I was born in the hottest part of summer, and when you live right next to the Arabian Gulf, that is saying something. This time of year, temperatures creep up to 120F/50C with sky-high humidity, which adds up to a heat index that is too ludicrous to comprehend.
After spending the past month melting into a puddle every time I even considered going outside, I was looking forward to a birthday that was relaxing, peaceful, and beautiful. And of course, being a birthday, it had to be special…
We drove through the winding streets of Manama, peering around every corner, anxious for the first glimpse of La Fontaine Centre for Contemporary Art…and then there it was, gloriously dignified and tranquil amid the hustling clamor of the city.
I had never been to the restaurant/spa/art gallery before, but the pictures I had seen made it look sufficiently special for a birthday and the reality did not disappoint.
We wandered through the dappled light, admiring the stunning building, which is 150 years old and has been lovingly restored to integrate the best of traditional Bahraini architecture with a dash of French flair.
Once inside we let the hostess know we had a reservation for lunch. I had made the reservation with a new service that has taken Bahrain by storm – eat. If you are like me, reservations are a must. I hate getting my hopes up for a restaurant only to turn up and find out they don’t have any tables free. With the push of a few buttons, plus a sleek, user-friendly interface, the eat app makes it a breeze to make reservations at some of Bahrain’s finest restaurants, which is exactly how I booked us in at La Fontaine.
The hostess directed us through the art gallery, which is rustic and evocative. Unfortunately, the AC was either off or not working and on such a blindingly hot day it was too warm to linger so we rushed through without getting to admire much of the beautiful artwork.
Once through the art gallery, we emerged back into the dazzling sunlight, into a peaceful courtyard, filled with the sound of dancing water and windblown trees.
Around every corner was a new space, impeccably designed and impossible to resist.
By this point we were more than ready for lunch, so we hurried into the restaurant and began poring over the menu.
To begin, we had a sun-dried tomato tart, with zucchini, basil, and Parmigiano. The pastry crust was flaky and buttery, and the veggie mixture on top was light and flavorful.
For my main, I had tortellini stuffed with spinach, ricotta, and nutmeg served in a white cream garlic sauce. The toretllini were perfectly cooked and flavorful, but it was the garlic sauce that stole the show – I think I could eat it like soup!
Cody ordered the grilled chicken breast with mashed potato and sauteed vegetables served with a mushroom cream sauce. This was very good; the chicken was seared on the outside but still tender on the inside, the potatoes and veg were perfectly cooked, and the sauce was a delicious accompaniment.
We ordered the butternut squash risotto, with onion, parsley, and Parmigiano cheese to share. The risotto had a lovely texture, but unfortunately not much flavor.
The fantastic eat team had taken care of my birthday cake, which was a fun surprise at the end of the meal.
After we finished, we were given a little tour through the spa so we could fully appreciate the stunning beauty of the old building.
We ended our visit up on a little walkway, surrounded by bougainvillea and palm fronds, gazing down into the stunning courtyard, marveling that while we could see the top of Bahrain’s skyscrapers all around us, we somehow felt like we had been transported back in time. La Fontaine is truly a special place with a beautiful setting, oozing with history and charm, and I highly recommend a visit.