond paste that just oozes out onto your tongue and says: Hi Stranger-Who’s-No-Longer-on-a-Diet, aren’t you happier now?
If trekking over to Abu Hail entails burning far too many calories than you can afford, then smuggle out a dusky tahina roll from Zurna, the new Turkish restaurant on Al Wasl Square that makes diet-deviations SO worth it.
The pastry pinwheel is like the best form of edible coiled rope you can find – every thick section is actually a bundle of thinner cords, each one moistened with rich nutty tahina paste. There’s an inexplicable thrill of sniffing those pungent-peppery black sesame seeds on top of the roll. A wild reckless joy of executing this savoury-nutty-sweet violation of your diet, just steps away from Safa Park where dedicated runners are thumping the rubber track, burning those calories, checking off their fitness goals, but…not enjoying that irresistible tahina pastry that you’re devouring like there’s no tomorrow.
I defy you to walk away from the baked goodies display at Zurna without lifting off a simit. This Turkish bagel has a crusty sesame seed exterior and crunchy insides full of beehive-bread formations with innumerable airpockets that make the bagel soft, light and crunchy.
Plain toasted simit is good. Drizzled with Yemeni honey might be better. Smacked with a fat knob of cream cheese would be deadly wrong. In a really right way.
If you really want to show that Diet who’s Boss, then pull up a chair at Zurna and order a fat scoop of ice cream hatching itself in the sweet nest of a crunchy Turkish kunafa. Thankfully I don’t have a photograph of it to make you gnaw at the monitor out of hunger, but you know you’ve got to try it now, don’t you?
These calorie-laden ideas feel too tame for you? Live on the swanky side and shoot a hole through both your wallet and your diet by strutting over to Yamanote Atelier, the new Japanese bakery around the corner from Zurna. Enter the lair of strange and alluring goodies – buns filled with red beans, curry doughnuts, green tea scones and cute Hello Kitty buns that are one breath short of purring softly at you.
A bun full of red-bean paste. Sadly, I missed the flavourful and squishy element of the sesame paste buns that I do so love back in Chinatown, NYC.
I'll admit you get some valuable perks in return for the wallet-crippling prices. For starters, Yamanote seems to be baking on premises in small batches, constantly replenishing warm fresh goodies throughout the day. Cardboard goodies are not to be had here. Yamanote seems to firmly uphold creative baked expression and is anything but your usual brownie and cookie routine, even though that expression doesn't really manifest itself as life-changing or inspiring tastes. The quality of what emerges from their ovens does live up to the expectation you would have of a premium bakery. Fresh, fluffy, soft, airy, crunchy...they have the basics checked off. But the best bit is that…they have not caved in to making cupcakes. Yet.
The curry doughnut is a staggering 14 dirham baby, all the better that this fatty fritter monopolizes your calorie count by wiping out your double-shawarma budget for the rest of the day.
The doughnut belly was spot on. It was packed with minced beef, tender carrots, subtle spices, the fragrance of ginger and that distinct curry essence you would find if you tore an Indian curry puff into two. The shell of this calorie-laden globe is padded with panko, coiled up into deep-fried springs that are just waiting to bounce into a mammoth crunch on that first bite. While the concept seems pretty irresistible, the chewy lukewarm crust didn't live up to the crunchy, floofy fantasy I thought it would be (think: Papparoti). Nevertheless, given how hoards of Instagrammers are sticking their phone into everything at Yamanote, and especially the fast-moving Kiri-cheese Danish pastries, you can at least claim to have broken your diet on something that was trending.
I’m sure there’s more we could add to this list, like the Wasabi mochi at Chez Sushi (an inspired dessert that deserves a post all to itself), the malai kulfi at Sreeraj Lassi Bar, the melty-hot kunafa at Qwaider al Nabulsi, the gulab jamun at Kulcha King…
However you choose to occasionally flout those fitness rules, skip the boring old cupcakes (the mall locations of most cupcake stores make the act far too public anyway) and enjoy your excess in style.
All the restaurants have been tagged on my Google maps link.
Al Wasl Square, across from Safa Park
Phone: 052-8759325, 04-3285043
Al Wasl Square, across from Safa Park