What to see
The first thing I always tell people to visit in Beirut is the souks. I know it might be a little obvious, but they’re famous for a reason. The best one in my opinion is Souk el Tayeb that runs on Saturdays. It was the first farmers’ market in Lebanon and is the best way for visitors to see how there’s such a great sense of community between the Lebanese. The market promotes small producers, so I love picking up fruit and vegetables that I know will directly help local people. The air is filled with the smell of traditional Lebanese dishes and food, and the sound of people selling, buying and catching up with friends. It really is a wonderful place.
Where to eat
One of my favourite restaurants for brunch is Casablanca. I was introduced to it by a friend some years ago and I have to have a meal there every time I visit Beirut. It has a breathtaking view over the sea, and the wonderful, brightly coloured décor, mixed with the high ceilings and ornate architrave, give it a real sense of grandeur – plus they serve delicious Asian fusion food. I would always recommend ordering small plates and sharing between the group – the steamed fish of the day with ginger and the grilled octopus are my favourites. They also have great vegan and vegetarian options. When I crave Lebanese food, I usually eat at Em Sherif. It reminds me of my childhood, and the atmosphere is always very busy but in an exciting, homely way.
Where to drink
In Beirut, life is lived on the rooftops after dark. You’ll usually find me in a hotel bar when I go back to the city – they always have the best mixologists. My personal favourite is the Four Seasons Hotel rooftop. It’s located right by the bay and I love to watch the sunset with a lychee martini. You always get a great mix of locals and tourists in hotel bars. Strike up a conversation with people on the tables around you.
Where to shop
I can’t go back to Beirut without stopping by Aïshti. It really is a temple of fashion, and its buys are unparalleled. I always find the most exquisite items I don’t see anywhere else in the world. The interiors and decoration of the shop are also just as chic as the items it sells, so I always feel inspired when I visit, not only for my wardrobe, but my home, too.
My favourite gallery is…
In the Hamra district, Agial Art Gallery is a favourite. It’s a contemporary white cube where there’s always something good on from Arabic or Lebanese artists. The international art scene in the city is really picking up, but it’s these local, independently run galleries that I prefer. And I always find time to visit the Aïshti Foundation – located right by the sea to the east of Beirut. It combines highly curated fashion boutiques, bookshops, cafés, restaurants and my favourite – a rooftop bar. The foundation, dedicated to contemporary culture, is bringing a new artistic and vibrant scene to Beirut and is quickly gaining status on the international art circuit. It’s currently showing an exhibition entitled Trance, which features work created, curated and collected by the Swiss artist Albert Oehlen.
When it gets dark…
Visit the wonderful restaurant Burgundy, located in the north of Beirut, with a group of close friends. It’s my go-to recommendation in Beirut and I always order the same thing: the Ginza-inspired langoustine with shiso, followed by the cedarwood-smoked Wagyu beef smoked on site, and for dessert, the hazelnut praline.
My dream day out in Beirut…
Would start with breakfast by Zaitunay Bay in north Beirut: coffee and a traditional Lebanese mankousheh (a Lebanese pizza topped with thyme and olive oil). My first stop of the day would be the MIM Mineral Museum. It’s not your obvious choice, but discovering all of the beautiful, natural minerals (there are more than 2,000 of them on display) in the most beautiful array of colours is such a relaxing morning. I like to spend a few hours there every time I visit, to get inspiration for the colour palette of my upcoming collections. For dinner, it would have to be La Petite Maison, where my father-in-law has one of his paintings hanging – it’s always a proud moment to see it when I walk in. My usual order is the rigatoni with ceps mushrooms, and for dessert, the pain perdu façon “Cyrus”, a French toast with spiced ice cream – pure indulgence.