Get ready for the 2014 Time Out Bahrain Restaurant Awards
Time Out Bahrain staff
It’s that time of the year, when we nominate the country’s best venues in time for the Time Out Bahrain Restaurant Awards 2014 next month. With longer shortlists, brand new categories and evermore sophisticated spots, this edition of the awards is sure to be our most exciting yet.
How do we pick our winners?
Our panel of foodie experts has spent the last year, since the Time Out Bahrain Restaurant Awards 2013, eating their way around the island (again!) and judging each restaurant based on various criteria including the quality of food, service, value for money and atmosphere. Then the winners and highly commended restaurants for each category are announced on November 12 at our Awards Gala. To be considered for an award, restaurants must be open at least six months, except in our Newcomer category where they must be open a minimum of three months.
Winner Best Bar Food Polo Gastropub A brand new gastro pub concept has infiltrated the island at Palace Boutique Hotel and we’re very glad of it. The menu boasts a range of interesting options such as polenta and goat’s cheese lasagna, butternut squash wedges and herb-crusted sea bass, alongside other classics with a gourmet twist. Try their special burger and we can assure you, you won’t be disappointed. Palace Boutique Hotel (1772 5000).
Highly recommended Tapas Bar & Restaurant The Sofitel isn't short on outstanding venues and Tapas is no exception as it serves a variety of Mediterranean, Arabian, American and Asian cuisines in classic tapas-style portions, at a glamourous seaside venue with indoor and outdoor seating areas. Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa (1763 6363).
Highly recommended Thai Lounge Relaxing in the chic interiors or comfortable outdoors at Thai Lounge, as the DJ spins her tunes, with a beverage in hand and any one of their Asian dishes is a lovely way to spend an evening. They have Thai classics like a tasty Tom Yum Soup alongside some mean sushi platters and other nibbles. All hail the Unicorn Roll! Thai Lounge is anything but predictable in its offering and we like it. The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel & Spa, Seef District (1758 0000).
Corners If you fancy some proper pub grub in a traditional pub atmosphere then Corners is a great choice. From fish and chips and the all day brekkie to an Asian selection and sushi, all taste buds are catered to here. Dragon Hotel & Resort, Amwaj Islands (1603 1113). Downtown We like the vibe over at Downtown – the venue is spacious, often bustling and the live band is great, plus they have a great bar food menu complete with pub grub favourites such as fish and chips, tacos, sliders and much more. It’s hearty but tasty and offers everything one would look for. InterContinental Regency Bahrain, Manama (1722 7777).
JJ’s Irish Restaurant This stalwart Irish bar, and winner of last year’s Best Bar Food accolade, has the whole package – a menu filled with tasty and hearty bites (including a full Irish breakfast!), a brilliant atmosphere thanks to their fiercely loyal clientele, friendly staff and live music by a band and DJ who also takes song requests. Adliya (1774 2323).
The Warbler Pies. Pies. Pies. We just love us some Warbler pies. Not only that, the menu encompasses everything from Asian dishes to salads, they have a dedicated steak night, and a generous seafood platter you can’t fault. But make sure to leave room for the steaming apple pie! Ramee Baisan International Hotel (1729 0600).
Trader Vic's Think bar food, think Trader Vic's. It's easy to see why as well, as this bar and restaurant has been the cornerstone of Bahrain's nightlife scene for years. The tropical ambience and live Cuban music are memorable, while the jalapeno cheese balls and chicken skewers have understandably captured punters' attentions. And so, Traders deserves pride of place on this list. The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa (1758 6555).
Winner Best Brunch Masso We love the a la carte concept Masso offers in their weekend brunch. Add to it their top quality, fresh ingredients, tasty array of European breakfast and lunch options, excellent service and refined atmosphere, it becomes a serious category contender. Just read our review in the Eating Out section for more of our impressions. Palace Boutique Hotel (1772 5000).
For years, this award-winning brunch has been attracting people in droves to experience one of the largest buffet spreads on the island. Enjoy everything from fresh seafood to Moroccan tagines, pizza made on the spot at Fiamma to a bowl of steaming Vietnamese pho from Wok. No matter what you choose you won’t go wrong because the food it’s undeniably delectable. Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa (1763 6363).
Highly recommended Lemon Tree
Ramee Grand Hotel & Spa Seef debuts on this list for Lemon Tree’s extremely family-friendly brunch offering. Each of the hotel’s outlets showcase their specialty cuisine including Japanese from Ruka, Indian from Rasoi and Italian from Rialto, so you can bet on the food being good. Meanwhile, kid’s activities abound and there are even roaming entertainers. Ramee Grand Hotel & Spa (1711 1999).
You not only get Bushido’s famous Japanese dishes but also a spread of international classics. The food is good and there's a nice selection of beverages but our favourite bit of this brunch is being able to hang out in the stunning interiors or on the terrace (in cooler months). You can also order an a la carte dish. Try the prawns in miso sauce! Bushido, Seef (1758 3555).
Crowne Plaza Bahrain We couldn’t forget this old favourite now, could we? The ABSOLUTly Fabulous brunch at Crowne Plaza has been consistent in quality and atmosphere for as long as we remember. The food spread caters to all tastes and there are plenty of different beverages to keep you interested. Go here for some guaranteed laughs. Crowne Plaza Bahrain (1700 6633). Domain Bahrain Another newcomer to the list this year is the Domain Bahrain brunch which is spread across steakhouse Le Sauvage and European restaurant Le Domain . Try international favourites in a sophisticated atmosphere that’s strictly for grown-ups. It’s based on the 34th floor the views over the city beneath are spectacular. Domain Bahrain, Diplomatic Area (1600 0000).
