Al Hilal Publishing & Marketing GroupPO Box 1100,
Kingdom of Bahrain
Click here for Contact Details
One of my favourite aspects of being back in Bahrain after nearly 14 years and in this role as a culinary ink slinger is that I get to burst my expat bubble and soak myself in Arabian cuisine, expanding my piquancy palette while paying homage to my childhood country.
Being an expat in Bahrain has countless perks but one of the drawbacks is that it is easy to get wrapped up in the expat bubble where one eats familiar food, dines at everyday establishments and socialises with the same people.
But this weekend, as we chilled out at the Furn Bistro & Bakery at the Westin City Centre Bahrain, I got the full Arabian culinary and hospitality experience as we sampled their afternoon delights
We couldn’t have had a more Arabian appearance than showing up in a Mercedes, which we had spent the day reviewing and you can read more about it our centre spread.
We were greeted by Ahmed Eldeik, the restaurant manager at Furn, who made us comfortable and served us the customary gahwa (Arabic coffee) with a side of dates.
As we sipped on gahwa and ruminated by the rotunda, where most of the Furn’s regulars find their spot, I engaged in one of my favourite pastimes – people watching and sondered on what their story might be. If sonder is a new word for you, it’s because it is a neologism, defined by its creator John Koenig. It is the profound feeling of realising that everyone, including strangers in the street, has a life as complex as one’s own, which they are constantly living despite one’s personal lack of awareness of it.
The rotunda is the perfect place to sonder, where you could see people engaging in animated conversation, observe those lost in their laptops, wonder where those in a rush are headed to and occasionally catch the eye of another person-watcher before looking away quickly.
We also took this moment to saunter past the cakes by weight section, where a delectable pistachio cake slice caught my eye. However, before I could indulge, the fresh baked bread section caught my scent and I wafted over, allured by the oven and the fresh yoghurt and raisin bread.
Within a few minutes, Chef Bassem Ragab appeared with a splendid spread of Arabian cuisine. All the dishes were served on a hanging food stack which felt luxurious and again, very Arab. First up was a selection of mezzah featuring hummus, mutabel, labneh and muhammara, served with crispy Arabic bread. On the next level, there were a couple of sandwiches. Were these just good old club sandwiches? Since this was an Arabian feast, obviously not.
There was a delectable haloumi cheese and black olive mayo sandwich but the showstopper was the date and tahini nursed between two slices of saffron bread. It was a perfect espousal of sweet and savoury. This sandwich melted in my mouth and was the ideal companion to yet another round of gahwa.
No Eastern or Middle-eastern platter is complete without dessert - Baklava, maamoul, Bahraini halwa, pistachio balls, kunafa and an assortment of stuffed and plain desserts all seduced us with their heavenly smells, bite-sized appearance and tempting taste. With a crispy exterior followed by a soft Akkawi cheese texture and a pistachio kick, the kunafa, served in a separate cast-iron skillet. It was the universal favourite. Even Chef Bassem lit up like a child on Eid as he talked about the dish.
This entire platter, with a pot of Arabic coffee or tea (BD14.500), would have been sufficient for a family or perhaps a novice ill-versed in Arabic hospitality.
But the chef had more to come. Arriving next in our bellies was the chicken shawarma, served with fries and pickled vegetables (BD 5.800). Now, as my GulfWeekly colleagues know, I am a bit of a shawarma nut and while this wouldn’t change my regular shawarma spots, it was interesting to see traditional street food being served with fancy accoutrements.
And as if we hadn’t enjoyed enough Akkawi cheese, manakeesh baked with the delectable white brine cheese (BD3.700) manifested at our table.
I washed it all down with a blueberry mojito, a citrusy-sweet finish to a fabulous feast and an amazing afternoon.
As we chilled out and struggled not to sink into a food coma, I reflected on Arab cuisine and its place in the culinary world. With kitchens shaped equally by climate, cultivating possibilities as well as trade, Middle Eastern cuisine has naturally curated the most sensual symbioses of tastes, textures and scents – the sweet and savoury tastes of dates and saffron, the crispy and soft textures of kunafa and Akkawi as well as the nutty, fragrant and spicy smells of the gahwa.
Nothing could be more emblematic of the Middle East and Bahraini tradition: a coming together of the globe’s taste buds in one kingly platter.
For bookings or details, contact 17171441 or follow them @furnbahrain on Instagram.