Kareem means generous; at Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay, this word has a legitimate meaning in their Iftar and Ghabga buffets. Fernanda Langhammer headed to the hotel to relish an elevated Ghabga with their Premium Experience, launched this year.
Ramadan is a special time of the year in the Middle East. It mixes the purpose of connecting with your beliefs, something very personal, with the principles of getting together as a community, care for others and celebrating family bonds. And there is no better way than attending Iftars and Ghabgas with family and friends to do this. Many hotels and restaurants embrace the period by decorating their spaces and creating dedicated menus for the occasion. However, at Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay, the experience has become a whole new level of magical and memorable.
As soon as we left the elevator, we turned left and faced the entrance to the ballroom and Ramadan Tent. After stepping in, a massive area opened in front of our eyes. It felt like being transported to a world of luxury with Arabic décor. Unique chandeliers, lanterns, beautiful vases and pottery creations made in natural clay set the tone. And the grandeur is increased with the many arches and golden accents in geometric and Arabesque patterns adorning pathways and walls.
We explored the space before heading to our spot. This year, because of the pleasant weather during Iftar, a gorgeous terrace has been opened with a charming setup of tables, comfortable chairs and relaxing seating areas. Above the dining tables, a sky of lovely fairy lights set the cosy tone – a great scene in which to break your fast. Inside, the ballroom is arranged with the same elegant vibe and also offers a dedicated area for kids to be entertained by the staff during Iftar.
However, there is more; the Ramadan Tent is a spectacle apart. An imposing structure built exclusively for this time of the year. Under this opulent construction, round and square tables fill the room with white tablecloths and creamy, velvety chairs. The Arabesque designs are painted in gold and blue and there’s a large stage to accommodate live performances by the lead vocalist and four members of the Opera House of Egypt.
Four Seasons is known for constantly innovating, and this year, their incredible Ramadan Tent comes with an elevated service: the Premium Experience. This extra pampering feature offers tables in a high-set area with added services such as a personal butler to attend to your requests and a set menu served at your table with a careful selection of Arabian mezzes, mains and desserts – though you can also order from the extensive regular buffet too.
Our table was in this Premium Experience area, which is covered with a red carpet with big circular tables to accommodate a glass Lazy Susan (a rotating tray placed on the centre of the table to aid in sharing the dishes among diners). Simone and his wonderful team welcomed us with big smiles and asked what we would like to drink. Half of our party of four went for fresh coconut water that came in coconut shells – what cute presentation.
In front of the plates, each of us had five small silver pots with a selection of cold and hot mezze, including hummus, muhammara, moutabel, kibbeh and halloumi rolls. I absolutely love hummus, so I started digging in. It was then time for the show, which we were not expecting. A team of waiters carrying traditional silver tableware abounding with delicious food began placing the intricate large pots on the Lazy Susan, one after the other. And in a moment of magic, the lids were lifted in a choreographed movement – the aroma bursting forth made my mouth water.
Chef Tony El Khoury, Oriental Speciality Chef, came right after them to explain the fare. Ramadan is the perfect opportunity to savour classic Arabic dishes and the selection before us exquisitely highlighted this intention. The Bahraini Ouzi, a dish made with lamb, rice, boiled eggs, spices and toasted nuts, was like a mouthful of tradition, with the lamb cooked to perfection and flavoursome rice. Beef Harees is a recipe with a lengthy preparation process where wheat and meat are cooked together until they are soft enough to whip into a pudding-like texture – one of my dining companions’ favourite dishes of the night. Even though it was the first time he had ever tasted it, it felt comforting, and he went for many more servings. The other equally impressive dishes were the Kofta Tahina Sauce, Chicken Machbous, Salmon Harra, Batenjen Mahshi and Oriental Mix Grill.
We tried a morsel of each but, together with this exclusive feast, there was a whole buffet created by Executive Chef Leonardo Di Clemente, with an array of international cuisine waiting for us. We went on a journey of discovery. I have to say that at Four Seasons, attention to detail is out of this world. All the food was placed on beautifully decorated platforms with Arabic designs and clear labelling (making it very easy to spot where to go to taste our favourite flavours). The live stations with smiley and skilled cooks were arranged in rustic wooden huts to add even more character and charm to the ambience. The area is composed of 18 stations with buffets and live cooking. Apart from a wide selection dedicated to Arabic cuisine, you will also find many other options, such as Italian, Indian, Bao and Ceviche stations and a variety of salads and cold dishes. It’s like a food festival and a culinary journey without leaving Bahrain.
To fully embrace the Premium Experience, after checking what was available, I went back to my table and requested one of our personal attendants to bring a sample of the dishes I wanted to try while I kept chatting with my dining companions. Such a great concept to avoid carrying many plates (or only one, but extremely full) with less sitting and standing hassle. A great way to promote the whole purpose of the evening: connecting with your friends and loved ones.
You would probably need a few days to taste every single dish available, so choosing carefully is a must. I love Indian cuisine and a freshly cooked dosa is something I can’t resist. The dosa station prepares this incredible thin crêpe-like dough with mastery. It was crispy and soft at the same time with a hint of sweetness contrasting with the potato and pea filling that had just the right amount of salt with an explosion of spices accompanied by a tangy chutney. Perfection is a good word to describe this simple dish. I also tried the paella, which was well-seasoned with some crispy rice parts (the crispy rice that forms on the bottom of the pan is a crucial characteristic of this Spanish dish), adding the expected texture.
We were all more than happy with the savoury dishes we tried, which meant it was dessert time! Another show was presented to us at our table. A selection of Arabic sweets was placed on the Lazy Susan. Aish El Saraya (Lebanese bread pudding made with rusks and deliciously flavoured cream custard), Warbaat (a phyllo dough stuffed with a sweet cream called ashta which has a consistency similar to clotted cream), Saffron Rice Pudding, Um Ali (a soft pudding, layered with puff pastry, milk and sprinkled with lots of nuts and raisins), Katayaf (a pancake style dough filled with ashta and deep fried and drizzled with sweet syrup), Awamat (Lebanese crispy doughnut balls coated with sugar syrup), assorted Baklawa and a fresh fruit tray.
Executive Pastry Chef Imad Boukly came this time to take us through this delightful spread. These beautiful creations were definitely a grandiose way to end our dining experience. However, this was not all; there was also the dessert buffet. Chef Imad highly recommended that we tried the soufflé and kunafa, which are freshly prepared in the buffet area, and finish our meal with a piece of Turkish Delight (presented in big slobs and thinly sliced) that is flown freshly from Türkiye. I obviously went for the chef’s recommendation. After eating a big serving of Um Ali, my favourite Arabic dessert, for its simplicity but also comforting effect on me, I tried the kunafa, which was composed of crispy dough and flavourful elastic cheese (how it should be). This dessert’s combination of different textures is its highlight – just divine! The chocolate soufflé melted in my mouth and the pomegranate Turkish Delight ended this culinary event on the highest possible note.
We tried many other dishes (and unfortunately, had space for a lot less than we wanted), but mentioning them all would turn this article into an essay. So, I highly recommend you make a reservation and create your own journey. It will be an experience of a lifetime, trust me!
The Premium Experience is available daily from 9pm. The prices start at BD55 per person and must be booked for a minimum of four people. The regular Ghabga buffet is priced at BD38 and the Iftar buffet is priced at BD35.
For more information or to make a reservation, please call Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay on 1711 5500.