Elite Resort & Spa Another family-friendly Friday favourite is the Elite Resort & Spa brunch offering which features an international buffet spread with a focus on Arabian favourites, alongside live cooking stations and plenty of entertainment for the kids. This includes henna, swimming, special children's games and even a fortune teller! Muharraq (1731 3333).
La Med Friday brunch at La Med is a sophisticated affair. A singing duo belt out old classics in the corner while you sit back at the comfortable tables or take a look through the vast array of hot and cold foods that range from roast beef to freshly shucked oysters, cold mezzes to maki rolls. It might be on the pricier side but then again the quality of drinks and food is high. The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain, Hotel & Spa (1758 0000).
Links The views from Links across the golf course greens are spectacular. Grab a window seat during their Friday carvery feast so you can enjoy sights while indulging in some fine international cuisine. Don’t forget the kids because they offer discounts and child-friendly dishes that are bound to keep them happy. Royal Golf Club, Riffa (1775 0777).
Mövenpick Bahrain The entire lobby and downstairs venues are taken over by the whopping brunch. In fact, it’s so big it takes the whole afternoon for you to discover and taste all the food that’s on offer. From live cooking stations to all the hot and cold starters and mains you can think of, you can expect to leave Mövenpick fully satisfied. Mövenpick Bahrain (1746 0000).
Winner Best Budget Honey’s You’ll find this is one of many Bahrain residents’ favourite budget spot simply because they do some of the best Thai food on the island. The venue might be a bit basic but you’d be hard-pressed to find this kind of quality for the price anywhere else. Manama Souq (3923 8507).
Highly recommended Fish House
It may be more of a canteen than an institution of fine dining but Fish House offers some of the freshest and tastiest seafood offerings we’ve had for under BD10. The menu is fairly limited but it’s always packed with locals so you know it’s good! Budaiya Highway, opposite International Hospital (1759 4040).
Govinda’s Every palate is always fully satisfied at Govinda’s even if it is a completely vegetarian place. Delicate, flavoursome dishes incorporate various cooking techniques from across India to provide veggie curries which are generous in portion and highly reasonable in price. Juffair (1782 7127).
Haji Gahwa Also known as Haji’s Café, this traditional Bahraini restaurant is popular among both locals and tourists. It offers quaint outdoor, indoor and family seating although there’s no menu – the offering depends on which time of day you go but always expect something extremely local. Plus you’ll eat like a king for next to nothing. Bab Al Bahrain (1721 0647).
Isfahani A great selection of tasty Persian dishes is on offer at this budget chain, alongside a few other options across their various outlets. Isfahani really proves that you don’t have to sacrifice service or food quality for great value. Exhibition Road (1729 0027).
Nattinpuram This spot is a big hit with the Indian community because it’s extremely good value and offers a delicious array of dishes mainly from Kerala. We also like the funky interiors which include a lotus pond and houseboat style décor, and murals depicting traditional village scenes. Ramee Baisan International Hotel (1729 0600).
Pizza Empress by Mr Slice This pizzeria has been around for 23 years but over the past couple of months has seen a revamp by Mr Slice. Not only do they serve excellent, gigantic pizzas up to 18 inches (for BD5!) but now they’re also introducing new items each month such as oven-baked chicken wings, meatball sandwiches, pastas and other Italian favourites for very reasonable prices. Adliya, next to Al Jazira (1774 2299).
Winner Best Business Lunch Bushido The multi-award-winning business lunch at Bushido has topped our charts year-on-year for many reasons. First, you have plenty of reasonably priced options from a set menu to sushi platters to bento boxes, that offer lots of value for money and cater to all tastes. It all happens to be seriously good as well, which means you can go back time and time again and never get bored, especially of the outdoor terrace seating area. Bushido Restaurant & Lounge, Seef (1758 3555).Highly recommended Ruka The Japanese restaurants in Bahrain really know how to put on a tasty lunch spread and Ruka is no exception. Try a four-course business menu or pick two courses in the lunch express – either way you’re guaranteed a perfectly satisfying meal that will have you back in your office before your break is over. Ramee Grand Hotel & Spa (1711 1999).
Highly recommended Primavera Looking to impress a potential client? Then take them to the sophisticated Ritz-Carlton's Primavera, a contemporary Italian venue that packs a punch. The business lunch menu changes every couple of months and offers a selection of fresh dishes which range from comfort food to light bites. The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel & Spa (1758 0000).
Golestan Last year’s ‘Best Middle Eastern and North African’ restaurant may not do a vegetarian friendly business lunch but for any meat lover this feast is stellar. The food in the restaurant is always top notch but, be warned, go with a mighty appetite! Sheraton Bahrain, Manama (17533 533).
La Med If you don’t know how hungry you are for lunch then we suggest heading to La Med where you can get soup and salad, a three-course business lunch or a full buffet. The food is all fresh and delicious, and you can choose from salads, mezzes and even sushi rolls or opt for a full-on carvery. It’s the perfect place to satisfy varying taste buds. The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain, Hotel & Spa (1758 0000).
