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Kingdom of Bahrain
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After a hectic week at work in Editor Stan’s absence and with the weather heating up to genuinely uncomfortable levels, it’s nice to find a cool sanctuary with a cracking atmosphere to boot.
Enter FiLLi Café, a quaint two-floor outlet in the heart of Manama just behind the Bab Al Bahrain. Clad in orange and black with funky decorations, it was the perfect place to unwind for lunch.
Myself, marketing manager Jalal Muradi, photographer Honey Sharma and intern Dilara Nagib were welcomed with huge smiles and friendly handshakes by the team and were offered the simply amazing FiLLi Zaffran Chai, the signature drink of the chain which consists of a unique combination of steamed milk, tea and saffron.
As a huge tea lover, I’m always on the lookout for new teas to try, and this one ranks right up there with my very favourites. It’s sweet and soothing, but with a subtle hint of bitterness that still reminds you of its origins as leaves.
FiLLi Café uses top quality leaves from Sri Lanka, blended by leading tea-makers in Singapore.
It was established in neighbouring Dubai in 1991 and so far boasts outlets in the UAE, India and Bahrain, with plans for further expansion – more than 100 outlets in the UAE by 2020. As well as Manama, FiLLi has two other outlets in Bahrain, at Lulu Hypermarket Riffa and Souq Waqif in Hamad Town.
When Rafih Filli took over his Indian father’s ailing cafeteria – nestled among small convenience stores – he would pray every night for it to make just enough money so that he could pay the staff salaries.
Little did he know that a slight tweak to the menu, which mostly featured shawarma sandwiches and fresh juices, would lead to a change of direction and a chain of cafes he hopes might rival chains such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee in the next 10 years – all thanks to a strong cup of freshly-brewed chai.
Born Abdul Rafih, Filli was a nickname given to him by friends when he was in high school. So when he came up with his special recipe for the milky tea he added to the cafe’s menu in 2004, he called it FiLLi.
At the same time he took down the outlet’s original sign and renamed it FiLLi Café – and even went so far as to change his surname to match.
After we’d finished sipping our tea (600 fils for a medium cup), it was time for a bite to eat. We were offered delicious quesadillas, both chicken (BD1.400) and vegetable (BD1.200), which were layered with mozzarella cheese, jalapenos, onion, tomato and cheddar cheese. These were succulent, melt-in-your-mouth treats with a hint of spice.
Next up were the burgers, starting with the Buffalo Chicken Burger (BD2.300) featuring Fil Z chicken breast, hot buffalo sauce, sliced tomato, lettuce, cheddar cheese and blue cheese dressing. This was tender and tasty, and my personal favourite of the dishes served.
Finally, Jalal gobbled up the Classic American Burger (BD2.000) which was a Certified Angus Beef complemented with tomato, sliced onion, crisp lettuce, cheddar cheese and ketchup.
All these were washed down with marvellous milkshakes (BD1.800 each), my personal favourite of which was the Lotus. We also sampled Candy Floss, Saffron and Coffee Cardamom, so there really is a flavour for every occasion.
The café also features a plethora of other snacks such as wraps, sandwiches, tea snacks and paratha bites.
Throughout the month of August, FiLLi Café is offering a special promotion whereby all orders placed through the Carriage app will receive 50 per cent off all orders made between midday and 3pm. On this evidence, you’ll be mad to miss it.
For further information call 176667777.