From highbrow haute cuisine to affordable street food, there is dining in Bahrain, especially Manama, to satisfy any palate. Most international-standard restaurants are housed in the many luxury hotels on the island and licensed premises can only reside in five-star hotels, according to local law. Consequently, prices at these hospitality gems can be very steep. On the other hand, some hotel restaurants offer excellent food for more down-to-earth prices, while cafés and restaurants along the streets are generally very good and quite affordable. Most hotels have at least one bar, and many of these are themed. The price of liquor is high by Western standards, but the choice of brands is often world-class.
Bars and Pubbing in Bahrain
Since nearly all licensed establishments must be attached to four- and five-star hotels, there is no nightlife quarter as such; rather, a wide spread of venues forming a grid across Manama. Once they have been open for a while, bars gain reputation among the local residents, and many become institutions with their names known across the Gulf States. One such locale is the Sherlock Holmes (Gulf Hotel, Manama), a grand old name in theme bars. Although reasonably plush, it hasn’t managed to shed the traditional London pub look, and it features live music most weeknights, which are usually busy with regulars, although weekends can be terrifically busy in Bahrain too.
Not far from one of Manama’s beaches is Trader Vic’s (Le Meridien, Manama), which offers an expansive view of the Gulf from the air-conditioned comfort within. Famous for its South Seas-inspired cocktails in ornate pots, it is one of the city’s best spots for sundowners. The Warbler Club (Baisan Hotel, Manama), meanwhile, is another institution that boasts regular live music, pretty clientele, and good bar food. For those who enjoy watching sports with their drink, this is one of Bahrain’s best spots with a number of sizeable TVs tuned to all games.
Dining and Cuisine in Bahrain
Food in Bahrain varies as much in quality as it does in price. The top-end hotels are invariably world-class with charges to match, but there are alternatives across a wide spectrum of price points if you don’t feel like spending a pretty penny. Expat life involves a great deal of eating out, so feel free to ask anyone for advice and they will generally be happy to help with up-to-the-minute recommendations. Word of mouth goes a long way in Manama.
A gem in the heart of the restaurant district, Adilya, Mezzaluna (3808 Road, Manama) is one of the most popular establishments in Manama, so be sure to make reservations well in advance. Although it inhabits an old Bahraini house with decor to match, Mezzaluna’s French chef cooks a wide variety of international dishes, and the rib-eye steaks come highly recommended.
Jim’s (Osama bin Zaid Avenue, Manama), meanwhile, has become an expat institution, as much for its homemade chocolate vodkas as for its full Irish breakfasts in a cozy cottage interior. This is another Bahrain dining establishment that is likely to get very busy due to the hospitality and humor of the host, Jim, so be sure to book ahead.
The fashionable, Arabic-style Casa Blu (Sheikh Isa Avenue, Manama) is filled with personality and knick-knacks ranging from antique typewriters to battered old cash registers to plush divans and live hip-hop only adding to the restaurant’s atmosphere. The food is as good as the surroundings.