Links Business and golf go hand in hand so it only makes sense that the Royal Golf Club’s international venue offers a set business lunch. With beautiful views over the green, you can choose two courses from a selection of dishes which include hearty items like fish and chips or penne arrabiatta, alongside soups and salads. It’s classic international for a discerning palate. Royal Golf Club, Riffa (1775 0777).
Medzo This two-course offering is quick to the point and not overly fussy, which is just what you need in a business lunch. There are options for all meat, seafood and veggie lovers, and the portions are generous so you certainly won’t go hungry after. InterContinental Regency, Manama (1722 7777).
Rayes We love the large windows overlooking Coral Bay at Rayes as it gives the whole venue a bright and airy vibe. Besides serving excellent Lebanese food, Rayes also offers a speedy business lunch that is incredibly reasonably priced. You can hit the refreshing salad bar, then choose from three main courses and finish off with a selection of desserts for just BD4.9++! Bargain. Coral Bay (1731 2700).
Winner Best Café Café Lilou You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that doesn’t enjoy a meal at Café Lilou. The French-inspired café has a range of classic and more unique options ranging from super light and healthy to something a little more indulgent (oh and fabulous desserts!). Plus the service is good, even though it’s always packed. Adliya (1771 4440), Al A’ali Mall (1758 3939).
Highly recommended Coco’s Coco’s might not be notable for fast, efficient service but the food menu and lovely atmosphere has kept regular customers going back for years. Great salads, hot mains, sandwiches, pastas and much more are on offer and come beautifully presented. Block 338 (1771 6512).
Le Chocolat The venue might not be much to look at but this popular café is known for its hearty café fare and, most importantly, their delectable selection of desserts to eat in or order for take away. Seef District (1711 1144).
Lemon Shisha Bistro A brightly coloured, spacious and airy venue overlooking Amwaj Lagoon is what you can expect at this café/bistro alongside international fare that ranges from indulgent burgers and fries to refreshing salads and juicy mocktails. Amwaj Lagoon (1758 0000).
Organic Foods & Café We’re not inundated with healthy food options in Bahrain so the Organic Foods & Café certainly deserves a place on this list. As the name suggests, all the dishes are created using organic ingredients and the menu includes everything from burgers to risotto, pumpkin salad to light mezzes. You can also weigh your own choice of fresh salad. Seef Mall (1333 3286).
T-Spoon This gourmet cafe is small and quaint but plush and with tasty dishes on the menu, particularly if you fancy a delicious pastry or classy afternoon tea (complete with foie gras and truffle oil in the mix). It's also a great spot to grab a bite for breakfast and do some people watching as shoppers pass by in the mall. The Westin Bahrain City (1717 1000).
Tea Club We love our tea over at Time Out so this Amwaj favourite hits all the right notes. Particularly with its hundreds of varieties of tea blends from around the world, alongside a light menu, in its beautiful lagoon setting. It’s a great spot for a catch up. Amwaj Lagoon (3888 7107).
The Ritz Gourmet Lounge Afternoon tea at Ritz-Carltons around the world is an institution so how could we ignore their café on this list? For breakfast, lunch or dinner this lounge offers a range of tasty nibbles and plenty of mouthwatering desserts in a quaint venue that’s been inspired by 19th century France. The Ritz-Carlton (1758 0000).
Winner Best Family Pizza Express There aren’t many kids that don’t love eating pizza but here they can not only eat it but actually get to make it too! Request the kid’s package where they get to choose their toppings and create their pizza with the chef and they’ll certainly be happy. Plus, the food is so good, and the setting quite charming, mum and dad will be pleased as well. Amwaj Lagoon (1601 0524).
Highly recommended Prego
The Royal Golf Club’s Mediterranean spot offers much for kids. The fun, bright décor lifts the mood while you and your family tuck into Italian and other international favourites. In cooler weather, the outdoor seating is beautiful and we particularly recommend heading over on a Saturday for the all-you-can-eat buffet with discounts for little ones. Royal Golf Club, Riffa (1775 1262).
Pizzas, garlic bread and spaghetti Bolognese are real winners with kids in general but when you head to Al Forno in Amwaj Lagoon, it’s a real treat. Think homemade Italian cuisine just like mama used to make in a quaint setting overlooking the Lagoon. Oh and don’t forget to try the sinfully chocolate desserts and tasty mocktails either. Amwaj Lagoon (1601 0528).
Fuddruckers This is family style fast food at its best. Fuddruckers strictly uses top quality ingredients in their burgers and other dishes so it’s worth the treat. Plus, the fact they can mix and make their own drinks has always been a real kiddy draw. We particularly recommend the branch in Bahrain City Centre because it’s right next to a bowling alley and entertainment centre. Bahrain City Centre (1717 8186).
Johnny Rocket’s Burger, fries and shakes are every kid’s dream and at Johnny Rocket’s they just taste so good. The modern all-American diner décor and extremely friendly service also adds to the experience to make it a decent guilty pleasure for families. Al A’Ali Shopping Complex, Seef (1756 6565). Other location: Amwaj Lagoon (1601 1199).
Links It’s not only the views and business lunch we love at this golf course restaurant but also their family-friendly vibe. Kids have their own selection on the menu and their family Friday carvery feast is bound to be a winner for both you and the sprogs. We love the novelty of the ‘steak stone’ as well, where you can cook your own – perfect for parents and older children. Royal Golf Club, Riffa (1775 1262).
Winner Best Romantic La Fontaine It goes to show just how romantic this place is when you consider they also host intimate weddings in their stunning courtyard. Picture it: you’re eating great European food by candlelight while contemporary art and traditional architecture surround you in this haven of tranquility. Now’s the time to pop the question. Ras Ruman (1723 0123).
