I’m a strong believer in the old adage to let the food do the talking. I like unusual surroundings, but it’s usually the things on my plate that will capture my attention.
Graffiti Burger Bar was clearly going to test my resolve on this.
Even from the outside, I could tell that I was in for something different. It’s lit up like a theatre or Hollywood cinema with the words “Now Showing” shining with a star above it, and a mini red carpet on the small steps leading up to the entrance. I felt like a minor celebrity walking in.
Inside, it gets even more surreal. The wait staff are clad in outfits that wouldn’t look out of place in a Zorro film, with bolero jackets and Spanish hats, like a sort of Gaucho chic.
With dark walls, a low ceiling and UV lighting, it has a gritty, almost subterranean feel, while none of the two chairs are the same, ranging from utilitarian to plush red velvet.
This eclectic interior features customised materials, premium fabrics and limited-edition pieces. There’s also funky wall art, photographs and words on the walls.
It’s certainly intriguing. Graffiti Burger Bar, which opened two months ago, is the latest creation from Khalid al Suwaid, the twentysomething restaurateur also responsible for Bite in Shatti al Qurum, and there’s a long personal message from him framed on the wall explaining the restaurant’s ethos.
Graffiti’s menu is elegant and simple. It’s all about the burgers, but not your standard patty in a bun. These are far superior creations, with great names such as “Glad-He-Ate-Her”, “What Lies Beneath” (brown mushroom stuffed with sundried tomatoes), and “Chick Flick” (chicken burger), all clever twists on film names.
My fellow diner, the grumpy Welshman, had his eye on the “Beauty & The Beef”, while I opted for the “Gold Digger”, the lobster burger, which I’d already heard about. There are also salads, including the wonderfully named “Alex in Wonder Lamb”.
Fries have to be ordered separately. Again, we’re talking gourmet chips, five-star versions. “Moulin-Rage”, topped with shrimps and a creamy trio-cheese sauce, was tempting, but we went for “Parmesan Dreams” (truffe-oil drizzled fries with Parmesan shavings topped with crispy onions) and the “Nero” (shoestring fries with black vanilla ice cream).
You can order simple fries if you want, but where’s the fun in that?
For drinks, the Welshman went for mint and lemon, which was pronounced “awesome” and very sharp, while my popcorn-salted caramel milkshake was exceptional. We also tried the black mineral water just to see what it was like. Its colour comes from being infused with an alkaline trace, but it tastes the same as any other water.
Our mains arrived quickly. Not before we’d had time to take in the place, which was packed mostly with local clientele. We also realised that the music, which is also playing outside from exterior speakers, is live, coming from a duo of a young women singing and accompanied by a hip-looking guy on a guitar. I quite liked it, but my companion wasn’t so keen, saying it was like two kids messing about in their bedroom.
Back to the food. Black, we discovered, is a theme at Graffiti. Along with the water, there’s black burger buns and black ice cream.
The Welshman’s “Beauty & The Beef”, a beef burger with sautéed fresh mushrooms and herb cheese, came in a black bun, which might not be to be everyone’s taste, but we liked it. Unfortunately, the dish was cold. We sent it back.
My lobster burger turned out to be small slider version, which I hadn’t realised. My fault, but at RO3.1, it’s a little steep. It was also cold.
While we waited for new burgers, I ordered a slider version of the “Glad-He-Ate-Her”, which was delicious, a beautifully cooked smoked cheeseburger with a signature chipotle sauce.
We also demolished the “Parmesan Dream” fries, which were excellent. The Welshman wasn’t so keen on the Nero, served with a side of black vanilla ice cream, which you dip your fries into, but I liked the cold, sweet and hot savoury flavours fighting for attention on the tongue.
When our new burgers arrived, the lobster was piping hot and the star of the show, deserving of an Oscar. It was moist and juicy, with just a hint of mildly spicy red Deutsch cheese.
The meat of my fellow diner’s second burger was also hot, but he said the mushrooms were lukewarm again. When you’re paying almost RO4 for the burger alone, you may expect better, but then, the actual taste was superb. As for the black bun; it tasted no different from my golden bun, which is good for those who might be put off by the colour.
We were full but tried the “Lotus Lick”, a shot glass of Biscoff Lotus homemade spread and very tasty, and the “Texas Chocolate Massacre”, a faultless chocolate, lotus and caramel soufflé, worth every baisa of the RO4.1.
Graffiti, in my view, is trying a little too hard, but the food can do the talking (cold dishes aside) and there really is nothing else quite like it in Muscat.
Classy food – lost point for cold – but a unique experience, if a bit pricey
GRAFFITI BURGER BAR
Next to City Cinema Shatti, Al Shatti Plaza, Shatti Al Qurum
Tel: 2460 4143 (bookings and takeaway)
Opening hours: 12pm-12am daily