Executive profiled a collection of beloved Beirut venues which have been in operation for more than 35 years and evoke strong feelings of nostalgia among the city’s residents. The aim was to discover more about their history and learn the secrets of their success, nostalgia aside.
Launched by Nabih Maroun in 1957, and still under his umbrella to date, La Gondole was located on Mar Elias Street initially before moving to its current location on Corniche El Mazraa in 1962. At that time, says the original owner’s son, Mazen Maroun, Corniche El Mazraa was still developing and was not the busy area it is today.
The idea for La Gondole, according to Mazen Maroun, was conceived from the area’s need for a European style pastry shop as, at the time, there were only two such concepts in Beirut (one in Ashrafieh and one on Kantari Street).
La Gondole rapidly built a name for itself becoming known for its chocolat mou, forêt noire with raspberry jam in its center, and aish el saraya, a kind of bread pudding with rose water, whose original recipe they brought from Egypt in 1976. “La Gondole served all the bourgeois of Beirut. All the families of Ras Beirut, Msaytbeh and the surrounding areas grew up on these three items, keeping their taste and their visits with their parents to La Gondole in their memories,” says Maroun.
Today, says Maroun, the patisserie business has changed a lot as people become more health conscious and avoid the fatty, albeit tasty, way of cooking desserts. “La Gondole decided to preserve our quality. We don’t want to compete in that trend so as not to devaluate La Gondole’s value and step into the survival war of price versus quality,” says Maroun, explaining how he and his brother opted instead to diversify into other food and beverage products and brands. They are now the founders and managers of Lotus Group, which owns several restaurants like Soto, Olio and Prune.