Highly recommended La Mer
Sitting right on the water with the waves gently lapping against the shore, while attentive staff mill about and you tuck in to some of Bahrain’s best seafood dishes – this is what romantic dreams are made of. Wrap up your evening with one of their delightful desserts and you’ll be on cloud nine in no time. Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa (1763 6363).
Nothing injects a bit of romance quite like a date in a faux castle. It might sound bizarre but combine French flavours with dim lighting, medieval décor and a bit of vino, and you have a swoon-worthy date night on your hands. You can also try their 'moules et frites' night where unlimited mussels and chips are on offer, or, even better, the weekly vino tasting. Block 338 (1771 7745).
Maki It’s clean, it’s modern and it’s funky at Maki so it’s high up on our list of great date spots. Indulge in a vast array of Japanese and fusion dishes that are exclusive to this brand while supping on their eclectic beverages and enjoying your loved one’s company. Moda Mall (1752 2733).
Muju Contemporary international cuisine in a stunning yet chic seaside environment is what awaits you at Muju in Amwaj Islands. The ocean views through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows are spectacular, the food is top notch and the venue’s choice of music is always spot on with jazzy vibes. It makes for quite a memorable date night. Dragon Hotel & Resort (1603 1111).
Plums Looking to impress your date with something on the higher end? This dark and intimate steakhouse offers modern, gourmet twists on classic dishes in an increasingly contemporary environment. Expect an amuse bouche and extra goodies to your table throughout the evening, alongside top quality ingredients and fine vinos. Plus, the professional service tops it all off. The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain, Hotel & Spa (1758 0000).
Winner Best Seafood La Mer Seafood lovers are in for a treat at La Mer, with a French-inspired chef who clearly has a passion for his craft. With a beautiful sea view as well as an outside terrace over-looking the marina, there is little doubt from the moment you walk in as to what is in store for you - great food, good service and a beautiful experience. Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa (1763 6363).
Highly recommended The Fish Market Cosy and ambient, the Fish Market is a wonderfully enjoyable place to have dinner, particularly if you eat over-looking the bay. There is no a la carte menu but a fresh seafood display with both local and more exotic imported seafood can be cooked to your liking in a variety of cuisines. Al Bander Hotel & Resort, Sitra (1770 1201).
La Marine At first glance you could be forgiven for not wanting to dine at La Marine, but you would miss 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. Budaiya Roundabout (1759 5775).
La Perle A semi-smart restaurant over-looking the bay, La Perle has one of the better selections of fresh seafood, with beautiful prime ingredients. They offer a dedicated three-course buffet at a reasonable fixed price, and a fish market where you choose your catch and pay by weight. Novotel Al Dana (1729 8008).
Seafood Market In the heart of the city, The Seafood Market offers a fresh seafood counter from which you can select your catch and the method in which you wish it to be cooked. It's a very basic restaurant but the additional teppanyaki and sushi bars makes it a unique venue and experience. Sheza Tower (1753 3336).
Waves Waves has a varied and international seafood menu, with both a la carte and fresh seafood display options, as well as monthly seafood specials, encompassing different flavours from around the world, from Thai to Arabic and Mediterranean. Crowne Plaza Bahrain, Diplomatic Area (1753 1122).
Winner Best Steakhouse Le Sauvage From Argentinean tenderloin to Wagyu cuts – any steak lover can easily get their fill here. Everything is cooked to perfection and its beautifully seasoned but the best bit is those who don’t love meat can also order from the exquisite French venue Le Domain  on the same floor. And the panoramic views from both spots are worth going there for alone! The Domain Bahrain, Diplomatic Area (1600 0000).
Highly recommended The Meat Co
Chic interiors, friendly service and fantastic food is what you can expect from The Meat Co. The quality and range of available prime cuts is second-to-none of the island but they also have a host of other interesting options on the menu. These include salads, seafood dishes and even vegetarian options. It might be on the pricey side but it’s worth it for what you get. Block 338 (1774 2080).
Butcher Shop & Grill
Where better to look for a good steak in a place that also happens to have an in-house butchery and knife counter? For some, international franchise Butcher Shop & Grill is the bee’s knees of steakhouses and its mall-friendly environment also allows for a pre- or post-dinner shopping spree and some kid’s play. Bahrain City Centre (1717 2323).
Legendz The prime beef cuts are what we go to Legendz for, alongside their plethora of more-ish sauces (although the meat is so good you won’t need them). But, if you don’t like steaks then try their chicken and seafood options as you’re never short of winning dishes for all tastes here. Plus, the service is forever consistent in its high standards. InterContinental Regency Bahrain (1722 7777).
Plums We love the contemporary, chic interiors at Plums as well as the intimate and romantic atmosphere. The menu isn’t overwhelming but encompasses everything you would want from a five-star hotel venue, plus a bit more including surprise amuse bouche and dessert plates to your table. On top of all that, expect professional service, top quality ingredients and a welcoming vibe. The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel & Spa (1758 0000).
Sizzlers An old favourite for steak lovers is this all-American restaurant that boasts comfortable interiors, reasonable prices and great food. The menu is fairly international so although Sizzlers is best known for the steaks, there are dishes that are bound to keep everyone at the dinner table happy. Mansouri Mansions (1771 6999).
