Traditional Troves

by BTM

Wed, 01 May 2019

Traditional Troves

While Bahrain’s café culture boasts a plethora of international and home-grown coffee house chains, Behnaz Sanjana shines the light on those with old-world charm to go with the customary cuppa.

Haji Gahwa – The Stalwart
This eatery in one of Manama souq’s alleyways has to top the list. Born in 1950, it literally squats between two buildings, with white canvas awnings sloping across parallel walls. Beneath this makeshift shade are fuss-free tables and benches, from where guests can see the hustle of the kitchen, with its glowing brick furnace doling out piping hot khaboos, almost the size of a dinner plate. Very often, flies mill around the place with amazing alacrity, but the aromas and flavours that the waiters’ worn aluminum salvers carry will compel you to throw caution to the wind. There’s no tactile menu, so choose from the verbal repertoire and peruse the walls replete with monochromatic photos of the Bahrain of yore while you wait for simple Bahraini fare that’s big on flavour. (Psst… inside rumour has it that the Michelin-starred chef Wolfgang Puck sat down at Haji’s to sample authentic Bahraini food.)  Call 17 210-647.
Emmawash – The Acclaimed One
This name is fairly new on the traditional café scene, but its branches in Budaiya (the flagship), Hamala and Isa Town have garnered rave reviews on various travel sites. It is a popular haunt for locals and expats alike, who plop down on the floor or quintessential wooden benches upholstered with bright, stripped vermillion fabric (another Bahraini trademark). Besides mouth-watering Middle Eastern staples, including a cracker of a chai karak, it provides guests with a unique fun factor – the walls are entirely relinquished to its diners to doodle away on and leave their mark at the venue. It’s a great way for kids, young and old, to pass the brief time between placing their orders and gorging on home-style Bahraini dishes.
 Follow @emmawash_bh on Instagram

Laialy Zaman Restaurant & Café - Waterfront Vibes
If it’s a leisurely cuppa or meal by the sea that you desire, this is your place. Located right by the picturesque Al Fateh Corniche, this spacious spot has one of the best water views in town. Take in Manama’s stylish skyline in the distance through glass facades from indoors, or watch the bobbing boats at the nearby jetty as you dine al fresco. With Arabic fare spanning juicy grills, succulent seafood and basic but brilliantly concocted beverages, this one is a must-visit by day, dusk or at nightfall.
 Call 17 293-097.Al Bindaira – The Upscale Hangout
When the occasion calls for something slightly more than rudimentary, but encompassing a broad range of classic and contemporary Arabic gastronomy, Al Bindaira ticks all the boxes. This classy amalgamation of a shisha house, coffee shop and restaurant serves fare that’s consistently high in quality in a stylish ambience. The restaurant has made its presence felt in Adliya, Riffa, City Centre Bahrain and Al A’ali Shopping Complex in Seef. The sprawling Adliya outlet seems to be a firm favourite, offering guests the luxury of a variety of comfortable seating – under rustic stone arches, lofty wood- panelled ceilings, skylights, or in the courtyard under the blue.  Call Follow @albindairacafe on Instagram

Chai Café – The Dark Horse
Although humble in appearance, if you’ve grown up in Bahrain, this café will take you down memory lane with Chips Oman incorporated in dishes and down-to-earth Khaleeji favourites like balaleet, shakshouka, keema khubiz, chicken liver and foul as well as the uber essential roti with a variety of fillings including cheese and eggs. The décor is time-honoured as well, with circular handwoven mats and old-fashioned lanterns adorning the ceiling, as well as a tandoor for added character, while the outdoor pergolas beckon in days of clement weather. Shunners of milky tea are said to have fallen in love with the saffron karak here, so don’t forget to give it a try. This Sanabis venue boasts easy accessibility and parking. Call 17 001-727.