Take a virtual stroll through Bahrain's bustling dining district
Following a host of new restaurant openings over the summer, we take an illustrative tour through Bahrain’s bustling dining district.
If you take a wander through the labyrinthine alleyways of Block 338 you’ll be surprised by how much has appeared in recent months and what promises to open up in the near future. In fact, you could now spend an entire day venue hopping in the district. Every taste is catered to, from the arty at Al Riwaq to dessert lovers in La Ventana, or ladies that lunch at Lilou's to the sophisticated dining crowd in one of the many chic Asian spots. To find out what else this district has to offer, turn the page for our illustrated map...
Dining directory Keep handy these details of must-visit spots in Block 338.
La Ventana Great for: A humble, homely atmosphere This hugely popular cafe has recently reopened in the area offering delicious salads, sandwiches and baked potatoes for which you can handpick your own fillings and ingredients, alongside a mouthwatering selection of homemade desserts and a huge variety of teas. It's a humble sort of place that is well worth the visit. Open 11.30am-11pm. Just behind Gulf Hotel (6637 1616).
Cafe Amsterdam Great for: A taste of The Netherlands Set to open at some point this month, Cafe Amsterdam promises a menu combining Dutch and Western favourites including tasty sounding salads, a selection of juicy burgers and more for lunch or dinner. The decor is also recognisably Dutch with tulips, bicycles and photographs of typical Amsterdam scenes. There will also be an upstairs sports bar. Licensed. Opposite Gulf Hotel (3200 0177).
La Vinoteca Barcelona Great for: Tapas, paella and grape Easily a new island favourite, La Vinoteca Barcelona is a vibrant tapas bar and restaurant with a host of delectable dishes on the menu including Spanish classics like paella, patatas bravas and much more as well as a wide variety of grape. The venue is bright and airy with Spanish music playing in the background, adding to the authentic experience. Licensed. Open daily noon-2am. Opposite Gulf Hotel, next to Cafe Amsterdam (1700 7808).
Cafe Lilou Great for: Oh the desserts There are many reasons to visit this old cafe favourite like the amazing salads, sandwiches and other unique dishes on the menu, not to mention the droolworthy desserts counter. The decor is sophisticated French and it's always packed here, particularly on weekends, so you might have to wait for a seat. But it's worth it. Open Sat-Wed 8am-11pm; Thu-Fri 10am-11.30pm. Next to Coco's (1771 4440).
Coco's Great for: Salads and iced tea It's cosy at Coco's and they do great breakfasts, salads and main meals among other things, plus it's great value, which is why people are always going back. Granted, the cafe isn't noted for it's great or fast service but you'll always leave satisfied by the food. Open daily 10am-midnight. Next to Hash House (1771 6512).
Hash House Great for: Cheap and cheerful Thai The interior has recently been renovated at Hash House where they do reasonably priced and authentic Thai food well. It's a great place to head with a bunch of friends for a decent, reasonably priced night out. Licensed. Open daily 11am-midnight. Next to Zoe (1771 5094).
Zoe Great for: A touch of class This classy European restaurant is great for socialising with friends at the upstairs bar or for a delicious meal on a date night. You always know what to expect beause the service is excellent and the food and drinks are completely worth the higher-than-most price tag. We're a fan - can you tell? Licensed. Open Sat-Tue noon-3pm, 7pm-midnight; Wed-Fri noon-3pm, 7pm-2am. On the corner by the roundabout as you enter the area (1771 6400).
Mirai Great for: Mouthwatering sushi concoctions The outer building might look non-descript but don't underestimate Japanese spot Mirai as it's a firm favourite among sushi lovers. The interior is small but tres trendy and the rest of the menu that's full of Japanese classics is great. Head here for a romantic date night or with friends for after work beverages and a sharing platter of that sushi. Licensed. Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-11pm. Directly next to Zoe (1771 3113).
Al Riwaq Art Space Great for: Healthy art lovers Not-for-profit art space Al Riwaq was originally set up to support a grass roots arts scene on the island and it's been very successful so far at doing so. Head over to wander around the gallery with rotating exhibitions or check out the gift shop and then pop into the cafe for a healthy bite to eat. Open Sat-Fri 9.30am-10pm. Right next to Mirai (1771 7441).
