“Bahrain has been one of the Gulf’s most important commercial crossroads for over 4,000 years.” Bahrain.com
We spent a long weekend in the Kingdom of Bahrain checking out the area with some friends that are opening a new business there (watch this space for more about that soon). There was no sightseeing, just eating and drinking our way around the hotspots and visiting fellow expats in their homes. Unlike Abu Dhabi where the majority of dining spots are located in hotels, Bahrain has an excellent independent dining scene where you can walk from place-to-place in some areas which is amazing (even though it’s a tad warm at the moment).
Adliya, in Manama was an exciting combination of cafes, restaurants, bars, art galleries, markets (in cooler months) and colourful street art. A great place to wander through the fairy light lit streets, it was lively and had a great vibe, even with the temperatures raging the streets were busy and all the venues that offer different cuisines and experiences were popular. The village of Hamala is filled with independent dining outlets in a strip of venues side-by-side, a new plant based cafe is gathering interest in the Hamala Hills retail space. Here’s a look at where we went during our three night flying visit.
Plant Cafe – Touted as Bahrain’s first 100% plant based cafe, the trendy vegan Plant Cafe that only opened in March offers an interesting menu in a modern designed space. It’s the first venture outside America of Californian for chef Matthew Kenny who ‘brings together plant-based culinary art and ultimate nutrition’. Kenny and his local partners are offering diners something new in the plant based menu that also embraces Middle Eastern culinary influences.
We started with some delicious juices and smoothies, a good choice of different drinks that were all healthy and tasty using greens, fruit and nut mylks. Between us we tried several dishes from the good sized menu that included lentil pate, slow roasted tomato sandwich, vegetable and mushroom burger, noodle salad and a raw carrot cake. Meat eaters and dairy lovers may leave a little peckish but those loving the plant life will be impressed I’m sure. I really liked the interior with its neutral palette, use of cool accessories and of course lots of plants of all shapes and sizes. The staff were knowledgeable which is always good in a new concept especially one with specialised cuisine.
Plant Cafe – Shop 7, Hamala Hills Building 896, Road 7914/Block 579, Al Janabiyah, Bahrain. Telephone:+973 1700 1677 Website: www.matthewkenneycuisine.com/plant-cafe
The Foundry – First impressions were good at this urban style restaurant that opened in 2015 in the popular Block 338 in Adliya, you can forgive yourself for thinking you been transported right to heart of New York. Spread over a narrow three story building its industrial loft style decor is on point, exposed red brick walls and steel beams are joined by leather seating and an open kitchen, the servers are decked out in in denim which is so NYC.
Priding itself on sourcing the freshest ingredients and the best meat from Australia and the USA, the top floor steakhouse also caters for vegetarians (I had my favourite Eggplant Parmigiana and it was excellent) and has a fab cocktail menu. The restaurant is owned by Mureed Nusseir, a chef who knows his craft, the menu is exciting and the food was delicious, I’m reliably informed that the 72-hour marinated short rib was divine.
This is a Bahrain hotspot, testament to its popularity was the packed second floor bar that was busy into the wee small hours. Industrial chic is the theme here too with the action based around the centralised circular bar where the bartenders entertain guests with their mixology skills under a cloud of cigar smoke. This a MUST visit if you find yourself in Bahrain.
The Foundry – Building 1082, Road 3831, Block 338, Adliya, Bahrain
Telephone: +973 69960000 Website: thefoundry2.saltid.com
Sage & Sirloin – This gourmet delicatessen come cafe is located in Hamala and was the first venture of The Foundry owner Nusseir and his wife Nataly. Sage & Sirloin is a small rustic affair that combines good quality deli produce with a hearty dine-in ‘Grab-a-bite” menu along with takeaway and delivery options.
There’s an extensive choice of burgers and I had one of the tastiest veggie creations I’ve ever eaten, the Eggplant Parmigiano burger (yes I know there’s an eggplant theme, it’s my fave). The ‘burger’ paired layers of grilled eggplant with parmigiano reggiano, mozzarella, basil and their homemade marinara sauce in a bun, just so good as was the side order of giant wedges. There are nineteen burgers to choose from along with hot dogs, chicken dishes, salads, sandwiches, veggie options and a dedicated kids menu.
The deli side of the venue offers butchery, cold cuts and cheeses, seafood, bakery and sweet treats. Large wooden shelves are home to a huge range of artisan retail products such as preserves, honey, oils and vinegars, pastas and even organic beauty products, basically name a pantry essential and it’s there for sale.
If you are looking to impress your guests, Sage & Sirloin offers a bespoke catering service for parties and events and even offers a BBQ service with a wide selection of meats and salads. If you like burgers this is a must-try and if you are an eggplant fan you are in for a treat.
Sage & Sirloin – Shop 2237, Road 90, Block 1014, Hamala. Telephone: +973 1761 1949 (for catering and deliveries) Website: sageandsirloin.com
Calexico – We were recommended Calexico (by a chef no less) in Adliya and it didn’t disappoint.This trendy Mexican Cantina straight from NYC is super cool and the food was great, as were the cocktails and the music. Apparently it’s a relative newcomer to the Bahrain food scene but judging by the amount of people it’s already made its mark.
Exposed brick walls, booth seating, open kitchen and illuminated word art set the scene, there were so many cocktails it was hard to choose (high quality problem) tasty guacamole with housemade tortilla chips was ordered to kick things off. The Mexican street food was really good and well presented, we had a table full of meat and veggie choices of all shapes, sizes and spices; burritos, tacos, fajitas and quesadillas served in on-trend metal dishes.
The bar upstairs was popular, the music skipped from genre to genre giving the whole venue a great vibe. It’s also a popular live music venue.
I loved Calexico and can’t wait to return in cooler weather to sit on the terrace. You will find me sipping a ‘Pain Killer’ cocktail while stuffing my face with cheesy quesadillas and fresh guacamole before walking it all off in the street art emblazoned district. In exciting news, I read that Calexico is ‘coming soon’ to Abu Dhabi and Dubai!
Calexico – Number 98, Road 3803, Block 338 (opposite the I Love Bahrain sign), Adliya, Bahrain. Telephone: +973 1766 6644 Website: calexico-bahrain.com
I can’t end this blog without mentioning Ramez Chocolate. Bahrain based chocolatier Ramez Abiad is not only a nice guy but he also makes delicious high quality chocolates daily at his headquarters just over the border in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. We were lucky enough to be gifted a large box to take home, I can thoroughly recommend these amazing sweet treats, his mantra is ‘Taste, Compare and Enjoy’ and I’ve done just that 😉
These are just a handful of the many great places to dine in Bahrain, there are also so many hotels offering great dining experiences and even more independent venues dotted around the kingdom. I’m looking forward to our next trip to Bahrain (already booked) where I plan to squeeze in some sightseeing in between all the eating and drinking (maybe).
All views are my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved. The Foundry interior photos used with courtesy of thefoundry2.saltid.com and Calexico interior photo used with courtesy of calexico-bahrain.com