Winner BEst Bahraini Saffron by Jena Bakery Saffron by Jena Bakery, or Za’fran in Arabic, has become a big hit in Bahrain for offering a taste of the local culture to residents and tourists alike, and it was originally part of the renovation project in Muharraq’s Souq Al Qaisariya initiated by Bahrain’s Ministry of Culture. This branch is in an old renovated Bahraini house with a menu that features all local favourites. Nowadays you can enjoy the same injection of local culture in other stunning venues at Bab Al Bahrain and Riffa Fort. Near the NBB strip, Muharraq (1362 3191).
Highly recommended Haji Gahwa
Haji Gahwa has garnered somewhat of a stalwart reputation for its seriously local offering. The café lays down an alleyway in the Manama Souq with outdoor, indoor and family-style seating. There’s no menu – you just order your favourite Bahraini dishes depending on what time of the day it is and they’re open straight through from 5am to 9pm. Each dish comes with a range of complimentary sides and everything is lip-smacking. Bab Al Bahrain (1721 0647).
The walls are plastered in old Bahraini posters and funky graffiti, as Arabic TV shows run in the background at Basta 23. The menu has some great authentic dishes such as shakshooka, samosas and balaleet. Enjoy them all with a steaming pot of karak. Riyadat Mall, A’Ali (7777 2323).
Chai Café This traditional chai shop is spotlessly clean with outside, downstairs and upstairs seating featuring wooden benches and a menu that encompasses everything the owner remembers from his childhood. This includes a huge range of teas from around the world (including the obligatory karak but here it’s served in an edible biscuit cup!), Bahraini breakfast classics and even roti sandwiches with Chips Oman. Sanabis, opposite Bahrain Mall (1700 1727).
Emma-Wash This funky café covered in graffiti along Budaiya Highway has become quite the institution for a true Bahraini breakfast. You order by ticking the boxes next to what you want on a small paper menu, which is complete with all the Bahraini favourites like balaleet, mahiawa with cheese, eggs with tomato and, of course, chai. Budaiya Highway, further down from Fish World (1730 9030).
Winner Best Chinese Soie Chinese Restaurant It’s quite romantic at Soie because of its opulence and elegant décor, and over the past year the food offering has been taken up a notch to a point where we're seriously impressed. Not only can you enjoy a taste of China, but there are other Asian dishes on the menu and every Friday the restaurant’s chef teaches you how to make them in the comfort of your own home. Now how’s that for service? Sheraton Bahrain Hotel (1753 3533).
Highly recommended PF Chang’s
If you’re looking for something in the higher end of fast food to whet your appetite then look no further than the very popular international chain PF Chang’s. Their Dynamite Shrimp has us hooked and the bustling, welcoming environment alongside the professional and efficient staff has impressed us. You might have to queue for a table but if you have a craving then it’s worth the wait. Bahrain City Centre (1717 9757).
It may have moved to a new venue and location (on a parallel road) but Beijing is the same cheap and cheerful Chinese eatery with a great vibe and authentic food. We particularly love booking a private room with a group of friends and whipping out their karaoke machines! Block 338, Adliya (1771 7969).
China Garden The understated and elegant décor is warm and inviting but it’s the food that you linger over in China Garden. From the first mouthful of Peking duck to the delicious last taste of fried ice-cream, this authentic Chinese spot converts you into a fan, bite by bite. Gulf Hotel, Adliya (1774 6423)
David’s Stir Fry Crazy David wins us over with his extensive menu, authentic flavours and welcoming ambience. We always have a good time here and although the décor is a little basic, that’s the charm – it has an unpretentious vibe but doesn’t skimp out on quality. Adliya (1754 0188).
Hong Kong An old favourite, Hong Kong makes our shortlist almost every year mainly because of its consistency. Eat in or take out, you’re always in for an enjoyable meal there. And we love the basic but authentic ambience in each of its branches. Um Al Hassam (1330 7070).
Winner Best European Masso Natural, wooden interiors through the restaurant, terrace and lounge really enhance the contemporary European statement Masso is trying to make. It’s always bustling here because the food is truly special and the service is generally fantastic. The passion behind the kitchen is obvious and we particularly love how they have their own vegetable garden so you can count on your ingredients being fresh. Palace Boutique, Adliya (1772 1061).
Highly recommended Le Domain 
The Domain Bahrain’s French-European restaurant shares a floor with the hotel’s steakhouse so you can order from both menus. Major plus points in our opinions – particularly as the food from both venues is decidedly brilliant. On top of that, the service is charming and the views over the city from the 34th floor are spectacular. The Domain Bahrain, Diplomatic Area (1600 0000).
338 Garden Restaurant
A great vibe is to be enjoyed in the popular garden area of 338, particularly in cooler weather. Live bands often jam under the stars while you partake in unique mixed beverages and a fusion food menu with plenty of European influence. Block 338, Adliya (1771 0338).
Camelot Chic surroundings with medieval French influence awaits you at Camelot where the European menu is divine. This spot is romantic but also great to head to with a group of friends particularly on the all-you-can-eat mussels night and weekly grape tasting. Block 338, Adliya (1771 7745).
La Fontaine It’s all about the setting at this romantic and intimate European restaurant with heavy Italian influence. You’re in a stunning centre for contemporary art in the middle of an older part of Bahrain that’s admittedly hard to get to but the journey is more than worth it. Many of the dishes are fabulous (we particularly love the assorted bruschetta) and for date nights it’s hard to beat. La Fontaine Centre for Contemporary Art & Spa, Hoora (1723 0123).
