We've found the top places to chow down in town this month - mezze is the answer
Time Out Bahrain staff
Al Bindaira: You might know the mall versions of this café, but hunt down the free-standing option in Adliya for its delicious eclecticism and vibe. Divided into various inter-leading rooms, the spacious high-ceilinged villa is flooded with light entering via windows and skylights, and abuzz with a shisha-smoking, coffee-drinking, kebab- and mezze-eating crowd. Settle on a cushion-sprinkled couch and take your pick from the menu presented in picture form for the uninitiated. In the mezze realm, make sure you have the Al Bindaira hummus with chopped parsley or the version with meat, which are both very good, as well as the fabulous crunchy falafel (made with ground fava beans) and, if you need a vitamin A boost, the tasty vinegary Lebanese chicken livers. Adliya, next to JJ’s (17 744 066). Open Mon-Wed 10.30am-1am; Thu 11am-1am; Fri 1pm-1am.
With a Persian twist
Yas-e Isfahani: The menu at this cool, modern Persian restaurant was devised by internationally renowned Iranian recipe-book writer Najmieh Batmanglij, and though the Washington-based cook is not in the kitchen, her clean signature style is apparent in every dish, each marrying traditional recipes with a healthy eating approach. We regularly make a meal of the refined mezze, including favourites kashk-o bademjan (roasted eggplant and sun-dried yoghurt rolls); zeytoun parvadeh (Caspian olive tapenade); kufteh-ye anar-o pesteh (pomegranate and pistachio meatballs) and kuku sabzi (green herby rolls). And the meal’s not complete without a pot of aromatic black tea sprinkled with mint and rose petals. First floor, Seef Mall extension (17 581 151). Open 10am-10pm daily.
Homecooked in the ’burbs
Carla’s: Carla’s is a favourite with Lebanese residents, who go there for the taste of home provided by the dish of the day and the cosy earthy-toned interiors, including historical photos on the walls. You can start off or stick with a wide range of mezze here, including cool favourites such as muhamara, a nutty crushed-walnut, onion and chilli paste to spread on warm flatbread, and shankleesh, which texturally is one part salsa, one part tabouleh, combining dried cheese, thyme and chilli with onions and tomatoes. Hot mezze includes traditional cheese pastries, spinach fatayer, and excellent meat-filled arayes, but our favourite is the pumpkin kibbeh filled with spinach and cinnamon. Cypress Garden, Budaiya Highway (17 697 687). Open 11am-3pm, 6pm-11.30pm daily.
With Arabic song...
Al Arisha: Every night from 9pm, the large air-conditioned tent section of this local favourite is filled with Arabic music care of a singer and oud player. But it’s on weekends that you really want to be here when there’s a buzz created by regulars who come for the music, shisha and extensive Lebanese menu. The mezze list goes on and on; there’s an entire page of cold options, from zingy tabouleh, tomato-based Bamia Bel Zeit (okra) and Loubia Bel Zeit (green beans) to lamb-tongue salad. And for those who like it hot, there’s another page of cooked options, including very good sambousek (meat and chicken pastries), white bait and soujok (sausages) – all of which can be enhanced by a glass of Lebanese tipple if you so wish. Umm Al Hassan, behind Roma restaurant (17 725 414). Open 12 noon-3pm, 7pm-12 midnight daily.
Zahle: Burgundy carpets, wood-panelled walls, chandeliers and a waterfall set the tone for a Lebanese meal with all the trimmings. A BD10-12 cover charge gets you a generous meal with a side order of Arabic music and belly dancing. So settle at your table and take delivery of a stream of dishes, from an array of cold mezze – hummus, moutabal, goat’s labneh etc – via a variety of hot options, including memorable crumbed chicken pieces in an olive oil, lemon and chilli sauce, to your main. This is a sumptuous mixed-grill, combining meat and seafood, served sizzling over coals in a brass box, enhanced by the live band that starts up at 10pm with an Arabic singer and a gyrating belly dancer to keep you entertained through to desserts of baklava and sweet pastries. Gulf Hotel, Adliya (17 713 000). Open Sat-Tue 8am-1am; Wed-Thu 8am-2am.
Beside the seaside
Layali Turkiye: For fuss-free food and ambience, this Turkish stalwart is a great place to settle with a drink and a snack, overlooking the sea. Head there after dark on the weekend, and you’ll be met with boats coming in to roost at neighbouring Coral Beach, as men play dominoes and smoke shisha at neighbouring tables. The food is not outstanding, but it’s almost criminally cheap and authentic. We like the vine leaves filled with ground meat and rice that are served ice cold, as well as the olive salad and zesty babaganoush with a zap of chilli; the grills are particularly good value, and the view is priceless. Al Fateh Corniche (17 295 270). Open 24 hours.