Reviews, pictures, contact and booking details for the best local restaurants in Bahrain (Bahraini), part of the Time Out Bahrain Restaurant Awards.
With Chicken Machboos and muhammar guaranteed to be on the menu, we hope you’re big rice fan. Time Out has visited each and every restaurant on this list, showcasing the best of Bahraini food to put them through their paces and assess factors including quality of food, ambience and service. Popular or relatively unknown, we’ve gone undercover to find out what you’re getting for your money at each venue.
Considering Saffron by Jena Bakery has been named Best Bahraini Restaurant for three years in a row at the Time Out Bahrain Restaurant Awards, it’s no wonder that the food is excellent, and when it comes to finding a stand-out Bahraini breakfast, there’s no better place to look. The original branch of Saffron (or Za’fran in Arabic) is located in the heart of Souq Al Qaysariya, a renovated area of Muharraq, and was conceived by Narise Qambar, who is also behind the hugely popular Jena Bakery, in collaboration with the Bahrain Authority of Culture and Antiquities. This particular venue is a transformed, traditional Bahraini house, boasting a glass floor under which a traditional date press lies preserved. In Manama, you’ll find a smaller, more modern branch in the Bab Al Bahrain Mall and another located in the magnificent Riffa Fort, where you can spend hours working your way through the fantastic Bahraini breakfast, gazing out at the surrounding Haniniya valley. You have one choice of breakfast, but one platter is more than enough to feed two hungry patrons. It comes with eggs and tomato, foul, balaleet and plenty more traditional choices, which are delicious. For a cultural experience and a true taste of what Bahrain has to offer, Saffron should top your list.
Getting a Highly Commended Bahraini restaurant accolade in both 2015 and 2016, this humble eatery has won the hearts of the island’s foodies since launching its first Budaiya branch and now, because of its popularity, it has expanded by opening a new spot in Hamala, too. It has all the quirky design elements of the original restaurant – graffitied walls that have been scribbled on by its customers, traditional sharing benches downstairs and majlis-style seating upstairs. Your authentic dishes are placed on your plastic “tablecloth” minutes after ordering, served in pans by the friendly staff along with piping-hot, freshly made khubz (bread). It’s the down-to-earth atmosphere and style we love, and the Hamala branch is no different to the Budaiya venue. And, with another Isa Town branch on the way, Emmawash’s popularity isn’t about to wane, thanks to its accessibility and sheer value for money. This is an affordable spot with plenty of character.
It might be homemade mango ice-cream that made Naseef Café famous more than 100 years ago, but now it’s the Bahraini breakfast that keeps all the customers returning for repeat visits. The quaintly presented platter, which comes with a brightly coloured dellah full of delicious karak chai (some of the best on the island), includes generous portions of foul, balila, balaleet, eggs with tomato and more, each dish just as delicious as the last. Once you’re done, grab a scoop of their famous ice-cream and meander the labyrinthine alleyways of Manama.
brings Basta 23’s traditional offering of some classic Bahraini cuisine into the 21st century. The modern café gives a nod to Bahrain’s culinary past and is set out to look like an old-style souk, with retro posters and trendy graffiti adding a contemporary vibe. The menu is decidedly nostalgic, too, with authentic Middle Eastern dishes, from shakshouka to foul, plus plenty of sweet karak chai, done the Khaleeji way, taking centre stage.
Nostalgia is the focus here, with dishes inspired by the owner’s childhood favourites. Chips Oman and cream cheese roti sit next to traditional foul and shakshouka, plus plenty of other Khaleeji favourites, which can all be washed down with some sweet, delicious karak chai (as you'd hope with the name of this eatery). The Sanabis-based café is cosy, with outdoor and indoor seating on two levels, and is a pleasant and contemporary spot to enjoy a true taste of Bahrain’s past and present. You can also order takeaway.
Where better to sample a taste of traditional Bahrain than at the Bahrain National Museum? Darseen Café has an eclectic, fusion menu, featuring a range of international flavours, but also offers some great Khaleeji dishes with a gourmet twist. We love the food, but it’s the museum setting and stunning sea views that really impress and always have us coming back for more. It’s the perfect respite after you’ve expanded your mind and discovered more than 4,000 years of Bahrain’s rich history.
This humble café is like visiting a Bahraini friend’s home – the décor is simple and the menu is very traditional, with sharing-style dishes that are generously portioned and use good quality ingredients. There’s plenty of variety, too, with meaty grills, seafood classics and hearty rice dishes vying for your attention, alongside authentic desserts and fresh juices. Eat it all with some fresh, fluffy khubz, which is prepared right in front of you. Then you can walk it off in the popular Arad Bay & Park, where there’s a lovely waterside walking track.
This Manama-based, street-side café is as local as it gets. Right in the heart of the city’s most famous souq, Haji Gahwa offers a down-to-earth, Bahraini experience like no other. There’s no menu – you just get what you’re given depending on what time of the day you visit, whether that’s machbous, grills or a traditional breakfast, with sides of salad and fruit. It’s simple Bahraini home cooking; delicious, generous and flavourful, and the staff are just as friendly as the welcoming location. Oh, and the reasonable prices are unbeatable, too.
The menu at this local restaurant and patisserie might be fairly international, but its traditional Khaleeji offering is extensive and impressive. Roche is particularly famous for its rangeena, an age-old dessert from the region made with dates and spices, so definitely leave space for that when you visit the funky Adliya-based bakery. But also make sure you sample the other, more authentic dishes, such as the shawarmas, eggs and grills.