It takes a lot for me to be truly impressed and blown away by a hotel. So many factors come into play: the location, the décor, the staff, the service, the food, the vibe and so much more, however when one place manages to nail all of these elements and give their guests the ultimate experience- now this is something to write home about. I cannot speak more favourably than saying that Beit Trad is one of the top 3 places I have ever stayed. I have travelled a lot, lived in three countries, and stayed in hundreds of hotels, but this must be one of the best hotel experiences in my life to date.
Being half Lebanese, I recently decided to venture to the country on the back of a recent summer trip to Europe. What better time than now, to explore the side of my roots I have never been able to properly absorb. It was the best decision I made.
Lebanon is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places I have ever visited, and I am now dying to return as soon as possible. The culture, the people, the places and of course the food, swept me up and cast their enchanting spell on me! I did a fair amount of research prior to going, bookmarking places, restaurants, bars and hotels, I wanted to visit during my trip. One such place I stumbled upon is the magnificent boutique hotel Beit Trad.
This luxurious dwelling is located around 45 minutes out of Beirut, the country’s capital. As my Uber driver weaved along roads high up into the mountains, luscious green trees and forests lined the roads juxtaposed with buildings and villages. My driver needed a little bit of guidance, but sure enough we spotted signs ‘Beit Trad’ signifying we had arrived. We were greeted by the grand guesthouse and the friendly Maroun, who is there to help you every step of the way during your stay.
I walked along the pathway to the house, lined with wild trees and flowers, hearing distant splashing and excitement in the pool. Maroun asked me what I would like to do, and nothing appealed to me more than soaking up the remainder of the afternoon sun by the pool.
Finding my perch on one of the comfy bamboo loungers, the owner Sarah Trad, was entertaining guests by the pool with her adorable baby daughter Lilah. The story behind Beit Trad guesthouse, is one of beauty, love, family and that amazing Lebanese hospitality, that I hope to hear more of as the country grows.
The incredible 19th century traditional Lebanese dwelling was purchased in 1985 by Sarah’s father during the height of the war & civil conflict. The family would travel to the mountains during the summertime to escape the city and found heaven in this sanctuary. Sarah faced a fork in the road in 2013 after inheriting the property, sell the house or restore it to all its glory? Luckily for us she chose the latter, and as such the guesthouse opened in July 2018 to its first visitors.
With the irresistible blue pool sparkling in the afternoon light, I lay on a comfy bamboo sun-lounge, enjoying the calm serenity as the sun shone down. A soft wind rustled and sunshine peaked through the leaves, and there was a charming silence that cast a gentle spell of tranquillity on me. There was no chaotic city sounds or tooting of horns, and one immediately feels at peace with themselves and the entire world, surrounded by the grand deep-rooted trees and picturesque greenery.
A soft lounge jazz soundtrack echoed around the pool, and one of the ever attentive staff offered me a glass of wine. It would have been rude to decline, so of course I happily obliged! Within a minute I had a crisp glass of rosé in my hand, that offered the ultimate afternoon refreshment. It truly doesn’t get better than this, well turns out it does!
The nicest thing about the guest house is that it can only take a limited number of guests at a time and guests are introduced to each other. Given I was travelling alone, I enjoyed interesting conversations with a group of three French-Lebanese women on a girls getaway, a Beirut family who were enjoying a little respite from the city as well as a charming Australian couple hailing from Melbourne. I made some new friends with my fellow guests as we sipped on rosé, before retreating to my room to prepare for dinner.
My room was located right beside the main house, and was named the ‘Sanctuary’. Each room has a name, and behind each name is a story. Sarah tells me that my room was initially an old church that was attached to the monastery (main house).
The room was furnished in what I would describe as elegant & rustic style with luxurious finishes. An elaborate stone wall was the centrepiece, framing the bed below with its classic arch. I loved the perfect symmetry of the bed, corned by two identical bed side lamps and tables, with a distinctively patterned headboard. The bed itself was heavenly! Having spent the week prior on an uncomfortable bed on a boat, then to sharing with my cousin, it was pure bliss to have this luscious marshmallow all to myself with its wonderfully soft down pillows!
