After too many skipped lunches, Felicity Glover finds a café that can create comfort food with a vengeance.
It was yet another busy Friday and my daughter, Cia, and I had missed lunch, which is becoming a regular habit these days. We’d heard that some more cafes had opened at Al Mouj Muscat, and even though it was 4pm, we decided to try Mani’s Café in the Marsa 2 area.
Many of you are probably familiar with Mani’s Café – it’s got branches in Jawharat al Shatti and Sohar. It’s a bright and breezy concept that focuses on locally sourced, fresh food – from the sweet to the savoury – and it does it well. Walking past the marina, we could tell straight away that Mani’s was popular – it had the most customers, many of whom were sitting outside overlooking the water.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t get an outdoor table so had to sit inside. The dining space has a Provençal feel to it and is filled with white tables and chairs while the serving counter was filled with delicious-looking cakes and other treats for sale, including sauces made in-house, and cute packs of honeycomb, jams and granola for customers to try at home.
We were greeted warmly and given menus immediately – and in less than 10 minutes, we’d ordered.
I liked the look of the menu here – it wasn’t overwhelming and was only three pages long – one page for drinks, another for all-day breakfasts and sandwiches, and the last one devoted to lunch and dinner. Easy!
Cia had a little difficulty choosing between the pesto chicken and the mozzarella chicken but in the end went for her favourite Italian condiment: the pesto chicken. She also ordered the detox smoothie, a watermelon, strawberry and orange combination.
I plumped for the halloumi bruschetta, which consisted of basil oil-infused organic halloumi with cucumbers, pickles and cherry tomatoes and sitting on the best sourdough bread I think I’ve tried in Muscat.
It took just a few minutes for our drinks to arrive. Cia said hers was cool and refreshing, while mine – the energiser smoothie (orange, strawberry and banana) was equally delicious with just the right amount of citrusy twang from the orange juice.
As we were waiting for our orders, we checked out the rest of the dining space and discovered a fun children’s sized table tucked away in the corner, adorned with wooden toys to keep the kids amused while Mum and Dad could enjoy their morning lattes or tuck into lunch. Meanwhile, there was a large blackboard on one of the walls, featuring specials for the month of October, such as slow-cooked lamb shanks, rib-eye shawarma and grilled spicy jumbo prawns.
The service was excellent and even though there was only one waitress working the tables, our late lunch arrived very quickly!
The first thing we noticed was that they were very large servings. Cia’s dish featured two chicken breasts, both smothered in Mani’s home-made pesto sauce, a large dollop of creamy mash and a colourful medley of salad leaves, peppers and cherry tomatoes. A mushroom sauce was served in a cute jug on the side.
Cia declared her lunch an impressive 9/10, while she couldn’t choose which part of her dish was her favourite – the sauce, mash or chicken, which was juicy and packed a delicious flavour punch from the basil pesto.
My lunch was not as colourful but was equally delicious. The halloumi was hidden beneath a large, finely diced salad of cucumber, pickles and tomatoes while the slice of sourdough was massive.
Tangy and salty, it was the ultimate comfort food – at least for me. Served with fries and ketchup on the side, which I left untouched, it was too much for me and I raised the white flag in defeat about three-quarters of the way through.
The halloumi was perfectly grilled and paired beautifully with the pickles although the dice was a little too fine and kept slipping off my fork. But that would be my only criticism as it was exceptionally more-ish.
Cia polished off her meal but we were both too full for dessert. That said, however, we both agreed that Mani’s will become our go-to café at weekends, which means we’ll be back to sample the rest of the menu over the cooler months.
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Fast service and wholesome meals.