Not just limited to the boulevards of Paris, Bahrain can give the French capital a run for its money when it comes to café culture. BTM rounds-up some of the best spots to while away the hours with a cuppa and a book [JK Rowling famously wrote the early Harry Potter books in her local greasy spoon] or sit down for a glam afternoon tea with friends.
If you’re feeling upmarket, or have business associates to impress, many of the Kingdom’s stalwart five-star hubs have chic cafés nestled in their lobby areas. The French design of the Ritz Gourmet Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain will take you back to a golden era. Its menu is influenced by the legendary Auguste Escoffier’s world classics. A real treat if you’re heading to an Eid weekend gathering and need to bring a dessert. The signature Eid Cake is an indulgent sponge cake, decorated with festive elements featuring fragrant textures of vanilla, rose, strawberry, almond and saffron.
Close by, you can find a more traditionally English option at Ramee Grand Hotel and Spa’s Tea Garden. The ambience is chilled and the place is bathed in pastel florals with comfortable seating – perfect for high tea with a variety of teas, pastries, ice cream, gourmet sweets, macarons, chocolates and delicatessen delights.
Down the same commercial boulevard is Furn Bistro and Bakery, at The Westin City Centre Bahrain. Friendly stewards and the easy banter of chefs at work in the open kitchen give the sophisticated venue a laid-back vibe. The seating spills out into a corridor of the mall – a great vantage point if you want to take a break and just people-watch, while enjoying a drink and a quick bite. Furn is known to have some of the most to-die-for milkshakes.
Heading into the hubbub of Manama, Espressemente Illy Café located in the main lobby of the Sheraton Bahrain Hotel serves exclusive variations of illy coffee selections as well as salads, snacks, desserts and bakery products. The venue has a timely Summer Coolers Promotion going on.
Across the junction, the Bay View Lounge sits within the soaring Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay. Savour international fare, freshly brewed afternoon tea or coffee, or chic mocktails. The view of the picturesque bay and live strains of the piano are enough to keep you company if you’re going solo.
Diplomatic Area is the last bastion of hard-core commercialism before you venture into more hospitality-centric Juffair. Here, finding a parking spot might bead your forehead with sweat, but Royal Café at the Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel, Residence & Spa will instantaneously revive you with its unique ambience, speciality coffee and delicious sweet or savoury bites. Nearby, Crowne Plaza’s Cappuccino’s Café is perfect to hold your informal meetings, or even catch up on your emails with free WiFi access, while satiating the stomach with a warm or cold drink and homemade pastries.
Further down, in Juffair, the new Arch Hotel’s Sol Café is a coffee shop and casual diner all rolled into one, where guests can take in panoramic views from the fifth floor of the property. Atiram Premier’s Beans Sit Down Café gives off the awakening aroma of freshly-brewed coffee and scrumptious cakes all day. The K Hotel’s Kolors restaurant doubles up as a vibrant spot to catch up with friends over a quick bite, or a leisurely one, if you please.
Zip down to the end of any of the main arteries of Bahrain, and you will find yourself at the Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa. The Lobby Lounge’s décor blends Bahraini style with elegant French touches. Plan a rendezvous over choices of coffees, teas, fresh pastries and à la carte dishes with a view of the sophisticated atrium and the sea.
If you are a mall maverick, and your summer days are all about shop-till-you-drop, then you’re set, because Bahrain’s world-class retail arcades have so much to offer in terms of café culture. For those trailing the corridors at City Centre Bahrain, Paul Bakery and Restaurant is just right to rest your tired feet while biting into a silken éclair or the outlet’s many delectable pastry options. This French brand also has shop at the next-door outlet, Seef Mall. The adjacent Al Aali Shopping Complex is home to Lumee Street Café, which captures the essence of Middle Eastern street food in a contemporary café\deli setting. Saar Mall also houses a branch of this homegrown café chain, as well as Le Chocolate, the tried and tested go-to for quality coffee, cakes and delicious fare. The flagship outlet of course is the better-known standalone outlet in Seef – a firm favourite with the office-going crowds.
If you’re in the residential vicinity of Zinj and wonder what a café in the Great White North offers, step into the Canadian import that is Tim Hortons. The funky café serves a diverse crowd with great coffee options, sandwiches and baked goodies. Don’t forget to sample the signature Timbits – a winner with both adults and kids alike.
When it comes to standalone cafés, there is a plethora scattered across the island though Café Lilou rules the roost in Adliya and Dome Café is the real deal in Juffair. Both these establishments have been around long before the newer coffee shops were born, and are household names in their own right. Café Lilou, with its Parisian panache, is loved by foodies for its Moulin Rouge-reminiscent interior and contemporary culinary offerings, not to mention a great shot of coffee through the day. Did you know that Dome Café started out as a speciality coffee roasting business in Australia? It now operates in more than six countries, offering an unparalleled coffee experience any time of the day.
Adliya also boasts Verandah, a lifestyle café offering a variety of fusion dishes in a unique gallery ambience. There is a speciality fruit juice bar, a bakery and an ice cream delicatessen. Other notable cafés in the dining district include the very artsy Gallery Café (at the stylish Gallery 21), My Café, which is actually somewhat misleading in its name as it is in fact a rather fabulous restaurant, and the uber Parisienne Angelina Paris.
If you find yourself in the stunning precincts of Reef Island, Coffee World offers a range of hot and iced coffees with complementing foods such as waffles and sandwiches, as well as signature cakes, muffins and cookies. On another manmade island, that of Amwaj, Diablo Café at The Lagoon will be your respite from the mundane, where you can gorge on tasty bites and sharp coffee with a pretty view. Other indigenous names in the area include Mazaj Café, Hala Café and Um Kalthoum Café.
To be honest, this round-up features some of our favourites, but the list of great cafés is ever growing and virtually endless, since there are new ones opening up all the time.
Why not tell us about your favourite online at www.thebhrg.com