The Meat Co Great for: Juicy steaks If it's a melt-in-your-mouth steak you're after with a glass of top quality grape then look no further than The Meat Co. The menu offers a range of prime cuts alongside seafood options and a vegetarian choice of the day. The rooftop bar is also a great place to head with friends for a trendy night out. Licensed. Open Sat-Tue 12.30pm-11.30pm; Fri 12.30pm-midnight. Opposite Thailand (1774 2080).
Thailand Great for: Private gatherings As soon as you're greeted with a 'Sawadika' at the door you know Thailand is authentic. The menu is full of Thai classics and you can enjoy the dishes either at a regular table or in a private room with in-ground seating where you must remove your shoes. The prices are reasonable and it's a great place particularly for celebrations. Licensed. Open daily noon-midnight. Opp The Meat Co and next to Al Riwaq (1771 7040).
Jim's Restaurant Great for: Hearty yet sophisticated food This classic Adliya favourite has gone through many phases throughout the years, following changes in management, from Irish to Irish-Indian and now it offers wholesome, heart-warming international grub. The venue has recently undergone a welcome facelift and we're impressed by the upmarket atmosphere and hearty dishes catering to every taste. Licensed. Open Sun-Wed 11am-3pm, 6pm-midnight; Thu-Sat 11am-midnight. Next to Thailand (1771 0654).
Blaze Burgers & More Great for: Why burgers of course! Pick up a fat, juicy burger, some fries and a cola at this better-than-your-average fast food burger joint. There's plenty of choice from gourmet to old school and even something for the non-meat eaters too. Open daily 11am-midnight. On a street parallel to the main road, next to Passion (1774 4773).
Passion Great for: Tea lovers and fussy eaters Seven cuisines are featured on the menu at international restaurant Passion including a whole host of brews at their tea bar (go for afternoon tea and they throw in a free lesson on all things tea). We love the decor as it's rather tropical with plenty of greenery and even a small water wheel feature outside. This won the accolade for Best Newcomer in the 2013 Time Out Bahrain Restaurant Awards. Open daily 11.30am-midnight. Next to Blaze (1363 2103).
Beijing Great for: Fun nights out with friends Not so long ago Beijing restaurant closed its doors but only to move to a bigger and better location on a street parallel. Beijing is best known for its Chinese dishes and karaoke, making it a great spot for a friendly gathering. Licensed. Open daily 11.30am-3.30pm, 6.30pm-11.30pm. Opp Passion (1771 7969).
Monsoon Great for: The HUGE Asian menu With hundreds of items on the menu at Monsoon, not even the most discerning individual could complain they can't find something they fancy. It covers a whole host of Asian cuisines including Japanese, Indonesian, Thai and much more in a very beautiful, tropical setting which makes it a firm favourite with the dining out crowd. The best thing is it's always consistent. Licensed. Open Fri-Tue noon-2.30pm, 7pm-11pm; Wed-Thu noon-2.30pm, 7pm-11.30pm. Next to Motorox and opposite the school (1774 9222).
Mezzaluna Great for: Romantic dates We love the eclectic decor at this upmarket contemporary European spot and the fact that it's based in an old Bahraini courtyard house. The food is top quality and very tasty, while the ambient mood-lighting makes this a perfect venue for a romantic date. It also happens to be a past recipient of Time Out Bahrain Restaurant Award's highest accolade. Licensed. Open Sat-Fri 6pm-11.30pm. Opposite Monsoon (1774 2999).
Motorox Cafe Great for: Formula One fans This motoring themed cafe has moved from Budaiya to the heart of Block 338, offering hearty grub including burgers, chicken wings and salads. They also invite punters to live screenings of F1 races making this a haven for petrolheads and speedsters. Opposite Monsoon.
Lanterns Restaurant & Lounge Great for: Indian bites by the bar Now with three branches across the island, Lanterns is easily one of the more popular spots for authentic Indian cuisine. The branch in Adliya is our favourite, however, with its relaxing outdoor bar and seating area, and the bazaar-style interiors reflecting the cuisine's heritage. It's bustling all the time as well so pop in for lunch or dinner and you won't be disappointed. Licensed. Open noon-midnight. Opposite Houseboat and further down from Salad Boutique (1725 0999).
