Bahrain has multitude of options when it comes to food. Food is sustenance, tradition and entertainment. For self-proclaimed food lovers like me, every single day is a food adventure. Five years and counting, on the island, I can boast about having umpteen food experiences that I share through my blog. However, I am stumped every single time when I come across yet another brilliant food story on the island. Bahrain’s rich food history, tradition and its culinary diversity never cease to surprise me. Last weekend, I took upon myself to visit some of the popular traditional Arabic breakfast joints in Bahrain. My objective was to bring to the forefront only the best places and their best offerings. So follow my food trail and try not to drool while you read.
First stop- Chai Café, Sanabis
This neighbourhood café that is always jam-packed and the waiting is endless especially on the weekends. If you an early riser, it can work in your favour because Chai Café opens by 8 am. Their breakfast options are vast and varied with a huge selection of eggs to choose from. There is something special that makes me visit Chai Café often – the cheese- zaatar Khuboos, cream cheese and omani chips roti, and the karak in a biscuit which they call the “Karak biscuit’. The khuboos is made fresh and right in front of your eyes and you have wonderful choice of eating it laden with Nutella, Mehyawa ( tangy sauce made from fermented fish) and even keema (minced meat). The Chai Karak in a biscuit is karak tea poured into a short bread shaped as a cup and lined with luscious condensed milk. Omani chips which I discovered are a local favourite is the main ingredient of the sandwich that Chai café calls roti. Simple yet delicious flavours of cream cheese, chips and the freshly baked buns make this a wonderful indulgence for weekend breakfasts. On an average, you may end up spending 4 BD/ person on breakfast at Chai Café.
Second stop – Café Naseef, Bab Al Bahrain
It is when you go on an expedition, do you stumble upon such well-kept secrets on the island. Café Naseef in Bab Al Bahrain is located inside the souq and is one of the oldest eating joints in Bahrain. It was interesting to note that they have been operational since 1920 and initially started of as Bahrain’s first ice cream shop! Their line up on icecreams was very tempting to say the least but I was there to enjoy the traditional breakfast and that is what I did. Café Naseef has an extensive menu but it is wise to order the Bahraini breakfast platter for BD 6. It comes with piping hot khuboos( bread) and bread with Mehywana sauce too. The main platter consists of several pieces of falafel (patty made from ground chickpeas) with an appetizing tahini sauce, Balaleet ( sweet vermicelli noodles with an omlette), spicy potato mash, foule ( mashed kidney beans), boiled chick peas and shakshouka ( scrambled eggs cooked in tomatoes).All of this glorious food goes smoothly with Karak tea ofcourse. On weekends, it would be better to get into the souq a little early because as the sun rises higher, the waiting list to dine in at Naseef grows bigger.
Third stop – Emmawash, Budaiyya
The first thing that struck me about Emmawash was –‘This place is unique’. This impression stayed as I toured the inside of the restaurant, met with the owner and enjoyed my breakfast. Emmawash is warm and welcoming and instantly feels like home. The servers and the owner- Abdulla make sure you have a good time. It was a revelation as I sampled Emmawash’s breakfast platter that consists of chicken liver, Keema, Nashif ( chicken curry), lentil dal and fresh bread. I washed it down with some chilled laban. To balance the savory, I also tried their special honey, jam, cream cheese which is guaranteed to be a favourite among children. Breakfast at Emmawash can cost an average of 3 BD/ person.
Fourth Stop – Saffron by Jena, Muharraq
Saffron by Jena is extremely well –known among the locals and expats alike. A Time Out Award winner, this traditional restaurant is a shining beacon in terms of the authenticity. It is located in the heart of old Muharraq, Riffa Fort and the Souq ( Bab Al Bahrain). But to truly immerse yourself in the Saffron experience, you have to visit the Muharraq outlet. Saffron by Jena serves a set menu for breakfast for BD 6 per person but the portions are good for two people. The set menu comes with Balaleet ( sweetened vermicelli noodles with omlette), Shakshouka ( eggs and tomato), Foule ( mashed kidney beans), potatoes, luba ( spiced baked beans) and a basket of bread with khuboos, zingabri ( buns slathered with a sweet and spicy preserve), another sandwich with vegetarian kebabs and a bread with Mehyawa. They also serve a complimentary chilled saffron drink which is refreshing and acts like a palate cleanser. Saffron is also a place where you can try traditional Arabic sweets such as Ogaili ( a sweet flavoured with saffron, cardamom and rosewater and studded with sesame seeds).
While I went over- the- top and covered all these fabulous breakfast places in a single day, you don’t have to do that. You can take your time and enjoy the local delicacies spacing it out for each weekend. Food is definitely wonderful but it is the cultural vibe that each of these places exude that make it worth it.
Fifth stop – Haji Gahwa, Manama ( on another day)
Haji Gahwa is an inconspicuous traditional set up in the heart of Manama. You can spot it in the alley next to the Mosque in Bab Al Bahrain, Manama souq. On weekends its is busy with patrons who have been visiting the cafe for years. The Cafe’s most attractive characteristic would be the way it is set up in the alley with ‘old-style’ benches and laminated photographs on the walls that encapsulates the Bahrain of yesteryear. The other highlight of the cafe is their impeccable service and their ever-smiling servers. These servers, despite having their hands full, find time to tell you about the restaurant and its traditions. The dishes that stood out for me particularly were the fasulya ( spicy baked beans), Foul medames, Mehyawa and the fresh-out-of-the-oven khoboos. Make sure you try their egg dishes as well especially the omelette. Haji Gahwa opens at 5:30 am until 11:30 serving fresh breakfast.From noon until 4:30 PM lunch is served and from 5:00 pm to 9 PM, dinner is served. There is a separate section for families
Those are my Bahraini Breakfast outlet choices. Have I missed out any that you particularly adore? Let me know.
(Pictures courtesy – @sushil317)