We check out a restaurant chain that demonstrates that more is definitely merrier 5 Reviews
I have to confess, I am not all that convinced by Middle Eastern cuisine. I’m not a massive fan of shwarma, I had my fill of tabouleh two weeks after I arrived, and if I see another mixed grill I think I might have a hernia. Add to this the fact that I have almost doubled in size since I landed and the result is a resolution to eat nothing that doesn’t call itself a salad.
So when a friend convinced me to check out Al Abraaj, I was not at all taken with the idea. Not only is it Arabic cuisine through and through, but it is also a chain. In the restaurant world, the size of the restaurant tends to be sacred. Some of the best restaurants in the world seat just four people. Multiplication of the restaurant is often equated with division of its genius. There’s a general consensus that no restaurant chain could ever live up to the standards of a stand-alone.
So expectations were somewhat low when I set off to Al Abraaj on the Budaiya Highway, one of a collection of restaurants that break up the bleakness of one of Bahrain’s busiest roads. Inside, I was pleasantly surprised. No shisha (the smoke of which kills the palate – shisha should be banned anywhere serving food), spotlessly clean, and with an open plan kitchen that allows guests to witness their food being cooked. The menu is relatively standard (the usual starters and a selection of grills for the main) but with some international additions such as noodles, sizzle plates and seafood.
I started with fattoush, hummus and vine leaves, which are among my new favourite dishes in the Gulf owing to the fact they don’t tend to make you fat. The hummus was churned to perfection, whipped to the point it could have been cream, and with a faint lemon and garlic kick that was neither overpowering nor indiscernible. The vine leaves were a little on the soggy side, but the filling was delicate and much more like the Greek dolmades than the Eastern-style nigiri-sized leaf wraps that so often are served. The fattoush was brilliantly seasoned, neither drenched in salt nor lacking in taste.
After the starters, I went for something that sadly wouldn’t make it into most Middle Eastern restaurants: Thai grilled hammour. Hammour is indisputably the best fish in the Gulf, and when cooked correctly should fall apart at the touch of your fork and melt in your mouth. The fish was encrusted in Thai herbs and was served with rice and a rocket salad. For BD3.2 the generous helping is astoundingly good value. The fish was tender, the herbs having sealed in the juices, and the rocket salad providing a sharp accompaniment to the succulent flavours.
The meal in its entirety cost a fraction of the price of some of Adliya’s selection of expensive eateries, and yet in many ways was far superior. Proof then, that where restaurants are concerned, you do occasionally get a chain where more is merrier.
The bill for one
Vine leaves BD0.900
Thai grilled hammour BD3.200
Lemon and mint juice BD0.900
Total (incl tax/service) BD7.500
Time Out Bahrain,
Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.