There aren’t many Mexican food places in Bahrain. You could count them all on one hand, and they’re almost exclusively in Manama. One of said Mexican restaurants is currently hosting a Mexican “Festival” – Gulf Hotel’s Margarita Mexicana, where you can sample authentic Mexican food alongside enjoying some quality Mexican entertainment.
Both the chef involved and entertainment (dancers and singers) have been flown in from Mexico for the “Festival”. There’s a specific menu for the “Festival” that’s been created by the specially flown in chef.
Sounds grand, right? Oh and why is the word festival in quotation marks? You’ll find out…
Anish’s Margarita Mexicana Experience
When we try out new places, I usually get excited. Given my love of Mexican food, and the fact that a chef had come from Mexico to prepare a special menu, my excitement levels were unusually high. I suppose that’s why I was so completely disappointed.
This was our first time to Margarita Mexicana, so I had a good look at the menu. The menu offers Mexican favourites as well as a separate Tex-Mex menu – I’m actually surprised and glad they made the distinction. There were a few things on the menu that looked good, but I was here for the “Festival”, so I chose something from the menu that the chef had prepared. There were only a couple of vegetarian choices, but I was in the mood for tacos, so I went for the Tacos Dorados – Golden Tacos.
My dish arrived with 4 tacos – 2 with a potato filling, and 2 with a black bean filling, and a couple of salsas. I must say, both fillings were really good. Beans were creamy and rich, and the potato was well seasoned and well cooked. It was everything else on the plate that let it down. The name ‘Tacos Dorados’ comes from the golden colour that comes from frying the tacos. These tacos were certainly fried, but either the tortillas were stale, the oil wasn’t hot enough, or they didn’t spend enough time frying, because they ended up being hard, chewy, and oily, instead of the crispy golden tacos I was hoping for. Then there was the topping. Pale lettuce, pale tomato, onions, and sour cream. The almighty Gulf Hotel couldn’t source decent lettuce? Or tomatoes (which are actually in season right now)? I refuse to believe that. Tacos Dorados… more like Tacos Huevón.
The reason we went to Margarita Mexicana was the allure of a chef that had come all this way to share the passion and flavour of a cuisine that is so rare to find in Bahrain. Instead we were given sub-standard fare at extraordinary prices. Unacceptable.
Jaina’s Margarita Mexicana Experience
You know what my idea of authentic Mexican food is? Bright, loud, hearty, down to earth tasting food that’ll have you craving more with every bite you take. It doesn’t have to be spicy, but it certainly helps. Mexican food, in a word, is intoxicating.
Jumping right to it – Margarita Mexicana’s Mexican food was not intoxicating. It was a massive disappointment. Of course with the “Festival” on, rather than ordering from the regular Margarita Mexicana menu I opted for a dish off of the special menu, the Birria de Cordero. Described on the menu as lamb cooked in its own juices. Liking the sound of that.
I think there might have been something a little lost in translation. While the menu suggested this was a dish where the meat was cooked in its own juices, what it was instead was a soup. A soup in which the lamb had been cooked. Served with 3 little pots of chopped up radish, onions and some dried herbs.
It was a little disappointing to find out I’d ordered a soup. No where in the menu description did it say anything to do with soup. Ah well, I thought, it probably tastes good.
Hmm. As soups go, it was okay. There were some nice flavours, but nothing jumped out at me. In an effort to bring the soup to life, I threw in the herbs, onions and radish, but nothing happened. The lamb itself was dry. It had been cooked in a soup! The soup had literally drawn out all the flavour and moisture out of the lamb, leaving some dry pieces of meat which didn’t have much flavour left in them.
The kicker was the price. BD 8 for this dish. For this one dish. For a soup. For a broth with lamb.
The disappointment kept on coming with the margaritas that were ordered. A pitcher of traditional margaritas, on the rocks, was what we had ordered. There was a strange claggy feeling to them as you drank them. Perhaps overly sweetened, or maybe the lime juice had been sitting out for too long. They just weren’t right.
While we were both disappointed by the food, the service at Margarita Mexicana was impeccable. Fresh chips and salsa as we waited for our friends, polite and really attentive. The kind of service you’d expect from a restaurant in the Gulf Hotel.
The best thing about the Mexican “Festival” was the entertainment. The dancers were fantastic. Especially the duo who danced with glasses of water on their head. (Unfortunately one dropped his, but the other did the whole dance without dropping a single bit of water!) The singers too were brilliant, giving Margarita Mexicana a great vibe. And they even took a request from us.
There was far from a festival atmosphere, which was a shame. It just felt like another night out for a meal, with some great live acts.
Still searching for some great Mexican food in Bahrain.
Margarita Mexicana’s Vital Statistics
- Phone: +973 1774 6462
- Credit cards accepted: Yes
- Hours: Sunday to Friday, From 6pm to midnight