Narise Kamber reviews… NQ Cookery
Before I arrived at the restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised with the string terrace lights that surrounded the whole shopping area leading to the restaurant. It felt like a small welcome from the neighborhood.
As soon as I entered this charming new restaurant in Argan village in Bu Quwah, I felt a certain warmth, like I was entering a friend’s house for dinner.
This delightful restaurant is the creation of chef Nader Qannati, a talented Bahraini chef who travelled the world to explore different tastes and learn his favorite dishes first-hand from their country of origin.
As I sat at my table I couldn’t help but notice how busy the restaurant was. There was even a waiting line by the door. This is something that I love to see in restaurants in general, happy large crowds. It gives a sense of a large family gathering and this feeling is enhanced by the warm and cosy feel of the restaurant.
Everything is designed and handpicked by Chef Nader. The aesthetic of the place is definitely eclectic, with different influences and flavours. The aspect that caught my attention the most was the abundance of sculptural busts and antler heads. I don’t think I have ever seen so much decorative antler heads in one place, yet I love the overall effect it gave. Each one is made of different materials and colors. Some antler heads are red, white, turquoise, brass or porcelain and they are distributed randomly across the restaurant and are all in harmony with the rest of the furniture.
There are wood crates on the walls used as shelves for decorative bottles and vintage tin boxes. The floors are a rustic brown parquet and the walls are covered with dusty pale blue wallpaper. There are numerous French country-style chests and small tea lights everywhere to create a warm intimate feel. My favourite part is that each table is a completely different shape than the other. For example, some are square, some oval and some are coffee tables. The chairs are a mixture of white French café chairs, fuchsia and purple velvet Louis XV chairs, a dark grey two-seater sofa and blue retro fauteuils. Altogether, the whole look works beautifully.
While Nader was cooking his delicious food, we were welcomed by Nader’s beautiful and sweet sister, Donia.
Donia, an ex banker, is currently working with her brother Nader and is lending a friendly and knowledgeable managerial role. She sits and chats with us and in the same time makes sure that all is going well with the other customers.
The menu at NQ Cookery is vast and varied with a predominance of seafood items. What I love about the menu is that it reflects the taste of a world traveller foodie. For the starters, there was so much to choose from, there is the French King Louis soup, the Spanish onion soup with almonds and saffron, Jamaican nachos, salmon balls, Ceasar and Rocca salads. But we opted for fried calamari and the very popular mejillones tigre and a healthy quinoa salad.
The calamari has the right texture and crispiness and was accompanied by equally tasteful onion rings. The mejillones tigre is bread-crumbed stuffed mussels with mushroom and garlic. For the main dishes, there was a large selection to choose from such as tenderloin steak, grilled salmon, osso bucco, chicken or prawns in a pineapple shell, or a choice of crabs cooked in Srilankan, Singaporean or Szechuan style.
For the main dish, we chose the sea bass and NQ’s famous paella.
The sea bass was cooked until its tender and luscious. When it comes to paella in general, I become very picky. Every paella I taste, I tend to place it against a paella ‘scale’. That scale is based on the many paellas I try when I am in Spain. A few years ago, I travelled with my family to Barcelona. One of my favorite cities and also one of the best culinary hotspots in the world. In every restaurant we visited in Barcelona,we had to try their paella. Some were good, some not so much and one was exceptional. We had this intoxicating paella in a small restaurant in Barceloneta (a neighborhood in Ciutat Vella district by the beach). Since then I failed to taste anything remotely similar to that paella until I came to NQ Cookery.
The smell of the freshly cooked paella arrived to our table before the actual pan came to us. An aromatic mound of yellow rice mixed with fresh seafood and topped with a head of roasted garlic. The taste was rich, zestful, and wholesome. I don’t think any words are giving it justice but what I can tell you is that my husband and I shamelessly scraped every last bit of rice on that pan.
There are other items in the NQ menu that we haven’t tried but surely will do the next time we visit, such as the Panini sandwiches with different fillings such as grilled chicken, Cajun chicken, and avocado salmon. Also there are mini burgers, Philly steak sandwiches, and a kids menu. As for desserts, I tried the creamy cheesecake topped with strawberry sauce and a delicious molten chocolate cake with a side of vanilla ice cream.
I did have a lot of great food that evening, but what I cherished most was the kind company of Chef Nader Qannati and his sister Donia. We stayed chatting and laughing all night long. The warmth of my surroundings and the good company made me feel like I was siting with my old university friends in a restaurant somewhere in London.
On our way out of the restaurant, my husband and I thanked Nader for an amazing dinner and asked him if we can get a weekly delivery to our house of that special paella.
For more information:
Timing from 6:00 pm to 12 a.m
Shop number 2623, Road 5756, Block 45, Bu Quwah
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