A visitor samples Arabic coffee at the Diplomat Hotel


By Ghada Alansari

Bahrain was once one of the major commercial cities of the world. Merchants from Persia, Arabia, India, and even parts of Europe would stop over in Bahrain, primarily to trade but also to enjoy some of the best locally cooked food in the region.

Bahrain absorbed all the diverse cultures that visited its shores over the centuries and in return left them with wonderful memories of Arabian hospitality.

Today these traditional habits continue and Bahrain has become a home for many foreigners who have fallen in love with its overwhelming hospitality, its modern lifestyle and its delicious food.

It may not be one of the world's culinary epicentres, but it has something that should pique the interest of all visitors, and drive the 'foodies' wild. Bahrain's restaurant industry is constantly evolving, and over the last 30 years has tremendously expanded the fare on offer. No matter what your tastes or preferences, chances are there is at least one restaurant that has just what you are looking for.

Bahrain has a very long history offering fine Italian and Lebanese food from as early as the 1970s. Eating out has evolved over the last 30 years, with restaurants now in almost every corner offering cuisine choices to satisfy all palates.

As the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said "There is no love sincerer than the love of food" and in Bahrain locals and residents have learned to enjoy and love food. The choices are unbelievably vast and you could have something as cheap and delicious as a shawarma or as expensive and luxurious as caviar.

The island is overflowing with small takeaway restaurants, shawarma delis (see Eating-Out dictionary alongside), fast food places, casual dining eateries as well as some of the finest dining establishments in the region.

Bahrain's diners have a surfeit of choices, and as can be expected, restaurants have to be extremely good to survive in this very competitive marketplace.

If you want a true taste of the island then Fish Market Restaurant should be one of your first choices. The fish there is always very fresh, straight from the morning's catch. If you are a seafood fan, welcome to heaven.

There are dozens of other good restaurants to choose from. Chinese, Japanese, Thai, French, Italian, Indian, Cuban, Greek, Iranian, Mexican, the list is endless. You can not only decide what cuisine you want, but even pick the kind of atmosphere you prefer. There are restaurants for romance, power lunches, entertainment, buffets or weekend brunches.

Many of the popular restaurants are in Adliya but there are excellent restaurants pretty much everywhere.

The island's most favoured Far Eastern restaurants are Soie (Chinese), Hong Kong (Chinese), Hash House (Thai), Sato (Japanese), Bang Saeng Thai and Bahay Kubo (Filipino). The elegantly beautiful Monsoon is another Asian restaurant that is making waves. Built like a Buddhist temple, it has great atmosphere and superb Far Eastern cuisine. You will love the terraced gardens, exotic Balinese melodies and the splendid dishes.

Italian food is also popular in Bahrain and the restaurant choices include Roma, Primavera, La Taverna, Cico's, Ciro's Pizza Pomodoro or home-style Italian cooking at Mammamia's. For my money though, the Pizzaria restaurant in Seef Mall bakes the most delicious pizza on the island.

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Spend an evening at Trader Vic's, which is located within yards of the beach. The bar has 10 foot high plate glass windows looking onto the water. It is a wonderful place to have a Mai Tai and watch the evening set on the Gulf.