A Fishy Feast

Liz O’Reilly visited the Wyndham Grand Manama to check out a Seafood Night extraordinaire.

I have to confess, I really didn’t know what to expect on heading to the twirly tower in Bahrain Bay. Shamefully, I hadn’t been there before and wasn’t even sure which entrance to take (it’s number three, in case you were wondering) but the hotel is right there, as you come into the Bay area with ample parking to make your visit simple. The numerous lifts, always a bonus in a big building, allow you to go straight to the 10th floor, where Atmosphere restaurant is situated. A quick green-badge check at the entrance and I found myself in a huge space marked by contemporary décor and banks of windows drawing the eye to the night sky and great views. Dimmed lighting and ample distance between tables makes for an intimate atmosphere, despite the size.

Foodwise, due to covid restrictions, the extremely impressive buffet was roped-off, but you could peruse the multiple choices available and then give your order to one of the staff to have your goodies brought directly to your table.

There is also a fish market-style live cooking station, where you select your fancy, dictate your preferred method of cooking and even watch your dish being made before it too is delivered, piping hot, to your table.

A live-cooking mussels station really made me want to like these bivalve molluscs, of which my friends and fellow foodies constantly rave. However, there’s only so much I will do in the interests of research, so if you want to try these – and, judging by the delightful aromas rising from the chef’s pans, I would recommend them – then you will have to visit yourself.

To my surprise, the buffet not only presented the tried and tested favourites such as dips and salads, but virtually everything else, including the extensive mains selection, was in tune with the seafood theme and I was more than ready to tuck in.

I began with beetroot smoked salmon, which does a little dance on the taste buds. Ceviche with a twist was presented in Champagne flutes with blue or green colouring, to make them stand out on the buffet. Slightly sweet with a delicate lemon grass zing, the sizeable chunks of seafood made for a substantial bite. Then I ventured back to dinner parties of yore with a seafood cocktail. But not the prawns engulfed in tired lettuce leaves with a mix of tomato sauce and mayo that I remember. Oh no, nothing so bland here. A large balloon glass was filled with big pieces of firm white flesh teamed with various fruits, among them apple and pineapple, and a proper, delicate Marie Rose-style sauce. Of course, there was also lettuce, but not a wilt in sight and the garnish of a sprig of thyme added a boost of flavour.

Before diving into the mains, I couldn’t resist fried calamari rings, crunchy and well drained, just as they should be and accompanied by a spicy Japanese mayo for a subtle kick. A red snapper, found at the fish market but ready cooked from the buffet, was one of my highlights of the evening. Served in a delicately spiced dry coating, the firm white meat was both tasty and satisfying and a couple of these would make an ideal main. Speaking of mains, I obviously had to have more than one so I could report back.

I chose Sumon fish which I’ve never heard of before but is, apparently, native to our local waters, and requested that it be cooked with garlic and lemon. It arrived within around 10 minutes and was everything I had been hoping for. The exterior blackened and fragrant from the grill, the inside tender, succulent and juicy – it takes quite a level of skill to achieve the well-cooked skin without drying the flesh, so, I was suitably impressed with both presentation and flavour. Be warned though, Sumon is bony, really bony, but well worth it.

I also tried a main course that I had been eyeing on the buffet since my arrival. The Seafood Florentine was the night’s second stand-out, for me. Plenty of wilted spinach, a delicate creamy sauce with just the right amount of seasoning so as not to overpower the other flavours, abundant fish and seafood and a hint of cheese. Perfection on the tongue. I chose mixed crunchy veggies to accompany it along with potatoes that I shall be trying to recreate at home, they were that good. Served crispy in their skins, they had a good bite so either cooked in chilli oil or sprinkled in chilli flakes – the fun, for me, will be discovering which.

To finish, I went for a classic Bakewell tart with, once again, a twist – lychees instead of the usual jam underlay. This was absolutely delicious and a real taste of home, it’s glazed top smiling at me invitingly from a ridiculously large display of all things sweet and wonderful. I also indulged in a few spoonfuls of a delightfully decadent Oreo cheesecake. Creamy and sweet with that spoonsticking texture we all love, sitting on a dark biscuit base with an Oreo on the side and topped with glazed apricots. Who could ask for more to end a fabulous repast? ✤