The Marina Café is one of those hidden gems tucked away on the beach with a view to dine for, finds Felicity Glover
It’s a hot, windy day and there’s a lot of sand swirling about in the air in our neighbourhood. Thanks to the rising temperatures over the past week, we figured there was only one place to cool off at the weekend: the beach.
At least that was the plan. We were hoping for a fresh sea breeze and perhaps a walk along the beach to cool us down after a late lunch.
We headed to Qurum, where I’d been told there was a great little café at the end of the beach past the Grand Hyatt Muscat hotel that offered uninterrupted views of the water and an outdoor seating area.
The Marina Café in Muscat is one of those hidden gems that I’m sure many of you know about, but only through word of mouth. I arrived in Oman nearly nine months ago and I have only just heard about it. But hey, it’s not like the owners have set up a website or appear to be doing much advertising, which could be one reason as to why I wasn’t in the know.
We head into the main dining room and it’s not as crowded as I thought it would be. I mean, café + beach = hungry diners and packed dining rooms, right?
Let’s hope that didn’t mean the food wasn’t up to scratch. Then again, even though it was indoors, people were smoking and the shishas were doing overtime, which could have explained why dining inside was not an option for some. Because of this, we decided to sit outside on the shaded terrace.
We were given a prime table right at the front, where we could people watch and gaze at the azure blue water beyond. The breeze was a treat and we were protected just enough to avoid the dust that had been plaguing us earlier.
Menus were brought over quickly and there was plenty to choose from. There’s the usual strong Middle Eastern influence, but some odd Mexican and pasta additions. Tortillas or spag bol, anyone?
Because there was so much to choose from, we decided to share. We kicked off with a mixed mezza of hummous, mutabal, tabouleh and fattoush, the falafel plate with tahini and Provencal chicken wings with lemon and garlic. Miss 12 threw in some French fries for good measure.
Drinks were a “frozen” chocolate for Kate, the big kid at the table, while I stuck with water and Miss 12 ordered the fresh mango juice.
Flatbread was delivered along with the drinks – the mango juice was declared delicious, while the frozen chocolate was good, but a “bit like Nesquik”.
And then the food started to arrive. The waiters had warned us that our small table wouldn’t be big enough, but we naïvely waved away their offer to bring us another table.
First up was the mixed mezza. A beautiful looking dish, it was a mélange of smoky dips and sharp, citrusy salads. Fresh looking and tasting, it was a great way to wake up our taste buds for our next delicacy – and what I would say was the star of the show. The falafel plate was a simple affair, although I have to say that I’d never before seen falafel that resembled small golden doughnuts. Crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside – they were the best that I’d had in years.
The chicken wings were the only disappointment in our starters – a little too much fat on them, they were chewy and lacked flavour.
Next up were the chicken shawarma plate and a chicken fajitas, one of Miss 12’s favourites.
Huge portions, we were going to be hard-pressed to finish everything. But the shawarma proved too moreish with its sharp tang of garlic cream and marinated chicken, while the fajitas were a hit for Miss 12.
We lingered over our late lunch for a couple of hours. There was no pressure to leave and we were enjoying the view and the sea breeze. And that’s what I like about Marina Café. You can have a leisurely meal with friends and family and know you are getting great food and good value for money with a priceless view to boot.
But next time, I’ll be trying the seafood. After all, that’s what beachside dining is all about.
Good value, but you can’t beat the view
Tel: +968 9911 3344
Opening times: Sunday-Thursday: 9am-1am, Friday-Saturday: 10am-2am
Lunch for three plus drinks: RO21.5