Our one-day exploration in Al-Mubarakiya took us on a tour of the local food scene in Kuwait. Forget the franchises, pre-cooked meals and generic burgers. The dishes you find in the souq are fresh, delicious and made to perfection. Restaurants offer cuisines from all over the Arab world, and have now expanded to local European concepts. If all else fails, or you just can’t decide between all the amazing offerings, their fresh produce market is bound to ignite your inner chef.
The original gorcers
Still, with all the traditional clothing, intricate jewelry and decorations for the home at the Souq, there is also – somewhat surprisingly to many people – a fresh fruit and vegetable market found at the center of the location.
Here, you will find endless options, with some stores displaying over 10 meters of fresh produce to choose from. One can either pick and choose their fruits and vegetables, or simply buy a pre-assembled pack, much like in any shopping center. Nevertheless, there seems to be a more extensive selection at the Souq with an array of more ‘unusual’ options such as the crates of carefully polished chestnuts that appear on almost all of the store corners. In addition, a dozen date kiosks can be found along a strip bordering the fruit and vegetable markets. Mountains of the customary fruits – whether coated in sesame seeds or in a tightly compacted block form – surround the wide-smiled shop vendors. The fresh food market allows shoppers at the Souq to experience an entirely new way of buying their fresh fruit, where instead of simply taking it off a shop shelf, one has the opportunity to engage with another person.
Did we mention there’s an entire fishmonger market – Fish Souq – and butcher market – Meat Souq? The catch of the day can always be found in the Fish Souq, fish, shrimp, and even oysters are sold on a daily basis there. But get there early in the morning and grab your fish when they’re fresh out of the water. Looking for spices to give your meal a touch of authenticity? Then look no further! You will find plenty to keep your spice cupboard fully stocked, and once you’ve sampled the fresh spices, you’ll never think of buying a pre-filled jar of cloves again.
Under the signature wooden ceiling at the tip of the Old Souq is a large plaza filled with plastic orange, green and yellow chairs. The wall is lined with half a dozen restaurants where chefs flip kababs, carve shawarma off the spit and bake fresh delicious breads. It is a tour of cuisines that have become inherent to the local culture. From traditional Kuwaiti to Persian and Egyptian dishes there is something for everyone. Ample parking is found right under the plaza and its close proximity to the main municipality park makes it an ideal place for a family day out. We stopped at Al-Dahla restaurant, which serves patrons in the yellow chairs. Their kitchen serves breakfast starting at 7 am, perfect for a morning meal before work. Or, stop by for lunch or dinner to try their traditional Kuwaiti dishes, Persian grills or traditional mezzas.
At the end of Restaurants Square a yellow sign in Arabic calligraphy reads: Souq Al-Mubarakiya. Pass through the awning and towards the end, and take a look to your right. Another large square filled with plastic chairs. Only here, they are all blue, the color of one of Souq Al-Mubarakiya’s largest chain restaurant, Shamam. Along the wall, chefs put together amazing traditional creations, but this time each doorway leads to a kitchen with a distinct specialty. Enjoy your meal while you watch bakers flatten dough and bake them in stone ovens. Cooks put together delicious fish dishes in one room, and in another, kofta and kabab are cooked to perfection. With three different locations in Mubarakiya, including an indoor restaurant at Sakran mall, you are bound to find the perfect setting for these fresh and delicious meals.
A few feet from the big Shamam dining area, a huge pile of khobz ragaag (a traditional flat bread) in a small stall, will no doubt catch your eye. Established in 1997 they offer their delicious bread with your choice of traditional toppings like honey, Kraft cheese or both. Al Ka’im is perfect for a light snack, and for the bold foodie in your group. They serve a traditional Kuwaiti sauce – Mihyawa. This fish sauce is sunbaked until the fish has liquefied, with tons of vinegar and lots of spices. The brown sauce originated in Iran, but has now become a staple in many Gulf States. At Al Ka’im, try it with their freshly baked bread for an incredibly authentic snack.
