Melissa Nazareth spent a laid-back afternoon at Higher Grounds Cafe, a hidden gem tucked away in the fast-developing district of Tubli.

If you want to enjoy a meal with friends or maybe a coffee by yourself or are looking for a quiet place to work from, head over to Higher Grounds Cafe in Tubli. We needed our GPS trackers to get there but with a little assistance, we easily found the place. You’d think people might not know about this hidden gem but the café has been around for three years. We went there on a weekday and saw many diners, mostly university students, working on their laptops whilst sipping on aromatic coffee and tucking into wholesome food.

The café exhibited a warehouse-style interior with high ceilings. We sat on the ground floor, which had good natural lighting streaming in through the French windows. There were shelves stacked with books, plants and other knick-knacks.

We took the stairs to the loft, which was far more spacious and had a concrete floor – a variation from the wood on the ground floor. A section of the loft had a chequered floor and turquoise tiled wall, adding to the rustic feel of the space. Black ducts, red pipes, a brick wall at the loft’s entrance, large spherical lamps and scaffolding-style shelves further enhanced the factory outlet feel. The foliage running across the ceiling added a pop of colour to the otherwise monotone interior.

Our host and owner of the café, Narjes Bukannan explained that the cafe has been designed as a community space. There were board games and a selection of specially curated novels that can be rented for a refundable deposit. The seating featured sofas with a common coffee table and a mess-hall dining table.

Offering many vegetarian and vegan options, the menu was divided into three broad sections – Breakfast, All Day and Drinks. You can order it all throughout the day. There’s a special menu for gluten-free options too. The coffee corner in the loft serves scrumptious plant-based cakes and desserts. Higher Grounds Cafe has a rotating selection of beans sourced from a Dubai-based specialty roaster. Currently, there’s El Salvador Al Faro, a smooth and chocolatey washed roast, which they use for milk-based and espresso drinks, and the Ethiopia Wolichu, a complex and fruity natural omniroast that they serve as a pour over or an espresso.

“We try to use organic and natural ingredients wherever we can,” said Narjes, who described the food as wholesome, natural and conscientious. On the menu, items are marked with an L-shaped symbol, which shows something’s cooked with mostly local ingredients.

The food, like the décor, was straightforward. We tucked into Hippie Pancakes, which are banana pancakes drizzled with coconut-almond butter and topped with fresh, chopped mangos. Served with pancake syrup, these fluffy pillows of goodness were a delight. The coconut-almond butter rendered a nutty flavour perfect against the slight acidity of the sweet mangos.

Balancing this were the savoury elements of the Field Platter – slices of salty halloumi and creamy avocado and acidic cherry tomatoes roasted until slightly sweet. We also enjoyed the textures of the dish – toasted bread and jiggly poached eggs, oozing a golden river of yolk when cut. The dish was colourful with elements such as green wilted spinach and ruby red beetroot hummus, which made it visually appealing.

The Katsu Curry came with crunchy breaded katsu chicken served over brown rice and smothered in a creamy curry sauce underlined with Asian spices – the ultimate comfort food. The Hot Cauli Tacos were a hit at our table. The cauliflower had a dash of sweetness but with a kick from the dynamite sauce, the greens and avocado added texture, all wrapped in a soft taco and served with potato wedges, which you can replace with a basic salad.

By this time, we were quite full – the portion sizes here are good and offer great value for your dinars. But, there was plenty more to come and we weren’t about to stop yet.

Our Kimchi Miso Ramen was a light miso noodle broth with toppings. It’s usually served with your choice of three toppings including smoky chicken, charred broccoli, corn, tofu, mushroom and a boiled egg – we went for the first three. A powerhouse of flavours – salty, umami broth, sweet and sour fermented kimchi and smoked chicken and broccoli – and a riot of textures – chewy noodles and crunchy kimchi, this dish is a complete meal in itself. The Rosé Pasta Bake was basic with penne pasta accompanied by mushrooms and spinach, drenched in creamy rosé sauce, baked to perfection. It was immaculately served in a mini-Dutch oven – full points for presentation!

We washed our food down with refreshing cold pressed juices such as Sunshine, Applegranate and All-Green. A concoction of fruit and vegetables, it was the perfect symphony to our medley of dishes.

We look forward to returning for the cafe’s social dining event, The Platform, which is hosted once every few months. “The idea is to promote simple ingredients and build that into a fine-dining experience,” said Narjes, adding that they work with one local or Bahrain-based chef who plans a four- or five-course menu featuring one main ingredient. A supper club style event that’s open to all, it once again highlights the communal spirit of this quaint cafe. ✤