La Med Both the buffet spread and a la carte offerings are beautiful in this Mediterranean all-day dining spot. The venue is bright and airy with stunning views overlooking the popular Ritz-Carlton pool and beach, while the service is everything you would expect from this world-renowned five-star brand. They also have worthy business lunch and brunch offerings. The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa (1758 0000).
Zoe We have a soft spot for Zoe because every time we go, we have a fine experience. The food is always delicious, the ingredients are always top quality and the service is consistently professional yet unobtrusive. It doubles up as a popular night spot as well so after dinner drinks are readily available. Block 338, Adliya (1771 6400).
Winner Best Indian Lanterns Restaurant & Lounge We’re particularly blown away by the Adliya venue of Lanterns Restaurant & Lounge where you can comfortably enjoy a decent meal and/or a beverage inside or on the terrace. The menu features primarily Indian dishes but some fusion might throw you off with ingredients like quinoa making an appearance. Whatever you try, however, you’ll be going back for more. Block 338, Adliya (1725 0999).
Highly recommended It’s Mirchi
Experience Bollywood charm while pampering your taste buds at Its Mirchi. This no fuss, no frills restaurant lays its onus on food that shines. A full view of tandoori chefs tossing roomali rotis in the air and music belted by a three-piece band will leave you well entertained. Ramee International (3838 1615).
Highly recommended Rasoi
It’s all about the food at Rasoi as the depth of flavour in each dish astounds, as does the value for money. While the interiors don’t overwhelm, the lovely views through the large windows overlooking Seef District leave you feeling rather cosmopolitan. Ramee Grand Hotel & Spa, Seef (1711 1999).
If you’re looking for a menu full of Indian classics then Akbar delivers. The food is consistent, the interiors are inviting and the staff is attentive, which all adds to the value for money. It’s particularly popular on a Friday lunch time when the authentic, live band is in full swing. Ramada Palace (1729 6660).
Copper Chimney This authentic Indian spot is famed for its consistency, good food and friendly service. It’s always busy and for good reason, as we’re yet to be let down by a dining experience there. Um Al Hassam Avenue (1772 8699).
Mantraa Enjoy great food and toe-tapping music at Mantraa where they also serve famous Indian street food pani puri with a unique twist. We like to refer to this as Bahrain’s ‘hidden gem’ of the Indian culinary landscape, as both consistency and excellence are a top priority. The Best Western Olive Hotel (1721 1133).
Nirvana Dine like a maharaja at Nirvana which combines colonial style setting with heart-warming, comfort food. The menu features all the classic Indian favourites leaving you second-guessing your options. However star attractions are the moist chapli kebabs, the fragrant mutton dum biryani and murg makhanwalla (or butter chicken). The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa (1758 0000).
Spices Indian Restaurant This cosy venue is reasonably priced and the kitchen whips up a mean thali but we particularly love it for Bahrain’s most unique Bollywood Brunch that happens every month. Not to forget the friendly and personable service. Crowne Plaza, (1753 1122).
Winner Best Italian Café Italia A high-end dining option serving modern Italian fare, Cafe Italia uses luxurious ingredients to produce outstanding dishes and also happens to be in a rather stunning, spacious venue with charming service. Block 338, Adliya (1774 4774).
Highly recommended Cucina Italiana
The high quality of the food, service and decor at Cucina Italiana is what snagged it last year's 'Best Italian' accolade. This year we're loving the fact this restaurant also makes efforts to engage customers with cooking lessons and its own amateur Italian Masterchef competition. Juffair (1700 1317).
Highly recommended Roma
Roma could be described as a forgotten favourite to some but to many it’s an all-time must-visit on the Italian restaurant circuit. With welcoming staff, excellent service, memorable food and live Italian music (that isn’t intrusive) it’s a spot that deserves some serious Time Out kudos, standing proudly on this shortlist. Um Al Hassam (1772 5885).
The venue is simply stunning at Bice and so are many of the dishes. Surprisingly, it doesn’t get busy often but for a high-class Italian offering you can’t go far wrong choosing this New York ristorante as your final culinary destination. Moda Mall (1753 3666).
Cico’s This old favourite has it all: checkered table cloths, authentic music, great food and seriously friendly service. It's the kind of place you become a regular of, and then constantly bump into other regulars, because you always know what to expect. Adliya (1771 3710).
Fiamma Warm greetings on arrival immediately settle you in to the general vibe at Fiamma. The menu covers everything you’d want in an Italian while a backdrop of traditional music plays and you look out over the Sofitel’s pool and gardens. Plus, the service is always above and beyond. Sofitel Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa (1763 6363).
Gusto Gusto is a neighbourhood eatery that has had Bahrain residents hooked with its stellar dishes and down-to-earth vibe. Sit in, take out or even order for delivery, the Gusto folk ensure you’ll be able to enjoy their flavours no matter what. Budaiya (1769 5556).
Primavera Upmarket, modern and delicious are words that spring to mind when thinking of The Ritz-Carlton’s Primavera. The environment is conducive to any occasion be it a date, friendly gathering or business meeting, and the unobtrusive service is always on the ball. The dessert trolley is quite the highlight as well. The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa (1758 0000).
Rialto The ground floor of a five-star hotel in Seef might not make for the most luxurious experience (even if it is one of the area's newest additions) but Rialto provides high-end food and service surrounded by charming Italian decor, that will have you going back for more. Ramee Grand Hotel & Spa, Seef (1711 1999).
