Tucked away in a seemingly derelict compound opposite Saar Cinema is Villa Mamas; one of Bahrain’s hidden gems of the restaurant world. With its rustic Mediterranean style, it is both charming and welcoming with happy- looking friendly staff.
Looking through the menu we decided we were going to order our individual dishes but put them all in the middle of the table and share. I settled on juicy meatballs in a tomato sauce to start and seafood spaghetti in a tomato and basil sauce for my main course. For my dining companion it was goat’s cheese in filo pastry with a maple honey dressing and sesame seeds, which came highly recommended by our waiter, followed by an Angus steak with balsamic reduction.
Our starters arrived and, not being a huge fan of sweet for savory, I was a little loath to try the goat’s cheese and honey, but my misgivings were misplaced and as soon as I bit into it I realised our waiter knew exactly what he was talking about. Light and crispy, the sweetness of the honey dressing was the perfect contrast to the creamy saltiness of the goat’s cheese. This was a delicious and perfectly-balanced dish I would definitely go out of my way to eat again.
The Juicy meatballs on the other hand were a little less to my liking, or more precisely, the tomato sauce they came in was. Made from lamb, the meatballs themselves were perfectly spiced and as juicy as promised, but there was something about the sauce that wasn’t quite right. I know that isn’t a very helpful comment for a food review, and I normally pride myself on a pretty sharp palate that can pick out most flavours, but in this case I was left a little stumped as to what the particular after-taste was. Having said that it wasn’t so bad that I didn’t use it to dip the very delicious and freshly-made Bahraini khoobus in.
We had a little bit of a false start with our main course as the steak arrived. Having rested for far too long before coming to the table, it was well done instead of the medium/rare we ordered and the balsamic reduction had a distinctively burnt taste to it, so we sent it back and asked for the new steak to come with mushroom sauce instead. When it arrived all was forgiven. Beautifully cooked and seasoned to perfection, it was tender and juicy and easily one of the best steaks I have eaten on the island. So good in fact that the sauce, while tasty, was completely unnecessary and we sat there having one of those foodie ‘I’m in heaven’ moments with every bite.
Sadly the seafood spaghetti was rather underwhelming by comparison. The tomato and basil sauce was pretty much the same as the one used for the meatballs with a couple of little additions. It was very generous with seafood though and the clams were sweet and juicy and, to my mind, saved the dish.
Our next foodie moment came in the form of dessert. Craving a sweet finish to the meal, I remembered someone once telling me that Villa Mamas’ Red Velvet cake was legendary so it was unthinkable that I should leave without trying it. For the sake of variety, my dining companion settled on chocolate and banana cake with vanilla ice cream. Both were out-of-this-world delicious but for my money, while the Red Velvet was indeed every bit as good as promised, the chocolate banana cake was hands-down the best thing I’ve eaten in a long time.
All in all, yes the meal was far from perfect, but I can honestly say neither of us cared. The good far out-weighed the bad and I won’t hesitate to go back again and again… and again. I would probably time it for just after pay-day though because, while delicious, Villa Mamas is somewhat on the pricey side for a mid-week feast.
The bill (for two) Cheese crispies BD5.500 Meat balls BD3.500 A Date with a Steak BD15.000 Seafood pasta BD6.500 Today cake x2 BD7.600 Mirinda x2 BD1.200 Lemon mint Juice BD2.100 Total (inc service) BD47.610
Time Out Bahrain staffhttp://www.timeoutbahrain.com