As more businesses open on Budaiya highway we investigate the neighbourhood
Time Out Bahrain staff
When thinking of places in Bahrain to dine, shop and play, busy areas such as Adliya, Riffa or Amwaj Islands might immediately spring to mind but the Budaiya Highway shouldn’t be overlooked. With plenty of restaurants, shops and activity centres, unique to this area, you could easily lose a few hours mooching up and down the highway discovering some of Bahrain’s best spots. We explored the district to find those one-off places you need to check out.
Emma-Wash Cuisine: Bahraini What we love most about this traditional Bahraini restaurant is its down-to-earth, welcoming vibe and it seems we’re not the only one as, particularly during breakfast, you might even be put on a waiting list for a table. Just tick what you want on the small, very authentic menu and wait for the delicious khubz (Arabic flat bread) and pans to arrive. The beans with parsley and lentils daal come highly recommended. Also, don’t forget to scribble on the graffiti-laden walls before you head off. Open daily 6am-1pm, 7pm-11pm. Muqaba, Budaiya Highway (1730 9030).
Gusto Cuisine: Italian While Gusto Pizzeria Ristorante has another branch in Riffa, it was the original Budaiya’s Palm Square branch that captured the island’s imagination first. The clean, all-white, minimalist décor is inviting and there’s a big wood-fired oven producing some fine pizza varieties throughout the day. The rest of the menu encompasses everything from fresh, hearty salads to wholesome pastas and risottos – everything you would expect from a high quality trattoria-style Italian restaurant. We particularly love the seafood spaghetti but they also do a mean pizza. Open daily noon-11pm. Palm Square, Budaiya Highway (1769 5556).
La Marine Cuisine: Seafood At first glance you could be forgiven for not jumping at the chance to dine at La Marine restaurant, but you would be missing out on a surprisingly enjoyable meal. Much more casual than other seafood restaurants in Bahrain, they do however offer everything from lobster thermidor to Hawaiian prawns and most things in between. They also have a popular buffet that encompasses a wide variety of seafood and different cuisines. The addition of a sushi bar also makes them the only seafood restaurant on the island to offer sushi! Open daily noon-midnight. Jidhafs, above Burgerland, on Budaiya roundabout, Budaiya (1759 5775).
Lanna Thai Cuisine: Thai One of the oldest but cosiest restaurants along Budaiya Highway has to be Lanna Thai where the down-to-earth atmosphere is appealing. It also happens to be one of the only licensed venues in the area. Head downstairs where traditional sunken tables await, pop off your shoes and settle in. The menu has a huge range of classic Thai dishes which are, admittedly, hit and miss but we’d recommend starting off with the Tom Yum Soup and then moving onto the Thai basil chilli beef with a side of steamed rice. Open daily noon-3pm, 6pm-11pm. Jannusan, Budaiya Highway (1759 3940).
La Scala Cuisine: Italian La Scala is an unassuming restaurant in the Jannusan area that serves some of the most delicious, cheesy pizzas we’ve had in a while. The menu, which is regularly updated, features classic Italian dishes such as melanzane alla parmagiana (oven-baked eggplant with mozzarella and tomato sauce), spaghetti carbonara, seafood risotto and chicken Milanese, alongside the restaurants own creations like the fresh La Scala salad with greens, artichoke, olives, potato and sun-dried tomatoes. They also have over 20 pizza varieties to choose from. Open Mon-Sat noon-11pm. Jannusan, Budaiya Highway (1769 9997).
Leyan Café & Restaurant Cuisine: Bahraini This clean, well-appointed traditional Bahraini spot is breaking new boundaries over in Cypress Garden, with plans to offer authentic local dishes with an international twist. Buried down the left-hand alleyway of this outdoor commercial complex, Leyan is the kind of place you can sit, relax and while away the hours. Their breakfast currently features classics such as eggs with tomatoes, dahl and samboosas. Dinner is coming soon. There are no frills, just good, wholesome food in a family-friendly area. Open 8am-1pm. Cypress Garden, Budaiya Highway (1700 7100).
Mini Delights Cuisine: Desserts Cheesecake lovers have a very good reason to travel to Budaiya and that reason is Mini Delights. They specialise in creating miniature cheesecake creations, as well as other desserts, that are simply melt-in-your-mouth, droolworthy delicious. They serve up all sorts of concoctions such as original or red velvet, macaroon-style or chocolate-coated, peanut butter-laden or fresh and fruity, plus many more. It’s also very affordable with a dozen costing just BD3. Open daily 10am-10pm. Uptown Shopping Village, Budaiya Highway (1759 5254).
