Manama in the morning is like any major city; the roads are clogged and the footpaths bustling with people rushing to the office or store. It’s at times like this it is important to find sanctuary from the insanity.
There is no better place to calm down and re-energise for the day ahead over breakfast (or to grab a quick takeaway snack) in the heart of the city, by the souq, than FiLLi café.
That’s where I headed last week for a refreshing sip of the legendary signature FiLLi Zaffran Chai, a unique combination of steamed milk, tea and saffron.
I was starving too, having missed breakfast at home. Usual chaos and confusion. I’d fallen back asleep after being rudely awoken by the alarm on Saturday morning to take Stan Jnr to a football match only the find the game had been suddenly cancelled.
That wasn’t the plan, I was going to drop him off and head straight to the office pronto to write a notebook full of articles for this week’s issue. But I was hungry and diverted towards one of my favourite cafes and, to my great surprise, found an empty parking space close-by just waiting for me.
It was meant to be. Having picked the menu called ‘happiness begins with a joyful meal’ I remembered that one of the star a la carte turns is a ‘taste of home’. You can make breakfast a feast with an English muffin stuffed with delicious sliced turkey, a succulent omelette added for good measure and some Cheddar cheese, of course. And, all for just BD1.400.
I know the guys here quite well and was invited into the kitchen to see the delightful Lorine prepare the feast, this girl really knows how to cook an omelette! They made me wear a hair net which I thought was quite funny, as I’m no longer blessed with much, but, I must say, I looked quite fetching in it as it covered my bald patch!
Operations manager Roy Seixas, an expat from Mumbai, below left, joined me for breakfast bringing along a tray of his own favourites, what he described as ‘the best Punjabi Samosas in town’, served with a sweet and sour chutney.
Surprisingly, neither of these tasty dishes are the best sellers on the menu, that honour goes to the Paratha Bite, an egg, cheese and crisps concoction wrapped in flatbread that originates in the Indian subcontinent. It is still prevalent throughout India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh and here in the kingdom.
Bahrainis and expats living here just can’t get enough of the stunning Filli Paratha Bite. It costs just BD1, and like the Samosas, is among the ‘tea snack combo’ menu items that comes with a free cuppa. No wonder it’s so popular!
My FiLLi tea was brought to the table by another delightful member of the team, Ghassen, a Tunisian expat so full of charm I can even forgive him for supporting Man United.
Polite, friendly, efficient service is the name of the game and they’ve all got a passion for the FiLLi experience which has obviously rubbed off from the great man himself. Regular readers may recall how the charismatic owner of the FiLLi brand, Rafih Filli, flew over from Dubai for the grand opening of the café across the road from Bab al Bahrain and the Yateem Centre.
When Rafih took over his Indian father’s ailing cafeteria – nestled among small convenience stores – he would pray every night for it to make just enough money so that he could pay the staff salaries. He tweaked the menu, now boasts outlets across the UAE and India with plans for further expansion, and hopes one day to rival major international chains – all thanks to a strong cup of freshly-brewed chai.
Born Abdul Rafih, Filli was a nickname given to him by friends when he was in high school. So when he came up with his special recipe for the milky tea he added to the cafe’s menu in 2004, he called it FiLLi.
At the same time he took down the outlet’s original sign and renamed it FiLLi Café – and even went so far as to change his surname to match. He’s been to every outlet opening in Bahrain, the recent one at Hamad Town’s Central Souq and earlier at Lulu Hypermarket in Riffa.
As reported earlier, the refreshing concept has been brought to the kingdom by business development manager Marcus Njorge and Bahraini businessman Adnan Gilitwala under the umbrella of Epitome Restaurant & Coffee Shop Management.
Manama’s FiLLi Café has become my second home when I fancy a cup of tea rather than my usual coffee break. The ambience is chilled to the core and it is well worth taking a step upstairs, for a bright and comfortable setting.
And with breakfast and tea for a dinar … well, to quote three of my children involved in the world of stage and screen, it’s a wrap!
Stanley Louis Szecowka
Editor/Journalist & Blogger, Restaurant & Motors Reviewer, FinTech Writer, Manager, Trainer.
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