This food spot is a true gem of Amman; it’s a place where, despite the never-ending change and turn of the world, things are brought back to basics, returning to the traditions of the Jordanian kitchen.
The whole concept of Shams is bringing back Jordanian culture, the heart of which is in the kitchen. The cuisine of Jordan so central to culture because it’s where people come together, where they forget the world, forget the disagreements, and join with one another around the same plate.
When I asked one of Shams’ chefs: what is the most important thing in your cooking, I was rewarded with the answer: “Celebrating the kitchen”, and the truth of that mantra is profoundly visible. Manager, chefs, serving staff, and guests alike; all celebrate the joy of the Jordanian kitchen and the wonders it produces.
But, how could you not? The flavours created are all exceptional due to the quality of the produce used in the cooking: this is one of the few places where everything is one hundred percent organic; fresh from the farms!
The Shams group focus on sustainable industry, partnering with HIMA an NGO that promotes creating a more sustainable Jordan, so they ensure every step of the process, from farming to making to serving, is serving the community.
The bread they serve is whole-wheat and freshly baked in Madaba early each morning then delivered that day before Shams opens its doors; this partnership with the bakers and their families is well-established. Shams support the local people of Madaba through the loyal use of their services, and it has stood the test of time making it valuable.
This is so fundamental to the concept of bringing back old Jordanian tradition, because the importance is put on being a family and a community who collectively support one another.
As well as being a rarity in using wholly organic produce, Shams El Balad is also original because it is completely vegetarian, with many vegan options on the menu too. No trace of meat can be found, not even in the stock (which is a common pitfall of so called ‘vegetarian’ restaurants). All is veggie friendly!
The restaurant has a downstairs and upstairs seating area, plus a large terrace with views out to the citadel and colourful seating shaded by trees, which are filled with chirping birds; it’s rather idyllic!
There is an extremely old house on the terrace, which has been refurbished and is now available as a venue for events, such as weddings. This has it’s own private terrace and makes a wonderful setting for an event. A great venue with the best catering!
The food is divine, so colourful and flavoursome- and it’s all due to the freshness of the ingredients! You know for certain there are no hidden nasties, and can feel the goodness that the food- full of vitamins, minerals and healthy proteins- is doing to your body.
A whole selection of vegetable and fruit salads, mezze dips, plus some phenomenal manageesh and more is on offer, including a divine pan-fried cauliflower fritter- Mshat- served with hummus and sprinkled with sumac.
The dishes of Jordan, which have become so well known and loved in family homes and restaurants alike, all came about from the old way of cooking what you’ve got in your kitchen, and making the most of it. Shams captures this by using only seasonal produce, meaning there are some creative twists on their traditional dishes, for example: cheese manakish topped with aubergine!
In this way, you do not waste, you do not import, but you do get the best flavour-wise: seasonal is where the goodness is!
Every detail, from the many mezze options and sharing plates, to the round tables, to the smiling and hospitable staff all points back to tradition: sharing, friendship, and a collective celebration of the kitchen.
This place is both phenomenal and inspiring in its flavours, in the way it looks at the world, and in the way it captures this wonderful county.
Go traditional. Go organic. Go to Shams.