8 Mansions Best for: Crystals and feng shui Budaiya’s very own shopping mall, Country Mall, offers neighbourhood residents quick access to a collection of services such as EWA and Viva offices, as well as to fast food joints like the 24-hour Burger King and Costa Coffee, and a decent supermarket. For visitors to the area, there are few unique shops but one worth checking out is 8 Mansions for beautiful high quality crystals and feng shui supplies. You can find homemade personal jewellery, chakra sets, water features and even wands! The team also runs a host of workshops and classes throughout the year focusing on topics such as crystal healing, feng shui, jewellery making and more. Open daily 10am-8pm. Country Mall, Budaiya Highway (1759 4575).
BSPCA thrift shop Best for: Second hand goods The Bahrain Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a dedicated thrift shop just off Budaiya Highway which stocks plenty of used and second-hand goods from donators. You’ll find clothing, accessories, books, toys and plenty more, mostly priced under BD5, and you can feel happy that your money is going to a good cause. Alternatively, you could head over there to actually donate your own old (still decent) items. Open Mon-Thu 9am-2pm; Fri 9am-5pm; Sat-Sun 2pm-5pm. Shakhoora, off Budaiya Highway (1759 3479).
Cowboy Bahrain Best for: A trip to the Wild West Say yee-ha because the Wild West has finally come to Bahrain! This themed store, Cowboy Bahrain, sells Western saddles, tacks, grooming supplies, boots (they’re the real deal), clothing and more, for all you horse lovers out there. Whether it’s for a dress-up party or you seriously fancy yourself as Roy Rogers or Annie Oakley, you now have the opportunity to tap into your inner cowboy on the island. Open daily 9.30am-9pm. Budaiya Highway, next to Harley Davidson and Tribal Fitness (1730 0466).
Khalid Best for: Antiques and paintings If you’re not looking out for Khalid you might very well miss it but you’d definitely be missing out. Located on the same strip as The Bookcase, this small two-floor shop sells a great and quirky collection of bric-a-brac, antiques and paintings, as well as books and DVDs, perfect for the island’s hoarders. It’s easy to spend an hour rooting through all the items. Open Sat-Thu 9am-7pm. Budaiya Highway (1769 9950).
Party Mania Best for: Party supplies This is arguably one of Bahrain’s best one-stop-shops for party-related products. From party poppers to balloons, fancy dress costumes to face paint, organisers and party-goers will find everything they need under one roof. Turn to page 60 for more information on this store and tips on how to throw the perfect party. Open Sat-Thu 9am-2pm, 4pm-8pm. Budaiya Highway (1766 0515).
Skate Shack Best for: Extreme sports equipment This family-run business has been going in Bahrain for 25 years now and also spread to Qatar ten years ago. They started off selling skates, skateboards and bikes but, due to the location – this archipelago of 33 islands – they soon added watersports equipment to their repertoire. Their first and main branch is in Budaiya but now they also have a store in Amwaj and work with a dealer in Juffair, catering to the kite-surfers and jet-skiiers of the water worlds. On top of that, Skate Shack also offers repairs and maintenance, as well as organises kite surfing lessons for those interested. Open Sat-Thu 10am-8.30pm; Fri 10am-1pm. Budaiya Highway, next to The Bookcase (1769 7176). Other location: Amwaj Islands (7719 7772).
Talent Best for: Arts and crafts Artsy folk and hobbyists will love this store where they sell everything from card to paint, drawing materials to pottery equipment and everything else the budding artist could possibly need. They also have a great selection of educational supplies and general stationery. Open Sat-Thu 8.30am-12.30pm, 3.30pm-7.30pm. Jannusan, Budaiya Highway, next to Al Jazira Supermarket (1759 4050).
The Bookcase Best for: Books! It’s like walking into a treasure trove of literary goodies at The Bookcase in Budaiya. There’s everything from fictional classics to the latest thrillers, biographies to recipe books. They also stock a decent collection of gift items, perfect for a unique surprise for a special someone, as well as a huge section dedicated to educational books for young learners. Open Sat-Thu 9am-8pm; Fri 10am-6pm. Budaiya Highway (1769 0566).
Things to do Best for: Art and equestrian supplies Things to do, located next to the Budaiya Roundabout (beside Burgerland), was started back in 1975 and is now split into two very distinct stores – one for art supplies and the other for equestrian equipment. For the artistic among us, they stock a wide range of fine art materials such as pottery glazes and equipment, instruction books, wool, embroidery kits, all types of paints, modeling wood, clay and much more. While, for the horse lovers, they sell hats and body protectors, correct clothing (for both rider and steed), saddles and everything else you could need. If you’re not able to go to the store, you can also shop on their website. Open Sat-Thu 8am-12.30pm, 3.30pm-6.30pm. Budaiya Roundabout, Budaiya Highway, www.thingstodobahrain.net (1759 0409).
