Upstairs Downstairs

The vibe at this old jazzy favourite has gone down tempo

Time Out Says

It’s 8.30pm on a Friday night, the streets of Adliya are bustling, but the atmosphere in Upstairs Downstairs is muted. Space has been cleared in the middle of the restaurant to accommodate a DJ event that will take over the venue from 10pm so we’re on a time limit and it’s a bit cavernous.

My friend and I sit at an old favourite table of ours – we haven’t been back in a couple of years but we’re eager to see how the place has changed since reopening. Already, however, we’re a bit perturbed by the ambience and the guitarist/singer belting out cheesy tunes like ‘American Pie’. It’s nothing like we remembered – a dimly lit and ambient restaurant with a backdrop of jazz legends either on the big screen or being played by a live pianist and saxophonist. Not on this occasion anyway.

Pushing this aside, we start to peruse the menu which we’re happy to see still has some of the restaurant’s most popular signature dishes like the delectable hammour paté and their sizzling fajitas. Naturally, we order both these dishes, and also opt for the wholesome sounding crab cakes.

While we wait, we’re served a basket of toast and bread rolls that definitely don’t scream ‘I’m freshly made, eat me now!’ but I grab a bread stick nonetheless and take a bite with each of the accompanying dips. I’m pleasantly surprised, particularly by the garlicky olive tapenade which I scoop up and finish fairly rapidly.

Our starters then come flying out the kitchen. I can’t say we’re overwhelmed by the presentation – my crab cakes are drizzled with what looks like Thousand Island dressing and on the side is a rather dreary looking salad but looks can be deceiving, I tell myself. Digging in, I’m happy to find the cakes are made of real crab and a range of wonderful flavours complement the dish. However I’m fairly convinced these were defrosted upon my ordering which takes the culinary experience down a couple of notches.

Luckily, the hammour paté is just as we remember – moreish and flavourful, and the portion is gigantic. This would do as a main course on it’s own! My friend easily finishes off the lot and then, although wondering if he has room for any more, eagerly awaits the sizzling fajitas.

At this point, I have to say I’m happy with the speed of service and attentiveness to our empty glasses – you’re never without a refill here. But some details slip through the cracks such as, for instance, providing us with plates to eat our sharing platter of prawn fajitas.

Once we have all the cutlery and crockery in place, we dig in. Again, we enjoy the flavours of the fajita filling but it’s missing a few Mexican classics like cumin or coriander. But we still manage three wraps each and enjoy each mouthful.

We’re still not entranced by the odd vibe so we decide to skip dessert and head out a little deflated. What used to be a finer Adliya dining experience has become more reminiscent of pub grub at a family club and we miss the good old days of Up ‘n’ Down.

The bill (for two)
1x large water BD1.600
1x crab cake BD4.200
1x hammour pate BD4.200
1x prawn fajita BD10
Service charge BD3.210
Government levy BD1.766
Total BD24.976

By Time Out Bahrain staff  | 30 Jun 2014

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11:00 AM to 11:59 PM
Sunday: 11:00 AM to 11:59 PMMonday: 11:00 AM to 11:59 PMTuesday: 11:00 AM to 11:59 PMWednesday: 11:00 AM to 11:59 PMThursday: 11:00 AM to 11:59 PMFriday: 11:00 AM to 11:59 PMSaturday: 11:00 AM to 11:59 PM
Show number 17 713 093
Manama, Adliya, Building 754, Road 3825, Block 338, Adliya Manama, 338, Bahrain

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