Heading to Baharat at Le Méridien City Centre Bahrain for the relaunch of The Sweetest Brunch, Liz O’Reilly encountered 180 different desserts – yes, they were counted!
Baharat, on the ground floor of the hotel, is a welcoming and cosy space, even though it has a large seating capacity. Specifically targeted lighting gives a feeling of intimacy and the décor provides points of interest while your nostrils can’t help but be assaulted by a range of delicious cooking aromas preparing your taste buds for what’s to come.
As you walk in, you’re greeted by that amazing dessert station and, I have to admit, it’s kind of hard to concentrate on anything else when your eyes are drawn to the veritable cornucopia on offer.
But, of course, much as I would’ve liked to just tuck into cake after cake and crêpes and crème brûlée… I was there to check out the brunch, so I took myself for a wander around the other yumminess on offer, while listening to the smooth jazz tunes.
Aside from a pizza counter with its own oven emitting the delicious scents of melting cheese and complementary herbs, there was a pasta station with several different styles of dough and accompanying sauces, all of which could be cooked to your personal preference.
A grill station boasted an impressive display of flames licking around skewers of tender, marinated steak and chicken and, at a taco station, chefs used hot plates to prepare soft fluffy taco shells which they then filled with various meats and a huge range of fillings including salads and cheeses.
And of course there were roasts. Tender chickens, their skins delicately golden brown, sat alongside a whole flank of succulent beef, its juices running freely promising delicious meaty flavour.
My dining companion and myself first headed to the impressive appetiser section boasting everything from fresh salads to sushi and a wide range of seafood from clams and mussels to crabs and lobster tails.
I filled my plate with a delicious selection of roasted veggies – I’m particularly fond of eggplant and there were a couple of varieties to try which made me happy. A pot of muhammara provided the perfect accompaniment, its rich and flavourful mix of roasted red peppers and walnuts adding a welcoming bite to the creamy eggplant. I added a small pot of cubed, spiced potatoes – mild but tasty and perfectly cooked so as not to be mushy. I also had a fish terrine, the delicate flavour of which set me up for the next course. And, of course, I couldn’t miss a spoonful of creamy moutabel.
My friend was very impressed with the seafood selection finding the prawns fluffy and juicy and all the shellfish fresh and very tasty. She went silent when dealing with the meaty crab legs – always a good sign.
At this point I must mention the bread section – the focaccia could very easily have been my undoing. I took a small, perfectly fluffy roundel to dip in the moutabel and muhammara and it was so good that I could have just kept going back for more, not to mention all the other bread options available from Arabic flats to crunchy sourdough and everything in between. However, the thought of that dessert station made me curb my appetite.
Moving on to the mains, we headed for the chafing dishes. Yes, aside from all the live cooking stations and a section serving roast beef and chicken with all the trimmings, there was also a selection of ready dishes to try. I went for the seafood red Thai curry, which was aromatic and flavourful, its creamy, rich gravy providing the perfect foil to a serving of crunchy vegetables – the courgettes, carrots and cauliflower were crisp and fresh and I used them as an alternative to rice with that dessert station in mind. I also tried the lamb tagine – the slow cooking of the rich, slightly fatty meat providing a base for a delicious flavourful sauce.
My friend chose moussaka and pronounced the creamy béchamel sauce coating the eggplant absolutely perfect. She also tried the Kung Pao chicken – a tasty blend of salty, sweet and spicy which was a real winner. Afterwards, she decided to visit the extensive cheese counter – lots of options, smooth and creamy, soft and smelly, hard and tart – while I headed for the roasts and filled my plate with tender roast chicken, Yorkshire pudding, gravy and yummy roast beetroot, another of my alltime favourites.
Then, after a short digestive break, it was what we’d both been waiting for. Time to tackle that amazing dessert station. With 180 different varieties we really were spoilt for choice and I found it hard to pick. From bowls brimming with juicy fresh fruit and marshmallows at the chocolate fountain to a dedicated crêpe station – I felt like a kid in a sweet shop!
I was very tempted by the mini mango pavlovas which were topped with raspberries and just looked like a happy smile, while trays and trays of brightly coloured macarons also called my name. Fruit tarts, their abundant toppings glistening, looked amazing while mini gateaux in strawberry, mango and Black Forest flavours were hugely popular. Among the other things I recognised were various styles of cheesecake and lush looking eclairs but there were also loads of options I couldn’t put a name too, served in glasses, plates and pots and each one looking more captivating than the last. And, wherever we looked, there were character cakes from superheroes to minions and even one made to resemble shoes – all can be ordered for your own special occasion.
I eventually decided on a simple crêpe topped with rich, creamy strawberry ice cream. My dining companion went for the same but hers came liberally coated in chocolate sauce. The crêpe station even features bowls where you can add your own toppings and we helped ourselves with glee to nuts and sweeties galore.
I also tried a crème brûlée – always my ‘go to’ if it’s available and one of my own personal barometers as to the quality of the kitchen. Needless to say, it, like the rest of brunch, was everything I hoped and, with a topping of red fruits, was one of my favourite dishes of the day.
I could go on at great length about The Sweetest Brunch at Baharat but my mouth is watering as I write and I’m sure yours must be too. So, I’d urge you to try it for yourself and make sure to go hungry, ready for an amazing feast, you won’t be disappointed.