Manama, the capital city of Bahrain, is known for its vibrant culture and diverse culinary scene. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, the city offers an array of dining options that cater to every taste and preference. From traditional Bahraini cuisine to international flavours, Manama’s cafes and restaurants are a food lover’s paradise for every budget and occasion. It’s easily accessible (about an hour flight from Dubai, or a nine-hour road trip), and it isn’t your typical island getaway. Plus, it’s home to some of the best and innovative creatives in the region, and holds rich significance in the history of the Gulf region since the dawn of civilisation.
In this list are some of some of Manama’s popular and best-loved classics that are sure to delight your taste buds and leave you with an unforgettable dining experience.
Monsoon is an institution that has only gotten better with time; for nearly two decades, it has held its place as one of Bahrain’s top restaurants. From its idyllic and serene atmosphere to authentic Thai, Japanese, and Vietnamese dishes and adventurous drinks, Monsoon is perfect for date night, lunch with the girls, or a large gathering with friends and family. The menu has something for everyone, including a set menu, sharing platters, sushi plates, and mains geared towards the adventurous and conventional foodie alike. The drinks menu is innovative and tightly curated with changing specials, and the excellent service elevates the entire experience.
Monsoon, Adliya, Manama. +973 1774 9222, @monsoonbahrain
Lumee refers to dried limes, called loomi, which are a key ingredient used in Gulf cooking to season everything from soups, stews, fish, meat, barbecues to tea and desserts. In its powdered form, it’s also a component of baharat, adding a sour and sweet note to dishes. At Lumee Street, this spice is the star in a fast-casual street food concept and though ubiquitously incorporated throughout the menu, it always manages to surprise in a wonderful way without being repetitive. Speaking of which, Lumee’s menu brings together a mixture of Middle Eastern staples interspersed with regional flavours, like the Lumee Achar Hummus, Tikka Lumee, and Chicken Tah Chin.
P.S.: Make sure to leave room for dessert – the Rahash Chocolate Chip ice cream is not to be missed.
Lumee Street, The Avenues at Sea Front, Manama. +973 1743 4300, lumeestreet.com/
Head down to The Orangery for some amazing coffee and decadent cakes made fresh daily (I loved the San Sebastian cheesecake, signature blueberry and lemon tea cakes, as well as the chocolate cake with creme brulee filling). Whether you want to take in a view of the water at Bahrain Bay or soak up the chill Mediterranean street vibes of Adliya, The Orangery comes through with the dessert fix. If it’s late in the day or coffee isn’t your thing, take the plunge and sample from the wide selection of exotic teas – there are 17 types to choose from. There are also plenty of goodies – macarons, homemade jams, cookies, and specialty coffee – to take home that can also make for great gifts.
The Orangery Tearoom & Patisserie, Adliya and The Avenues Mall, Manama. +973 1736 9696, @orangeryme
Located inside the Bahrain National Museum, Darseen Cafe is great for a bite to eat after touring the museum, but I did it the other way around based on a solid recommendation: arrive early at the museum to have the breakfast platter at Darseen first and then leisurely explore the exhibits. I’m so glad I did it.
The breakfast platter – good for two, but can be done solo if you’re ambitious – consists of an eclectic mix of traditional local breakfast staples: hearty, filling yet light and deeply aromatic foul medammes, qeema, eggs your way, a spiced scrambled egg and tomato, and Bahraini kebabs, served with a side of light, crispy bread and a great iced Spanish latte. The flavours were well-balanced and complementary rather than repetitive; overall, familiar foods done well.
P.S.: If you’re still thinking about the heavenly samboosa at the Expo 2020 Dubai’s Bahrain pavilion (and why wouldn’t you?), you can get your fix at Darseen.
Darseen Cafe, 2209 Block 322 Building 455, Manama. +973 7733 6600, darseencafebahrain.com
English Rose Tea Room
This bright, floral cafe is the perfect cosy spot for those long-overdue catch up sessions, to get some work done on a quiet afternoon, or if you’re looking for a change of pace on a night out in Adliya.
The honey cake is superb, as are the teas, and the breakfast comes highly recommended. Plus, there’s outdoor patio seating if you want to drink in the vibe with your afternoon tea while you people-watch. The eatery is owned by a friendly Bahraini and British couple passionate about food, who have made sure to include authentic English staples like fish and chips and a full English breakfast, along with some delicious fusion fare.
English Rose Tea Room, Unit 200, Road 3806, Adliya, Al Qudhaibiya, Manama. +973 3311 1193. @theenglishrosebh
Don’t be intimidated by the menu in French; once you get your bearings (and with Café Lilou’s helpful staff) you’ll be well on your way to enjoying one of Bahrain’s most reliable and well-loved Parisian-style cafes. Start off with the apple and peach iced tea and the Bouchées Vagabondes, which is essentially arancini, consisting of perfectly fried breaded white risotto balls filled with mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, pesto and parsley in tomato sauce. Follow with a main or head straight to dessert with the collection of patisserie.
Café Lilou, Building 108, Road 3803, Block 338, Adliya, Manama. +973 1771 4440, @cafelilou
For some of the best grills with a Turkish flair, head to Iskenderun Grills, a lowkey affair opposite the Marina Beach Garden Park that’s been around since the 1980s. The mixed grill is a star for the high quality of meats, and the hummus is top-notch. Don’t miss the lamb chops, sandwiches, and shawarmas. The starters are great and Iskenderun offers great value for money overall for a budget-friendly meal.
Iskenderun Grills Restaurant, Tarafa Avenue, Manama. +973 1729 3334, @skandroonbh