Bright windows let the natural light flood into the room, framed by vibrant green palm leaves outside and other vegetation – you truly felt like you were in your own little sanctuary. Meanwhile an elaborate dresser with oriental patterns added character.
I showered and freshened up, before venturing around the main house to explore! I stopped by the pool along the way, which was wonderfully illuminated, the aqua blue sparkling against the white sandstone of the house.
The house is absolutely stunning! One enters through an arched corridor that opens into the glorious dining room. Amazing stain glass lanterns hang from the ceiling, with lush greenery and striking art decorating the room. A carefully edited mismatch of 14 chairs lines the dining table, with cute little trinkets neatly arranged down the centre of the table. It would be the perfect place to host a long boozy dinner with friends, however given the summery weather outside, we choose to enjoy all meals in the temperate summertime air outside on the terrace.
The dining room also featured a huge bookshelf framing the windows on the terrace. It was home to a variety of English & Arabic books perfect for those looking for some holiday reading. Along the top of the bookshelf was a collection of antique pots and vessels that added character to the room. As you will come to see from this post, every little detail had been thought out and well-considered including the vivid glass candle holders lining the table and sitting on the window sills, down to the hand-embroidered curtains in the bathroom which sat alongside an intricately patterned oriental pot.
Beside the dining room was an incredible enclave with the most striking bar. Three layers of zigzag patterned marble in emerald, amber and grey were the centre piece, echoing a Missoni print. Behind the bar was some of the most incredible wallpaper I have ever seen, with an exotic green palm tree lined scene, entering the bar was almost like entering a little sanctuary. A stylish pink chandelier hung down glittering with its ruby-esque colours radiating and adding a burst of colour.
Journeying out to the terrace, it truly was something out of heaven, giving way to a jaw-droppingly breath-taking scene. Vibrant green vines hung down delicately off the stone walls, draping elegantly and floating in the wind. The pitter patter of the fountain was like soft rain instantly creating a mood of calamity. The colours from the jade green vines, white stone, amber terracotta roof, white furniture and blue skies on the horizon, drew a picture-perfect landscape. Within the open air terrace, the stone has been carved to create seats lined with soft furnishings and cushions, that were matched with vintage style white cane chairs. During the day, the sun shines down through the hanging vines, whilst come evening the moon glows through illuminating the landscape. The terrace offers the perfect place to perch anytime of day, to enjoy tranquil serenity or enjoy the company of new and old friends.
Guests are invited to enjoy pre-dinner refreshments on the terrace, with a collection of delicious drinks included in the price of your stay. The bar boasts a delicious assortment of French rosés, red wine, prosecco, spirits or simply request whatever you may want and they will do their very best to accommodate.
On the other side of the house is a cool area with a fire pit constructed out of patterned stones. A rustic thatch roof protects against the weather, with hanging straw lanterns, more of these luscious vines and stylish outdoor furnishings. Here, I imagine lounging by the fire during the winter, enjoying copious amounts of red wine with full bellies after a long delicious dinner. Beyond this area, is a small more intimate courtyard framed by the white stone, with pretty pink roses, two iron sitting chairs and more of the trademark green vines decorating the walls.
It is announced that dinner is served, and we make our way toward the small buffet ready to feast. All the food is prepared inhouse by Sarah’s incredible chef! He truly is one the best assets to the house! Every meal I ate was outstanding, filled with flavour and definitely the highlight food of my time in Lebanon.
For dinner, there was an assortment of zucchini grilled to golden perfection, homemade baba-ganoush topped with pomegranate seeds, tomato salad, cold green bean salad, mixed leaves filled with mint, rocket, spinach and crumbled feta topped with tomato & basil. The cold food was light, fresh and abundant with flavour.
There were four hot dishes. A delicious vegetarian style soup/stew with chickpeas and traditional rice dish topped with golden vermicelli for the vegetarians. Then there was a delectable lamb and rice dish filled with aromatic pieces of meat, silvered almonds & toasted pine nuts, as well as an assortment of perfectly roasted vegetables and chicken.
