FACT’s Sara Waddah celebrated the rich heritage of African-inspired cuisine at the Kingdom’s newest restaurant and dry bar, Kula.

Taking a drive down to Riffa, FACT went to explore the latest venue at RUW corner, where an exquisitely striking, vibrant and distinctive entrance was just waiting for us to step through into an alternate world.

A magnificent large elephant sculpture welcomed us before the loud bang of an African drum heralded the beginning of our culinary adventure! With hand-crafted interiors and vibrant colours everywhere I turned, stepping into Kula felt like taking a trip back to the motherland. I was loving this already.

With an interior that was put together with fine attention to detail, the restaurant had been split up into different sections – each inspired by one of the magnificent wonders found around Africa. Starting with the East African country of Uganda which is known for its exquisite bamboo, The Forest is centred right in the middle of the restaurant and features plush couches for guests to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Strolling through the restaurant, we headed towards a semi-open section where the rays of sunshine were streaming in through large windows, highlighting the incredible patterns and stonework that has been inspired by Great Zimbabwe’s most enduring and impressive stone houses. It wasn’t even over by then. The next stop was The Lodge, a family-friendly, intimate, carefully decorated section that even included a beautiful fireplace – radiating the Mzansi experience from central South Africa.

You could really spend hours marvelling at the different colours, cultures and attention to detail that have gone into Kula – meaning ‘Eat’ in Swahili, the official tongue of several African nations – which all came together beautifully to create an environment that allows guests to not only feel the hospitality but the warmth and love of the various wonders of the African continent, which some of us have yet to experience fully.

We were seated at a magnificent stone table and got ready to explore what the kitchen had in store for us. We let the staff make the choices for us as we knew that they were the experts.

Starting us off with refreshments from their bar, our entire party was able to enjoy a drink that really spoke to our taste buds – my favourite was the Stambo, which was a refreshing mix of lychees, raspberries and bubble-gum! The bubble-gum gave the drink a fun characteristic and it felt like just the perfect combination of tasty and fresh. The Appletini was another hit – fresh, fun and the perfect pairing for our starters.

It’s notable to mention that the Muranga, a creamy avocado blend, currently donates the profits of each drink to Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Congo, which was really sweet to learn. It’s heart-warming to know that Kula not only values African cultures but is also making sure to give back to the continent.

My curiosities about Kula had been through the roof since its opening, and so, I was on the edge of my seat with excitement as I saw our first dish come out, a Moroccan-inspired Couscous Salad. Definitely not like any other couscous salad I’ve had before, this one included roasted butternut squash, pomegranate jewels, homemade fried labneh balls and was finished with a light, zesty dressing that gave the entire dish a kick! Alongside the salad, we also received Moroccan Matbucha, which was a tangy combination of fresh tomato, onion and capsicum tartare all together, served with a crusty house-baked garlic baguette.

Next up – Nigerian Jollof. Now, if you know anything about Jollof, you’ll know that it’s a staple in West African cuisine and has its own special characteristics when cooked in Nigeria and Ghana. I was delighted to see that Kula is one of the first restaurants in Bahrain to serve this as a sharing dish, accompanied by fried plantain and spit-roasted lamb. The rice was perfectly spiced and stewed with tomatoes and roasted bell peppers and trust me when I say we made sure nothing was left behind.

Leaving West Africa and travelling to The Horn, we next got the Ethiopian Awaze Beef Tibs, which are sautéed beef cubes that have been garnished with herbs, green pepper and spiralised chilli. A true staple of Ethiopian gastronomy, we were also given bread to dip in some Niter Kibbeh, a spiced clarified butter with aromatic spices. I was truly on cloud nine floating with elation.

To be honest, all the different flavours we were experiencing only made us want to try more tastes from Africa, but we were also content with saving some space for dessert. We knew that there would be a show and something very special coming up.

The chitter chatter of the staff with big grins on their faces let us know we were really in for a treat. With a grand drum and dance procession that had us up on our feet with excitement and eagerness, out came the African Gold. Golden pumpkin fritters, edible gold, candied pumpkin and Madagascan vanilla ice cream sat in a deep dish. I carefully watched as it was doused with caramel sauce; it was a moment I will never forget.

Provoking all my five senses, touch and sight for the interior, hearing for the perfectly curated Spotify playlists the staff had put together and smell and taste for each item we delved into, I’m super excited to have Kula on the island, and I’m looking forward to becoming a regular for sure. ✤