There’s a general misconception that the best things in life are free, propagated by a multitude of pop songs and Hallmark cards that generate money out of making poor people happier. But when it comes to Valentine’s Day, the best things are most definitely not free, or even particularly cheap for that matter. And your partner is certainly not going to thank you for scrimping on the most romantic night of the year. That said, you needn’t break the bank this Valentine’s, and there are plenty of ways to minimise your expenditure while maximising your impression. Here’s how:
Eat on the cheap Most cheap eats in the country are served in canteen-like establishments and are the preserve of labourers and students, neither of which make such a place your ideal romantic haunt. But there are a few exceptions. Honey (17 223 962), our favourite Thai restaurant in the kingdom, serves stunning Thai food for a fraction of the price you’d find elsewhere. While the main dining hall is pretty grotty, the private room is right out of Koh Samui, terribly private and thoroughly romantic. Booking is highly recommended.
If it’s al fresco dining you’re after, the highly authentic and completely delicious food served out of the hole-in-the wall Maseelee (17 210 647) in Manama Souq is an essential local experience, and your wallet will hardly notice the effect of the bill. For a slightly more upmarket experience, head to the original Persian-inspired Isfahani (17 290 027) or the Iraqi Melh Al Zaad (17 311 170), both near Exhibition Road. Both serve fantastic cuisine and have a number of secluded private cabins with waiter service, so that you can eat your meal in comparative privacy.
Head to a ladies’ night Assuming that at least one of you is female, why not take advantage of the fact that either you or your partner can drink for free at one of Bahrain’s better-known bars. Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday night this year, and Warblers (17 290 660), Cielo Club (33 105 858), Bed Rock (17 826 001), Club Buffalo (17 826 001), Club F1 (17 296 464), Enigma (17 297 000) and Harvesters (17 531 122) all have a ladies’ night in which the fairer sex get several – or unlimited – goes at the bar. If you are feeling really hard-up, you can get the missus to grab one for you too!
Take in some (free) culture Bahrain’s art and culture scene is among the best in the Gulf and, even if you don’t much like art or museums, they can be a great excuse for spending more time with your partner. Al Riwaq (17 717 441), Albareh (17 717 707), Bin Matar House (17 322 549), Bahrain Fort Museum and Bahrain National Museum (both on 17 298 777) all have superlative collections and exhibitions, and entrance to all is free. All, with the exception of Bin Matar House, have great little cafes, meaning you can fuel up on caffeine if you have found the experience a little draining. And if you want to take a little heart art home with you, why not head to Studio Ceramics (17 599 026), and paint some pottery for your loved one?
Take the highway Earlier in this issue, we gave a rundown of the kingdom’s very best walks, many of which are terribly romantic, but don’t need repeating here. Another way to get out and spend time together is to head off for a drive. Although it has become something of a cliché in recent years, a drive down to the Tree of Life, particularly if you get there for sunset, can be one of the most stunning journeys Bahrain has to offer.
For those who have money to burn...
If money is no obstacle, Bahrain is your oyster. Whether it is heading out to Sakhir to spend a night under the stars in one of the country’s most beautiful resorts, or getting out on the ocean on your own private yacht, you’ll soon find that money does bring happiness, if only temporarily.
Eat at Bahrain’s top romantic restaurants Thanks to the fact that your budget is unlimited, so too are your choices when it comes to the location of your romantic tryst. Last year a crack team of loved-up critics was employed by Time Out to find the best romantic restaurants in Bahrain. They came up with the following: Bushido (17 583 555), the cavernous Japanese restaurant in Seef that dominates the food scene outside of Adliya and has a plethora of intimate corners, private rooms and outside terraces that are all stunningly romantic; Plums (17 580 000) is the Ritz’s most romantic restaurant with seating and lighting ensuring that, even in a restaurant as small as this, each table is separate. It serves superlative food, but with prices to match. Royal Thai (17 713 000) is probably the best restaurant in the Gulf Hotel and is housed in a traditional wooden Thai sala. Thai food is a feast of alleged aphrodisiacs, so make sure you order anything with oysters, asparagus and (perhaps surprisingly) garlic. The runner up in last year’s Best Romantic category was also the winner of Restaurant of the Year: Mezzaluna (17 742 999). This great Adliya establishment serves fantastic French food in a setting that is intimate, personal and with understated grandeur. But the crowning glory of Bahrain’s romantic restaurant scene is La Fontaine (17 230 123), which is located in this historic heart of Hoora. One of the few upmarket heritage dining options in the country, the restaurant here is always the hottest ticket in town come Valentine’s Day
Hire a private yacht Everyone knows that Bahrain’s beauty can be best appreciated from the sea, and those with the cash to splash spend it sailing off the island every weekend. Access to a yacht and a crew gives you access to the numerous small islands that make up this diverse archipelago, where you can find private beaches, windswept crags and a sunset that is dazzlingly bright. The Bahrain Yacht Club and the Ritz-Carlton have great boats, but they tend to be for members and guests only. Mansoor Ahmed of Fantasy (39 419 333) has a luxurious Seabreeze yacht which is available to anyone for private excursions. Departing from the Marina Club, the boat can be hired for BD50 per hour, including refreshments. Book for more than eight hours, and you get a free picnic from one of Bahrain’s high end restaurants.
