The Organic Foods and Café in Seef Mall isn’t so much a new eatery as a lifestyle movement.
Dozens of glossy-haired shoppers with ruddy-cheeks and booming voices stride purposefully around the supermarket-cum-cafe’s aisles. They’re obviously regulars here. You don’t get a twinkle in your eyes like these people without knowing a secret. And the secret, as I was to discover, is that organic food is good for you.
Not a particularly well-kept secret. Along with smoking gives you cancer, sugary drinks rot your teeth and too much direct sunlight turns your skin leathery this is one of the best known pop-medical facts of the our time.
But still people continue to light up, swig pop and sizzle in the sun. Not to mention eat high-fat, low-nutritional junk food by the fistful.
I’ll be the first to admit that I kid myself when it comes to an honest appraisal of my daily intake. The rubbish going in is a major contributor to the bulges and blemishes that give my body its cuddly characteristics. My fellow diners at the Organic Foods and Café were not cuddly.
At least three tables in the café appeared to seat Vikings on a visit to Bahrain to guzzle up the island’s entire fruit supply before a quiet triathlon in the afternoon and some pillaging of fresh bread supplies in the evening. Supplies of bread that seem unlikely to be diminished. I counted 31 different makes, shapes, brands and styles of bread. Ciabatta rolls, sun gold loaves, rye bread with pumpkin seed sprinkles and baguettes of brown and white. That’s not to mention the breads devoid of seemingly essential ingredients such as yeast, egg, dairy, flour or gluten. Can bread really be considered such without these ingredients?
It can at the Organic Café and although each one of the four styles I’ve tasted in the three visits I’ve made so far tasted less impressive than a big floury bap or some sliced white with jam I have no doubt that these new variants will add years to my life.
Coeliacs, the lactose intolerant and anybody with any kind of dietary requirements (from diabetes to irritable bowels-friendly dishes) should stop whatever they’re doing and get across to the Organic Café right now. Make this part of your weekly shopping cycle and you will find hundreds of otherwise hard to get items are available once again. Gluten-free pretzels, for example are not common place in Bahrain.
But what of everybody else? Is organic food worth the expense and the hassle?
First, let’s put to bed this notion that organic food has to mean more expensive. On my last visit, a pair of brunches came to less than BD20. Admittedly there was no alcohol involved but my dining companion and I necked at least three jugs of organic guava juice and in my book that’s good value considering the platefuls of home cooked food we enjoyed. As you’d expect there is a lot of attention paid to salads here. Usual offerings such as a presentable chicken ceaser are available but be more adventurous to get the rewards. The tuna, white bean and potato salad I tried had a delicate thyme vinaigrette that gave a sharp bite to the moist potato and hard-boiled egg.
My date’s lamb salad was filled with cashew nuts to give it a satisfying crunchiness and came with a gooey garlic and yoghurt dressing.
As with any brunch the portion control is up to you. Although it should be mentioned that the selection of half a dozen salads and a similar number of main courses make this considerably smaller than what you’d find in most of the island’s hotels.
Still, when you’ve got options like a firm tofu stir fry, an organic roast beef and some beautifully marinated honey orange chicken skewers you really don’t need to pile platefulls of curry, prawns and sushi down your gullet.
Much of the food is grilled or steamed and there are precious few fried and fatty dishes available and I didn’t miss them at all. Accompaniments vary in quality. Slices of fresh fruit and bowls of brown rice are tastier and healthier than more common alternatives. But we can’t help think that the bowls of cereal and yoghurt on offer at brunch are too simplistic an option when dining out. By all means pick them up from the store and take them home but if you’ve come here to eat explote the world of organic food a little deeper.
The bill (for two) 2x Brunch BD9.5 Total (incl charges) BD19
Organic Foods & Cafe
Time Out Bahrain staffhttp://www.timeoutbahrain.com