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In Praise of Tabreez

October 13, 2010

Bahrain is a country of many restaurants. Time Out lists over a hundred of them, typically in places beloved of expatriates, such as the malls, hotels and areas heavily populated with Westerners – Adliya, Saar and Juffair for example. Go to one of the swish restaurants in Adliya, and you’re unlikely to come away without spending BD20-25 per head ($50-$65), and sometimes much more.

Make friends with someone who knows the island well, and you can find wonders unknown to readers of Time Out. My friend Mohamed, financial executive, public speaker extraordinaire and one of the most interesting and likeable people I’ve met in Bahrain, has a local’s knowledge of eating out.

A couple of weeks ago we got together for dinner, and I mentioned that a colleague from France was coming over for a visit, and that he was a serious lover of fish. So I contacted Mohamed when Fred arrived, and he suggested we meet at Tabreez, a fish restaurant near Adhari Park on the outskirts of Manama. I’ve never reviewed a restaurant before, so forgive the unrestrained superlatives which a gnarled old gourment like Michael Winner might choke on with mirth. But there’s a reason.

Tabreez is not mentioned in the restaurant guides. That’s because it serves a Bahraini clientele, and is also very popular with Saudis who come across the causeway for the weekend. The interior looks a bit like a British transport caff, and there’s also an outdoor area with a few tables scattered about. At this time of year, Bahrain starts cooling down from the stifling heat of the summer, so eating outside is starting to be a pleasure again. So we took a table in the courtyard. But first we had to choose our fish. Now Fred considers himself an expert on fish. I only know that if the fish stares at you from the ice with rheumy eyes like a 90-year-old with cataracts, it’s best avoided. So Fred inspected the eyes, the scales and the general look of the fish, and pronounced them good.

Mohamed suggested two fish I’d never heard of. One, known locally as  yanam, was about 18 inches long with a wide body. The other, maid, was much smaller – a bit like an overgrown sardine. Both, he said, were caught locally and Bahraini favorites. For good measure he suggested we get some very fat prawns.

We took our table, which the waiter covered with two plastic sheets Arabian-style. We started with hors d’oeuvres, hummous, tabouleh and the most delicious flat bread which they baked on the premises. Then the fish arrived. The prawns were barbecued with a delicious yogurt and herb sauce. Then came a plate of maid, grilled with little embellishment – very delicate white flesh – delicious. Finally, the yanaan. Cooked as you would a sole, but with a thick crust of spicy vegetables – chunks of flesh coming easily off the bone, similar to sea bass.


Fred, who, being a Breton who caught his first seabass from the rocky shores of Britanny at the age of eight, is not easly impressed. With his typically lyrical turn of phrase, he commented “it was as if the enjoyment would never stop – a moment out of time”.

After three hours of great conversation and equally great eating, we walked out of Tabreez with a bill that came to a third of what we would have paid in the swish restaurants of downtown Manama. But not before we were shown the bakery in action, and presented with a couple of pieces of bread straight from the furnace – a typically Bahraini touch.

With all the pain and anxiety around us, it’s nice occasionally to taste the joy of small things.

From → Middle East, Social

  1. Mohamed Isa permalink

    Hello Steve,

    Fantastic review ! I shared it on Facebook and Twitter !

    I am looking forward to our breakfast on Friday in Maseela Restaurant in Manama Souq; another hidden local jewel.

    Keep on eating and writing!


  2. Correction: It’s Yanam [Janam], not Yanan

  3. Hurriyah permalink

    didn’t u try the fried safi? it ws so good that I would come back to Tabreez for the Safi 🙂

    • I have been back several times since I wrote the post, and yes, I have tried the Safi. Delicious!

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