Winner Best Japanese Akiko Fairly new on the Japanese cuisine circuit in Bahrain is this contemporary venue Akiko. The stylish décor and architecture draws you in but the friendly service, fabulous food and abundant seating options keep you coming back. We particularly love the garden area and the fact that they’ve introduced a brand new Japanese brunch offering to the island. Block 338, Adliya (1771 7080).
Highly recommended Bushido The stunning venue really adds to your overall experience of Japanese cuisine, funky vibes and delicious mixed beverages. Sit indoors, in the chic interiors, or head out to the terrace which is surrounded by greenery and hovers above the water. It’s not just about dinner as they also host a brunch, business lunch and regular nightlife events. Seef District (1758 3555).Highly recommended Ruka Everything from the contemporary décor, stunning views, open kitchen and balcony booths are designed to impress at Ruka. This includes the menu, which features modern Japanese cuisine encompassing sushi, robata dishes, teppanyaki, ramen and much more. They also do a worthy business lunch and offer a fabulous bar menu too. Ramee Grand Hotel & Spa, Seef (1711 1999).
Fuji Sushi This understated Japanese should be on more people’s ‘must-visit’ list. The entire eatery is split into three venues including a sushi bar, teppanyaki area and a seafood restaurant, all with very traditional décor and friendly staff. Prices are reasonable, the atmosphere is casual and the sushi is downright delicious. Sheza Tower, Diplomatic Area (1753 3336).
Imari Split into three areas, Imari offers a modern restaurant space, bar area and swanky lounge interconnected by the reception. The views over Bahrain and Muharraq are stunning through the large windows and the open kitchen area offers a peek into what’s to come. The staff are incredibly friendly and accommodating while the food is uniquely presented and very good indeed. The Domain Bahrain (1600 0000).
Kei Always expect a good, consistent experience when you visit this authentic Japanese restaurant. We particularly recommend going with a party to sit around the open kitchen and watch the talented chefs whip you up a melt-in-your-mouth beef teppanyaki set menu. Golden Tulip Hotel (1753 5000).
Maki A mixture of traditional Japanese cuisine and modern twists on classics are on the epic menu at Maki. There’s just so much to choose from, it would take many a visit to get through it all but for the most part the ingredients are fresh, meals are tasty and the beautiful venue really enhances your enjoyable experience. Moda Mall (1752 2733). Meisei It’s hard to categorise Meisei with its quirky, fusion menu that incorporates foodie elements from all over Asia but with its Japanese base and chic, Asian-inspired décor, it fits in well. This venue is stunning with a lower main dining area and upper floor that accommodates hip parties too. And the food, although very unique, can be surprisingly delicious. Block 338 (1700 7770).
Sato Award-winning Sato at The Gulf Hotel has been drawing in regular customers for many, many years now. And for good reason. Not only are the staff incredibly efficient, but the venue is also super traditional complete with a gong to signal you’ve arrived, a sushi bar, tatami mats and teppanyaki rooms. Plus, the menu offers everything you crave for in Japanese cuisine and it’s all executed to perfection. Gulf Hotel (1771 3000).
Winner Best Latin America Margarita Mexicana This restaurant boasts a menu full of tasty sounding Mexican and Tex Mex dishes in a charming, traditional environment and served by professional yet friendly staff. Although the restaurant isn’t always bustling, the weekends see it fill up and the ambience comes to life with the authentic live singers performing. Gulf Hotel, Adliya (1771 3000).
Highly recommended Brazil
Tasty meat on massive skewers – what more could a carnivore ask for? This fun venue is primarily for the meat loving type but even if you’re vegetarian they’ll whip you up something suitable. Brazil is bright, lairy and reasonably priced, and we highly recommend it – particularly for a big friendly celebration. Adliya (1782 6686).
Brasa de Brazil
In true Brazilian fashion, Brasa de Brazil is a traditional churrascaria with 11 types of delicious meat on offer alongside the gourmet salad bar. The venue is inviting and the staff are friendly but this venue’s main selling point is its location – smack bang in the middle of Seef Mall so you can pair a carnivorous dinner with a spot of shopping. Seef Mall (1758 2225).
Casa Mexicana Casa Mexicana is an old Adliya favourite serving tasty Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes to an eager crowd filled with long-term regulars. The service is efficient and the resident guitarist/singer livens up the mood but even if you’re just in for a drink the bar is very accommodating. Adliya (1771 5521).
Senor Paco’s You’re always in for a good time at Senor Paco’s – there’s no question of that. The live singer belts out classic tunes all night and is accommodating when you want to steal the mic. It’s not the food you particularly go for (although there are some great dishes on that menu!) but the brilliant ambience and to wear a sombrero. Adliya (1772 5873).
Winner Best MENA Takht Jamsheed Everything simply screams ‘elegant Iranian’ at Takht Jamsheed from the artistic décor to the varied menu to the excellent hospitality. Cooking techniques are spot on and the flavours are rich to the point of no return - you're bound to be a fan by the end of the meal. Gulf Hotel (1774 6431).
Highly recommended Golestan
The opulent yet bright ambience is inviting at Iranian restaurant Golestan. The luxurious food and ingredients caters to both meat lovers and vegetarians, with rich flavours and more-ish dishes that will leave you practically waddling out the door. They also do a business lunch that will delight any carnivore. Sheraton Bahrain (1753 3533).