After piling our plates high with food, all the guests were seated on the terrace in the twinkling moonlight, talking about the country, its food, our backgrounds and getting to know each other. One of the guests was kind enough to bring a delicious 2012 vintage Lebanese wine from Chateau Ksara, one of Lebanon’s most famous wineries. This went down a treat with the food and brought a jolly mood to the evening’s festivities.
Sarah’s secret weapon is her incredibly talented pastry chef, so ensure you leave room for dessert. Her speciality is tarts, with the shortest short-crust pastry you can dream of. There was quite a few options including a mango tart, a pistachio tart, a crème caramel flan, and a moist decadent chocolate cake. They were utterly heavenly.
Filled with wine, a fully belly and a warm heart, I returned to my ‘Sanctuary’ to the wonderfully dreamy confines of my soft bed, sleeping like a baby until morning.
Depending on guests preferences, there are fun classes available such as yoga on the front lawn of the house. After a morning dose of exercise, venture up to the dining room for the traditional Lebanese breakfast spread including fresh fruit, yoghurt, a tea cake, five different local cheeses, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, labneh, tabouli, sourdough & Lebanese bread. There was a selection of condiments including feta, tahini, jams, za’tar, maple syrup, molasses and my favourite halva.
Sitting outside on the terrace, we enjoyed the start of a beautiful day. The chefs will also offer some fresh-to-order delicacies including shakshouka (baked eggs in tomato sugo) or manoush, a traditional Lebanese breakfast dish similar to a pizza. Manoush became one of my go-to items in Lebanese, it generally comes in either jubneh flavour (cheese) or za’tar, and I loved to do half-half.
I enjoyed a lazy morning in the sitting room, a gorgeous white room with soft lilac sofas lining the walls, and vintage French doors that led out to an ornate decorative white iron balcony. This room had a salon-esque vibe and had been so grandly designed, one could immediately sense the vast effort that had gone into it. Amazing tiny stain glass windows in vivid hues dotted the top of the walls, along with beguiling vintage photographs, remarkable art pieces, a stunning glistening chandelier and the centrepiece, a huge hogs head. The room was a fusion of East meets West, Old meets new, with mix of modern style mixed with traditional art, and subtle little touches such as antique oriental vases.
A selection of coffee table books were perfect for flicking through mindlessly and admiring photographs, as well as board games such as chess, backgammon to fill your day. In the evening, uplights illuminated the arched window cravats, creating a dramatic shadow effect on the vases filled with freshly cut greenery. The gold accents in the room shone even more brightly, whilst an incredible mirror reflected the grandeur and elegance, altogether reinforcing the oriental touches.
Come lunchtime, Sarah was hosting a few new guests, as well as a family that had come to enjoy a birthday lunch at the home. Sarah is happy to host private events, parties and facilitate hiring the entire home to those who wish for a fun getaway with their nearest and dearest.
Lunch was another incredible meal. The cold food included freshly made hummus, dolmades, fresh leaves, green bean salad, beetroot salad, a slow roasted eggplant tomato salad. There was a cous cous, chickpea dish with caramelised onions, as well as amazing whole fish that was filled with aromatic spices and herbs and fell apart delicately. An assortment of roasted chickens rubbed with exotic spices, accompanied by roast vegetables sat tantalising guests, waiting to be devoured.
The outside table was set almost too beautifully to touch! Beige place mats were accompanied by crystal glasses, green herbs acting as the centrepiece with stunning pink lilies and aqua salt containers adding a burst of colour. The white cane armchairs gleamed brightly, matching the white umbrellas shielding from the sun. The fire-pit area had been converted into another dining area for the visitors with two handsomely set tables under the shade of the thatch roof.
For dessert we enjoyed another bountiful selection of homemade tarts including an almond tart, lemon meringue, peaches in syrup, chocolate mousse and a traditional dessert almost like a pannacotta. The tarts were as usual outstanding, meanwhile the chocolate mousse proved incredibly addictive.
Not long after finishing up lunch, my driver arrived to collect me. I thanked Sarah and Maroun, and bid farewell to my new friends. Beit Trad left its mark on me, and I only hope its not long before I return for my next visit to one of my favourite new hotels, and one of my favourite places in Lebanon.
I Ate My Way Through stayed as guests of Beit Trad
Beit Trad, El Kfour, Mont Liban