Check in: The Palace Boutique Hotel, Bahrain

Boho-beautiful and with an epic brunch to match, The Palace Boutique Hotel – like Bahrain – is full of surprises.

The first impression.
Mention your plan to travel to Bahrain for a holiday, and you’ll be met with one of two reactions:

Response one:

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“Why? You live in Dubai. Bahrain is dull-as. You’re going to pay money to see more sand.”

Response two:

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“Nice.” [insert knowing smile]

It took me three years to get over there. The shame. Guys, Bahrain is a hidden gem. It’s capital of Manama is a solid mix of great night spots, historic sites and must-visit cultural institutions, all of which I will ramble about at a later date. Adliya neighbourhood is leafy, artsy and home to the only boutique hotel on the island.

Unlike most boutique hotels in the region, The Palace Boutique actually fits the definition. A small and quiet lobby leads off to the Gallery cafe (the main breakfast spot), a handful of rooms, as well as a back garden cafe and sports bar. More on those later.

The neighbourhood.
Block 338 in Adliya is one of those up-and-coming ‘hoods of the Middle East. It’s packed with more cool cafes, random street art and bougainvillea dripping over walls than you’ll have time to Instagram and hashtag with #life #quirky #culture #littlebohemia.

The Palace Boutique is a short stroll (or drive, if you visit here over summer) to the heart of Block 338, including the daytime haunts of Al Riwaq Art Space and Passion tea house. Like owls, or every exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, the area really comes alive at night. In a flash, the neighbourhood is crammed with cars, motorcycles and hip young things, while the air fills with fragrant shisha smoke, chatter and the smell of chicken sizzling on Shawarma Alley, which borders the northern side of Block 338.

 

Al Riwaq Art Space is a haven for local artists and damn good cafe food.
Al Riwaq Art Space is a haven for local artists and damn good cafe food.

Discover another Middle Eastern gem: Sir Bani Yas Island.

The room.
Cosy is how things are done here. The rooms have everything you need – TV, comfy bed, fancy bathroom. I did notice my shower had a half-screen, which I assumed was part of the *artiste* aesthetic of the hotel. That is, until I met on-site chef/front-of-house/all-around superwoman Suzy Massetti, who declared that full doors were on the way soon, because “Who has half-shower doors?” Love her style.

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Around the hotel.
There’s enough going on at the hotel that you don’t really have to leave if you don’t want to. Spend your morning lazing by the pool before heading to The Orangery for afternoon tea (and a CHOICE hot chocolate) and people-watching in the garden. At night, you can eat till you explode at Suzy’s restaurant de résistance, Masso, before retreating to Polo Gastropub for a nightcap and long discussions about how your apartment smells of rich mahogany.

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If you’re in Bahrain for the weekend, book in for Masso’s Friday/Saturday Brunch special (12pm to 4pm). Wear your stretchy pants, because it’s an order-everything-on-the-menu situation. Suzy and her team will serve up bite-size samples of everything they have, then you reorder anything you really liked, as much as you like. Suzy, like all hospitable Italians, will come around several times during the brunch to make sure you’re eating enough.

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The highlight.
Driver service. Bahrain’s taxis are a bit of a pain-in-the-rear – it’s easy to get fleeced if you don’t have local knowledge of how to get where you’re going and how much it would normally cost. The Palace have a few drivers on hand to take you anywhere you need to go, free of charge.

The lowlight.
The pool was undergoing renovation during my visit, which was a bummer because it looks ace.

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The final word.
Quiet, cosy, food coma is likely.

The deets.
How much? Rooms from approx. US $319 a night including breakfast.
Wi-Fi? Yep, and free.
Contact deets? +973 1772 5000
Good for? Couples, friends, solo travellers, families, anyone who enjoys eating.