The bold and beautiful
Waterlemon: Just walking into Waterlemon cools us down, thanks to its airy, light, white interiors with refreshing shots of colour in the form of faux grass in pots, green cushions and quirky coloured liquid table tops. The food follows suit with a focus on fresh juices and salads that are big, bold and beautiful (a bit like Sophie Dahl before she went on diet). You’re advised to share if you’re not hungry, although you might find yourselves fencing with your forks for the tasty bits tucked in among the lettuce leaves. We like the green salad, combining avocado, tomato, palmito, red beans and croutons, but first prize goes to the Salmon Nicoise: warm grilled salmon set atop rocket, crispy onion, oven-dried tomatoes, black olives, boiled eggs and baby potatoes with caper dressing.
Al Aali Shopping Complex (17 581 785). Open 10am-12 midnight daily.
La Ventana: If a salad was a hairstyle, then La Ventana’s signature offering would be the Beehive. Each salad has the same standard base consisting of a variety of ingredients piled up – lettuce, parsley, dill, red cabbage, yellow, green and red capsicum, pomegranate seeds, radishes, carrots, cucumber, beetroot, walnuts, almonds, sultanas, grapefruit, gasp… – accessorised with a topping of your choice. These include ginger chicken, goat’s cheese, grilled mushrooms, or, bizarrely, mashed potato, dressed with balsamic Italian vinaigrette or a mustard sauce. Apart from the fresh casual fare, the rustic cottage-style decor (uneven brick floors, exposed beams and bright green walls adorned with random artworks) is a drawcard for many regulars.
Adliya, on the restaurant strip, next to Café Lilou (17 716 771). Open Sat-Thu 9.30am-11pm; Fri 5pm-11pm.
Art and soul food
The Good Life Café: Perched above the Good Life Gallery, this suburban café is a quiet, unpretentious little haven, adorned with Thai paintings and statues where you can tuck into fresh, crunchy salads and wraps that will break neither your diet nor the bank. Salads are limited to two choices, both with the same base of mixed leaves, cucumber, mint, sweetcorn and toasted sunflower and sesame seeds, topped with either grilled haloumi cheese or char-grillled chicken in a sweet chilli marinade. Alternatively, you could go for one of the soft tortilla wraps filled with grated carrot, beetroot and sprouts, along with either chicken and mango chutney, or turkey with cranberry sauce.
Budaiya Rd, between The Bookcase and Alosra (17 694 387). Open 8am-5pm daily.
Penny’s Café: In need of some cool, healthy respite from the sweet indulgences on offer in the souk? Step into Yateem Centre and head to Penny’s Café on the first floor. Crisp, clean pared-down interiors with zingy bolts of colour are reflected in a menu of salads, sandwiches and soups that are also pared down – to healthy low-fat ingredients. For the dieter, there’s a special calorie-counter section, including salads like lemon chicken and tuna, but we go for the marginally more calorific cherry tomato & green bean salad: a large bowl of crispy iceberg lettuce topped with green beans, roasted tomatoes, dense creamy feta cheese and croutons with a light balsamic dressing. A side of soy bread optional.
First floor, The Food Court, Yateem Centre (17 200 035). Open Sat-Thu 7.30am-4pm.
Vida: This is another café where the focus is firmly on things healthy with a strong focus on organic ingredients. The minimalist chocolate-brown and white interiors are inviting, but this is generally our go-to option for a healthy takeout lunch (they deliver throughout Bahrain for a minimum order of BD5). There are a dozen meal-sized salad options, all pretty good and clearly fresh given that when placing an early order for the Chook Salad, we were told that the chook (chicken) was still in the oven. Combined with mushrooms, avocado, salad leaves, basil and Parmesan in a zesty lemon soy cream, it was worth the wait. Our firm favourite, though, is Insalata di Farro, combining organic spelt grains with grilled vegetables. And to finish, it has to be the flourless orange and almond cake.
Behind the Ministry of Housing & Workers, Hoora (17 534 999). Open 7am-6pm daily.
Café Italia: Given its double volume, sun-drenched interiors, this is one of our favourite places for lunch. The salads on offer are far from man-sized and sold as starters, but for the petite appetite or one who’d like to be more petite, they’re perfect, and the lack of quantity is made up for in quality and visual appeal. We love the rocket, pear and arugula salad topped with roasted pine nuts and shaved pecorino cheese, or, if we’re after some real protein, the warm marinated seafood salad combining a medley of hammour, prawns and baby calamari daintily arranged on a base of a porcini mushroom and potato puree.
Adliya (17 744 774). Open 12 noon-3.30pm, 7pm-11.30pm daily.