Wady Natural Herbs Best for: Health products An unassuming store just opposite Burgerland, Wady Natural Herbs, stocks plenty of medicinal herbs and products you won’t find anywhere else from essential oils to herbal water, argan oil to garlic shampoo (you read correctly). Some of the items are questionable but some great deals can be found here. Open Sat-Thu 8.30am-10pm; Fri 8.30am-11.30am, 4pm-10pm. Budaiya Highway (3311 2951).
Words BookstoreCafé Best for: Snacks and great reads Words BookstoreCafé, in Palm Square, is the kind of place everyone dreams about opening. It eclectically mixes books and gifts sales with a small café selling great snacks and coffee, as well as hosts a range of events every month such as book signings, readings, kids’ plays and lectures. The two-floor venue is quaint and clean, with a great selection of books you’re not likely to find anywhere else on the island. You can certainly spend a few hours snacking and mooching around the store. You can also order dishes from next door Gusto Ristorante. Open Sat-Thu 8am-8pm; Fri 10am-6pm. Palm Square, Budaiya Highway (1769 0790).
Farmers’ Market Go for: Local, fresh produce We’re big fans of the weekly Farmers’ Market down at the amazingly green and tropical Budaiya Botanical Gardens where plenty of local vendors set up shop for the morning to sell their freshly grown vegetables and fish at an incredibly reasonable price. Get wonderful produce for a fraction of the price in supermarkets, all from local soil and in season. You’ll also find a picnic area with live cooking stations where chefs are whipping up all sorts of traditional Bahraini delights. It’s on every Saturday (usually October to May) from 8am to noon. Budaiya Botanical Gardens, Budaiya Highway (near the police station).
Japan Karate Association Go for: Your black belt JKA Bahrain is the island’s official branch of the world’s prestigious Japan Karate Association/World Federation which is headquartered in Tokyo. Many full-time and volunteer instructors run a range of educational classes in the art of karate at their two-floor Martial Arts Centre in the Habitat Centre, along Budaiya Highway, as well as run regular tournaments through the year. They have also introduced programmes such as Women’s Basic Self Defense and an anti-bullying class for kids. Open Sat, Mon, Wed 5pm-7pm; Fri 9am-11am. Habitat Centre, Abu Saiba, Budaiya Highway. Visit www.jka-bahrain.com.
P.U.S.H Go for: Women’s only exercise P.U.S.H stands for Physical Understand Starts Here and this company was founded by trainers Huda Bushehri and Anastazia Salinas in a bid to help women achieve their fitness goals. They currently offer private group training, public classes and three-week boot camps, and aim to set up a gym soon. Classes include ones like HEAT (High Energy Active Training) which combines circuit training, HIIT and free weight exercises. There’s also the slower cardio-weights class TTT (Trim Tighten Tone). There’s a little something for kids as well, as Monkeynastix provides dedicated classes at the facility. Habitat Centre, Abu Saiba, Budaiya Highway. Contact Huda on 3990 2422.
Namaste Go for: Yoga classes and official teacher training Namaste is a great place for yoga lovers, as it’s Bahrain’s only internationally recognised yoga school offering classes for beginners, intermediates, workshops, retreats and teacher training. The facility, which was founded by yogi Weam Zabar, has two large yoga shalas and two small rooms for private classes, as well as a retail shop that sells yoga mats and props, essential oils and more. Their yoga for beginners course is 12 classes, running twice a week for six weeks, costing BD70. You can also try the morning yoga classes for mixed levels (BD50 per month) or have a go at private sessions for BD20 per hour. Open Sat-Wed 9am-1pm, 4pm-8pm. Budaiya Highway, by Ruyan Pharmacy, www.namastebh.com (1759 1566).
Studio Ceramics Go for: Start making your own pottery with private sessions The concept at Studio Ceramics is to paint your own pottery. They’re currently headquartered in Seef Mall but they have a branch along Budaiya Highway that’s open for private bookings. Gather with friends and family to decorate your own pots at your own pace. They provide everything from instructions to supplies, and create a fun, relaxing environment for guests to enjoy. You can also try your hand at wet clay moulding and they offer classes in jewellery making, mosaic, enameling and glass fusing. Visit www.studioceramicsbahrain.com.
Tribal Fitness Go for: Natural, fun fitness classes for adults and kids Founder Craig Heslop inaugurated the Tribal Fitness concept back in 2009 in Bahrain and opened their first fitness facility last year along Budaiya Highway. The aim is to get people into natural movement and organic ways of exercising, using things like monkey bars, kettlebells and gravity, through fitness classes. They also run other programmes such as their desert survival courses and the Bedouin Businessman corporate package, which includes training in fire lighting, shelter building and rescue techniques for team building. Membership starts from BD70 per month and interested people can head along for a free trial session. Budaiya Highway, next to Harley Davidson, www.tribalfitness.com (3947 3710).