We took a turn outside of the old souq, across the street behind Sakran Mall, and found ourselves at Khaneen Restaurant. Their lustrous white umbrellas, bright chairs and flower arrangements, embody the sense of style and freshness, known in Kuwait’s modern culture. They offer classic home-style dishes made with ingredients that are locally sourced, and only the freshest and finest meat. With such high quality ingredients, this is the perfect place to visit for a true Kuwaiti dining experience. Though this branch of Khaneen is outside the traditional restaurants’ square area, waiters dressed in traditional garb and a décor that gives homage to the country’s cultural heritage, will make you feel right at ‘a Kuwaiti’ home.
Khaneen is located in Souq Al-Mubarakiya, as well as in the Levels Restaurant Complex, Mahboula. Their hours of operation are from 6:30am to 12:00am. For additional information, please call 2220 6127 or you can also follow Khaneen on Instagram.
Around the corner from Khaneen, a small Lebanese restaurant hides behind tall green umbrellas. Step through the black wooden picket fence and you are transported to a lovely garden fit for Hamra Street in Beirut. The setting is ideal for a hot cup of one of their delicious milks: cinnamon, cardamom, saffron, rose or pistachio. For caffeine addicts, try one of their incredible coffees or share a pot of karak.
Beit Ward is also ideal for a group lunch. With delicious hot and cold mezzas, a wide variety of fatayer, saj and shawarma, it’s the perfect place for a light meal for a big group.
Brothers Street Food Burger
Kuwait has a burger obsession that it will not apologize for. So, it comes as no surprise that in our hunt for all foods Kuwaiti, we end up at Brothers Street Food Burger. This new restaurant is in the heart of South Mubarakiya (SOMU), right in front of a beautifully renovated gazebo, with a small courtyard seating area for its patrons. Don’t let the name mislead you. This isn’t your typical greasy street burger. They are all made with 100 percent organic beef. While the doors open at 5 p.m. the chefs arrive long before then to prepare their handcrafted burgers so that all of the food is fresh and never frozen. Try their classic burger with cheese and caramelized onion, or one of their specialties like the Sweet Potato Burger or The Gymholic Burger, made with a whole-wheat bun.
Brothers Street Food Burger is located in the new South Mubarakiya (SOMU). They open every day at 5 p.m. or at 1 p.m. on Fridays. You can follow them on Instagram.
Just a few meters away, you are taken far from Kuwait to right outside Paris. Flower Latte is a small café and bakery that will tickle all of your French fancies. Eclectic furniture placed in the outdoor seating gives the little café a modern European feel from the onset. Inside, the walls are adorned with beautiful paintings and fresh roses that set the classic Parisian mood. This lovely café is open from 3 p.m. for any meal you choose. With light sandwiches, a cheese platter and delicious salads, there is something for everyone. Whatever you pick, make sure to save room for dessert. Their popular Cloud Cake is a delicate strawberry shortcake layered with fresh strawberries, light sponge cake and whipping cream. Or go for the Parisian hot chocolate that is rich with cocoa and will warm you to the bones.
Msayaan emboldens the creativity of Kuwait, while sticking to the country’s roots. This incredible fusion restaurant is inspired by a combination of various local cuisines, with new ideas. Choose to dine outdoors with a front row view of the largest mural in the Gulf, produced and envisioned by local artist and Thouqer Ahmad Al-Ghanim. The creative flavors, unique presentation and attractive combination of dishes set Msayaan outside the traditional competition. In addition to traditional Kuwaiti food, a twist that respects the authenticity of dishes has been added to bring to food-lovers a taste that not only brings good memories but that also build new dreams.
Msayaan is located in the Mubarakiya Commercial Area, Al Qeblah, Block 8 – Avenue 37, facing the Banking Complex.Call 2241 7113/4 for more information, visit them online at www.msayaan.com/menu.pdf, and follow them on Instagram.
We end our Mubarakiya food hunt with a small café that combines the old and new, local and international in one small store and café. Initially attracted to the store by their display of Persian and Klim rugs, we were surprised to find a treasure trove of knick-knacks from around the world. Browse around, and you may find something from your childhood you thought you would never see again. In this antique setting, filled with some of the world’s memories, a small café serves home baked goods, coffee and delicious homemade almond milk. Say what you will about the big names in baking, there is still something special and unique about a pecan pie made with the love and care of a happy home. It was the perfect end to our delicious day.
For more information about Bait Ahmad, follow them on Instagram or call 2246 7373. It is located in the Heritage Souq area in Al-Mubarakiya, close to the foreign exchange stores.