Highly recommended Rayes
A popular Arabic/Lebanese spot, Rayes is sat just beside a marina offering spectacular panoramic views of the sea. A weekday business lunch and special brunch offerings throughout the weekend pull in the punters, and in particular families, due to the delicious dishes courtesy of long-term kitchen head Chef Gaby. Coral Bay (1731 2700).
Sporting a stunning venue in Moda Mall, Abd El Wahab serves higher class Lebanese food to a regular clientele. Service is good, flavours are all there and the menu boasts everything you would hanker for. Moda Mall (1713 1111).
Badawi Our unsung hero in the MENA category is Badawi. It's small and quaint but is consistently producing some of the best Lebanese fare we've had in Bahrain with fresh ingredients and serious kitchen know-how. Hoora (1729 7799).
Kenza Not only does this restaurant do some mean Lebanese mezzes, but also puts on vast Arabian buffets, has a fabulous outdoor seating area and even plays host to a regular salsa night! We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the food, service and ambience at Kenza. K Hotel, Juffair (1736 0000).
Kosebasi One shouldn’t turn their nose up at a mall-based restaurant, particularly when discussing Kosebasi. A passionate kitchen team produces fine Turkish dishes, from mezzes to pide to grills, which you can enjoy in a clean, upbeat environment that’s conducive to a spot of shopping straight afterwards. Bahrain City Centre (1717 2322).
Pashawat Tradition and modernity collide at this regional restaurant offering both Lebanese and Persian cuisines. Contemporary interiors and friendly service sets you at ease while live music and belly dancing really gets you in the mood for a great night. Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa (1763 6363).
Monsoon Monsoon epitomises the upmarket South East Asian dining experience in a spectacular and exotic venue with a newly refreshed menu (that has thankfully been downsized). The passionate kitchen staff and friendly servers will take you on a memorable culinary pan-Asian tour. Adliya (1774 9222).
Inviting, Asian-inspired decor welcomes you in while the fabulous flavours of Wok's pan-Asian dishes capture your imagination and have you heading back to Wok time and time again despite the distance. Plus it's the best place for your fix of authentic Vietnamese cuisine thanks to Chef Minh Duong. Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa (1763 6363).
The grand venue alone is worth the travel over to Al Areen Palace & Spa's Keizo restaurant. Serving a combination of Japanese, Chinese and Thai food, Keizo is a must-visit for anyone either living or visiting here. Al Areen Palace & Spa (1784 5000).
This may be the lowest-priced restaurant nominated in this category, but one shouldn't assume that anything else about it is lower-end. Hash House is a perennial favourite providing bold Thai flavours in a relaxed setting. Block 338, Adliya (1771 5094).
Houseboat This Asian restaurant offers residents of Amwaj, and now Adliya punters, an easy choice to please a wide variety of tastes. With an extensive menu covering everything from sushi to biriyani, they are surprisingly able to produce quality food very quickly. Amwaj Islands (1601 0321). Other location: Block 338 (1760 0018).
Kontiki Exemplifying casual sophistication with pool views and a 360degree indoor-outdoor bar, Kontiki's distinctly Polynesian setting belies the breadth of its fusion menu. We particularly enjoy their exotic and substantial salads over a lingering lunch time. Diplomat Radisson Blu (1753 1666).
Royal Thai Set in a grand pagoda overlooking the lush pool area of the Gulf Hotel, Royal Thai offers traditional and modern Thai cuisine with the high level of service one would expect from a five-star hotel. Gulf Hotel (1774 6421).
Thailand A favourite for larger groups seeking private dining rooms and a fun atmosphere, Thailand offers affordable and authentic cuisine served with traditional Thai hospitality. Sawadika. Block 338 (1771 7040).
Winner Best Newcomer La Vinoteca Barcelona Brilliant Spanish tapas and fine vino is what you go to La Vinoteca Barcelona for. Not to mention a vibrant, unique atmosphere and professional service, all in a stunning venue that's already become the talk of the town. We can't wait to enjoy it all on the outdoor terrace either. Block 338 (1700 7808).
This contemporary, home grown Arabian spot first came on to our radar when we heard about their chocolate shawarma. When we heard we just had to try it and we're glad we did. The rest of the menu features a variety of classics and more modern flavours in an artistic setting. Manama (1722 9778).
BamBu It's not exactly new but due to a lengthy hiatus, and a venue change, pan-Asian BamBu easily qualifies for our 'newcomer' list. It was popular for it's all-you-can-eat-and-drink concept before and it's set to take Bahrain by storm again as quality has improved and the atmosphere has been turned up a notch. Adliya (1771 4424).
Café Amsterdam Dutch flavours sit side-by-side English classics on the menu of this brand new cafe concept. We love the Amsterdam-inspired interiors complete with tulips and bicycles, and the food is every bit as good as we hoped. In cooler weather, the outdoor terrace is bound to be teeming with folk. Block 338, Adliya (3200 0177).
La Ventana Another returning venue makes our shortlist this month, as popular cafe La Ventana finally reopens much to our delight. With homemade salads and sandwiches on the (handwritten) menu, and delectable desserts in the fridge, it's the cosy and personable vibe at La Ventana that really draws people in. And it hasn't changed a bit. Block 338 (6637 1616).
Masaya Lounge Chic and stylish, Masaya Lounge has fast become popular for its international cafe fare and chilled out vibe, particularly in the upper shisha lounge that gets rather bustling on weekends. Block 338, (1771 7900).