BY ANAAM IKRAM
Walls laden with graffiti-style Arabic slogans, images of famous Khaleeji artists and advertisements from the late 1900’s, Basta23 is every bit Retro Bahrain. Leaf vines hanging above an old-fashioned wooden door and stairs leading up to it, customers get to take a step back in time and experience Bahrain in the early days.
The wholesome, hearty and traditional food served at Basta23 highlights the authentic Bahraini flavours for breakfast, lunch and dinner all under one roof, leaving its customers satisfied with a side-order of nostalgia. Perle Magazine spoke with owner Amer Al Khan about his passion of sharing his childhood memories, culture and traditions through Basta23.
Bahrain from the late 1900’s is inspiration for the interior, and named after the ‘basta’ gathering amongst family and friends combined with Al Khan’s lucky number 23. The restaurant’s first branch was opened in 2011in Durrat Al Bahrain followed by a second branch in Riyadat Mall and successfully opening its third branch in
Riffa Views earlier this year. The idea behind the restaurant, Al Khan explains, was to have pure Bahraini cuisine from breakfast to dinner in a vintage setting to get the complete traditional dining experience. “We wanted it to be a place where everyone can go and have traditional food and feel like they are at home”, he says.
Branded and marketed by Al Khan’s wife Sara Buhijji, Basta23 features traditional layered ‘doushag’ seating lined against the walls, wooden tables and chairs, and even the back of an old window-AC and a unique hand washing area themed around pots and pans as part of the décor. Paying close attention to detail, even the nooks and crannies of the restaurant represent an alleyway of a neighbourhood, the floor also has a ‘sakena’ grid (hopscotch) as a reminder of childhood games of the past, as a clothing line hangs above with clothes to dry.
Renowned artists such as Umm Kulthum, Abdel Halim Hafiz and Abdel Hussein Abdel Reda (featured in all Basta23 branches) grace the walls of the restaurant amongst many others.
Popular amongst residents all over the gulf, Basta23’s menu was also carefully conceptualised by Al Khan, with family members teaching the chefs how to create the traditional, home-made dishes. From appetisers such as cheese and vegetable samboosa and breakfast hot-seller Shakshoukeh (egg and tomato), to lunchtime favourite Safi with Mahamar (fried fish with sweet rice), and dinner preference Tikka Kebab, as well as the sandwiches and stuffed cheese or plain breads, the quintessential Bahraini dishes are served with a personal twist added by Al Khan.
“At our restaurant, its not just about the food, but also about the experience of traditional Bahrain”, says Al Khan. Speaking of some of his worries, Al Khan says one main concern was whether people would be willing to come to the restaurant to eat food that is also available in their homes.
However, with its unique interior and delicious menu, Basta23 gained instant success from its very first branch. Garnering popularity through word-of-mouth, the restaurant was also praised by a lot of people for their enjoyable experience at the restaurant. The praise encouraged Al Khan to think about expanding further in Bahrain and even consider branching out to other countries in the Gulf.
‘We learn every day, and every new challenge is a learning curve. It’s an amazing experience and we have loved the Basta23 journey thus far, enjoying every step of the way. All three branches tell the Basta23 evolution, progress and my experience as a restaurateur’ said Al Khan.
To enjoy the Basta23 experience please contact:
Durrat Al Bahrain: 00973 77772323
Al Aali (Riyadat Mall): 00973 77575757
Riffa Views: 00973 77666999
Basta23 opening hours are 9am to 11pm
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