Salad Boutique Great for: Jazzy salads It's all in the name. Needless to say this stylish cafe focuses on salads of the hearty, hefty variety. There's something for everyone on the massive menu including meat, seafood and vegetarian selections for salad lovers, as well as risottos and burgers for hungrier folk. It's a good lunchtime spot. Open Sun-Thu 9am-10.30pm; Fri-Sat 9am-midnight . Opposite Masaya.
Camelot Great for: Fine French cuisine The best thing about this chic French themed restaurant is that the building is quite literally a castle so it's very hard to miss. It's fun and funky inside with a host of great nights like the weekly vino tasting or unlimited mussel pots they're famous for. Licensed. Open Mon-Thu noon-2am; Fri-Sat 9am-2am; Sun 4pm-2am. Next to Cafe Italia (1771 7745).
Cafe Italia Great for: Modern Italian The contemporary setting really lifts the mood at this Italian restaurant where the food has always been known for being top quality. They've recently streamlined their menu which saddened us somewhat (as we had to wave goodbye to some of our favourite dishes) but it's still the perfect spot for a sophisticated meal out and special occasions. Licensed. Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-11.30pm. Next to Camelot (1774 4774).
Akiko Great for: Swanky Japanese dining We can't complain we're lacking in great Japanese restaurants in Bahrain particularly since this newcomer has hit the scene. The decor is really smart and it's split into a main indoor and outdoor dining area with a chic lounge upstairs. The food is just as impressive spanning modern Japanese twists. Licensed. Open Sun-Wed noon-midnight; Thu-Sat noon-2am. Behind Houseboat and Cafe Italia (1771 7080).
Houseboat Great for: Eclectic Asian menu This family-friendly concept started its life on Amwaj Islands and proved to be popular so they've recently opened a new branch in Block 338. The cuisine is pan-Asian and includes favourites from India, Japan, China and Thailand. Open daily noon-11.30pm. Next Masaya and opposite Lanterns (3881 8864).
Masaya Lounge Great for: Friends with shisha Another newbie to the area is this international cuisine and shisha spot where one could hang about for hours chatting with friends after dark (Masaya means 'twilight zone' in Arabic). The interior is chic and the food is satisfying. Open daily 6pm-midnight. In between Houseboat and Umami (1771 7900).
338 Garden Restaurant Great for: Outdoor dining to live music We're big fans of the garden terrace at this Mediterranean-European restaurant and the fact that they host nightly jam sessions with a whole host of bands. The food is good too with refreshing salads and tapas-style bites, and you can't complain about the beverage selection. Licensed. Open daily 11am-2am. Right next to Meisei (1771 0338).
Meisei Great for: Chic Asian bites Inspired by the philosophy of 'wabi-sabi' – a Japanese world-view on acceptance of transience and imperfection – this restaurant combines Asian flavours and offers an upmarket dining experience in a chic setting complete with private dining and a rooftop lounge bar that hosts regular live DJ nights. Licensed. Open Sat-Wed noon-3pm, 7pm-midnight; Thu-Fri noon-3pm, 7pm-2am. Behind 338 Garden Restaurant (1700 7770).
Others on the Map Spice Nice Restaurant The unmistakable Chinese decor lets you know you're in for an authentic experience within. It's next to La Ventana.
Century International This cheap and cheerful chain is popular among Indian food lovers whether they're eating in or ordering home delivery. Find it opposite Jim's Restaurant.
La Cucina Located just behind Cafe Lilou is this family-run Italian spot with a rather grand exterior and classic dishes on the menu.
Upstairs Downstairs This down-to-earth restaurant offers classic international dishes that are hearty and wholesome. We particularly recommend their revered hammour pate. And besides being a dining out venue, they also host regular parties. It's opposite Camelot restaurant.
Umami This restaurant offers the classic Indian-Chinese mix of cuisines alongside Arabian mezzes in an opulent setting and rumour has it they're opening an upstairs bar in the near future. It's next to Masaya Lounge.
Monte Rosa Restaurant Complex The newly opened restaurant complex includes, right now, the international King William restaurant, an events centre, the longest bar on the island (they say) and a piano lounge. You'll find it on the desert patch in between La Vinoteca Barcelona and Meisei.
Ambiance An often overlooked café and restaurant that’s noted for its monochromatic sketches of famous people on the restaurant front. Ambiance is just next to 338 Garden Restaurant and Meisei.