Spend the night at Al Areen The desert at night is one of the most isolated and romantic spots in the world. As the sun sets, the entire landscape slips into silence, while the stars light up the sky. Desert camps can be a stunning way to experience the sand dunes, but if you are looking for luxury in this vast expanse of wasteland, Al Areen Palace & Spa (17 845 000) should be at the top of your list. With one of the world’s biggest spas (including a fantastic hydrothermal garden), a selection of truly great restaurants – our favourite is the terribly romantic L’Ile – a new grill restaurant at the bottom of the Palace gardens, a bar, Vertigo, with great views at night, and private pool villas worth saving up for, this is where you head if you have money to burn and someone to burn it with.
Jet away to somewhere romantic Those who really want to impress their date on Valentine’s Day whisk them away. Zanzibar, the Seychelles, Sardinia, Rio de Janeiro? Why worry that Gulf Air doesn’t fly there, when you can hire a private jet to scoot you away to the destination of your choice? Comlux Aviation (17 339 033), which has its headquarters in Switzerland but has opened its first Middle Eastern operations here in Bahrain, can fly you anywhere in the world in a plane that has been kitted out to imitate a five-star hotel room. Sure, it’s pricey, but when you are awash with oil wealth, who cares about such minor details?
For those who want to go out...
Valentine’s Day can be the best night of the year, and the worst night ever, depending on how you’re set up. Sure, you get the vehement singlist claiming they have never been happier and want to spend the rest of their lives in their own company, eating every meal alone in front of the telly, and spending the weekends on their own at the cinema watching rom-coms. But it’s not hard to see that this is all a well constructed facade. People want company, and if you are alone at this time of year, there’s only one thing for it: to spend the night partying with other people that no one wants either. We give you the ultimate list of all the best parties this V-Day, whether you are a couple or on your tod.
The best of Valentine’s Day in Bahrain JJ’s: Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday, which in Bahrain and at JJ’s is karaoke night. You can still expect to hear out-of-tune Abba if you turn up here. The difference on this night is the fact that you can sing only love songs this evening. There will also be a prize for the couple that sings the best duet. Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye’s My Mistake Was To Love You would go down well with the single crowd in attendance. To make a reservation, call 17 742 323.
Dublin Club: The Dublin changes the rules in Bahrain, and will be doing so this year with a special ‘It’s cupid’ night on February 14. With live entertainment and games, audience participation, drinks promotions, a whole lot of fun is expected. Probably not a great idea if you are on a first date. To make a reservation, call 17 811 688.
Cocoon Lounge: Seduce your loved one with sushi. Cocoon Lounge on Mondays is sushi night, where you get a platter of sushi and house drinks all for BD12 per person. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, the club will have the resident DJ, who will be rocking the house until 2am. To make a reservation, call 17 827 600.
Bushido: One of the most impressive and romantic restaurants in Bahrain, Bushido will be offering a lovers’ four-course menu (BD35++) replete with bubbly cocktails. Sit out on the terrace and watch the moonlit sea suck at the shore. Bliss! To make a reservation, call 17 583 555.
Royal Golf Club: Not so great if you are single, Links, Royal Golf Club’s fantastic restaurant overlooking the fairways, is offering a superlative menu for couples, priced at BD64 for non-members, BD56 for members. Serving fine French cuisine, it is even offering the chance to win two tickets to Paris, the world’s most romantic capital. To make a reservation, call 17 750 777.
Coral Beach Club: It might be best known for its parties, but on Valentine’s Day, this is where you should head for a traditional Arabic night out. The superlative Lebanese restaurant, Rayes, will be hosting a night of Arabic treats overlooking the stunning gardens of Coral Beach Club. To make a reservation, call 17 312 700.
Muju: Muju has become renowned for its Friday Jazz brunches, and this Valentine’s Day, it will be bringing some of the best jazz in Bahrain. Overlooking the sea, one of the only venues in Bahrain to do so, this Amwaj establishment promises to be the ultimate night for lovers in Bahrain. With a special five-course menu for couples at BD80++, this isn’t cheap. But it is worth it. To make a reservation, call 16 039 800.
Ritz-Carlton: It’s one of Bahrain’s best-loved hotels, all of the F&B outlets here, many of them award winners in Time Out Bahrain’s inaugural Restaurant Awards last year, have a great offer for Valentine’s Day. With set menus ranging from between BD21++ to BD30++, there is also an option of a private gazebo set up in the lush gardens of the hotel with waiter service for two, which comes in at BD100++ To make a reservation, call 17 586 499.
Camelot: With new French chef Bertrand Estouy working his magic in the kitchen, this is the place to head for fine French cuisine in classic English surroundings. With a great selection of drinks to accompany the reasonably priced set menu (price on request), this is where it’s at in Adliya’s stunning dining district. To make a reservation, call 17 717 745.
Crowne Plaza: This place was a cracker on NYE, and it’s expected to be the epicentre of Valentine’s Day too. With its signature restaurant, Spices, seafood restaurant Waves and top-notch La Mosaïque all offering set menus with lots of bubbly, this is just the place to relax with the person you love. To make a reservation, call 17 531 122.
Mövenpick: The Mövenpick is perfectly positioned on the sea to make the most of a mild evening on its fantastic terrace. Silk’s restaurant will be welcoming couples with a lavish seafood dinner buffet, costing BD27.500++ per person. With love ballads crooned by a live band, this is a great option for Valentine’s Day. To make a reservation, call 17 460 096.
Marriott: The Marriott Executive Apartments offers not only a romantic dinner, but a night’s staycation in one of its lavish suites. Dine downstairs at the unlicensed Skyw@lk Cafe, with a four-course candle-lit dinner for BD25++ per person. Alternatively, book a Romantic Package and have dinner served in your upgraded room for BD140++. Better still, win a night’s staycation and a romantic meal for two. To make a reservation, call 17 363 999.