Bikers Café is ‘For all of us on bikes…’ So what happens to those who are not on bikes? Follow the Bikers, I guess or the road which leads to Bikes – of all shapes and colours and sizes. This is UAE’s and probably the region’s first motorcycle-themed café. Visiting the place was inevitable – I do have someone in my life who’s a Biker. Like a late baby bloomer, S has been a late bike bloomer. Having over-protective parents (alas, amongst all Indian parents, Bong parents are the most over-protective!), driving a car or riding a bike during the college days was always a ‘borrowed’ and a ‘hidden’ option – drive someone else’s car or borrow someone else’s bike – and of course, hide the fact from parents! After hitting 40, this late bloomer has caught on. And has a bike to ride to the Bikers Café and I have my own Biker to flaunt!
Already three times down to the Bikers Cafe, my first time was with Arva. Arva writes about all the eating holes in Dubai in her blog, I live in a Frying Pan. From writing about her life in the Frying Pan to starting her own Food tours in Dubai, scooting out delicious and mouthwatering food is perhaps, in her veins. So I scampered to the Bikers Café, like a bunny offered an extra-long carrot stick. By sheer coincidence, all my three visits had been on Saturdays. And the mood on all the three days had been pretty similar – the place thronging with diners and their loud conversations reverberating through the rooms; waiters with their over-filled trays walking up and down, expertly navigating through the rooms without tumbling. There is a level of comfort in this Café – and seems quite like a favourite hang-out pad with the local Emirati people, specially the Emirati women. Oh, by the way, I guess I have to mention that HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Makhtoum and many other royal dignitaries have been currently visiting the Café for the Emirati Breakfast! Not everyone who’s visiting the Café needs to have a bike. Actually, most of the diners don’t. And that is reflected by the adventure in finding a parking spot here. I have to admit that there’s quite a sense of exhilaration and thrill in dashing for an empty parking spot (that is, if one finds one) in the the open sand-pit opposite the Café. No valet parking, just rough it out a bit and let your hair down. A bit unusual for the numerous blingy joints that Dubai offers (a new credit card may temp a new customer with a Valet parking – oh what a novel offer that is!), specially if it happens to be in Jumeirah. Actually, life can be made simpler – there are paid RTA parking slots on the main Jumeirah Beach Road. But everybody prefers to rough it out. The extra struggle and saving 5 extra Dirhams before chilling out, perhaps!
Arva introduced me to the Flavor of Arabia, which is a traditional Emirati Breakfast platter. On a plate (below) there is a puffed up fluffy Khameer sprinkled with Sesame seeds, two Chebabs or Emirati pancakes, all sitting on a thin, folded Muhalla which is like the South-Indian Dosa. All these are served with Jam, Honey, Dates and Kraft Cream cheese spread. I am told by the Café attendant that only Kraft Original Cheese Spread is used, not only in the restaurant but also traditionally in all Emirati homes. Interestingly, this enters the Facts on Cream cheese spread in the Kraft Original’s official site – ‘Did you know that Kraft Original Cream Cheese Spread is one of the most memorable tastes that Middle Eastern adults have of their childhood?’
Ah… I believe that Nutella has the same effect on my German friends!
The Khameer sprinkled with Sesame seeds (above) while the Chebab or the Emirati pancakes, atop a thin Muhalla (below). The not so drippy, thick and slightly sour tasting creamy Kraft cheese complements the above perfectly, though the Chebabs are slightly sour to taste. But the thin crispy Muhalla dipped into the creamy Cheese leaves me licking my fingers (further below)!
The other dish that comes with the Flavor of Arabia is Balateet (below). This is a traditional breakfast dish and means Vermicelli in Arabic. Tasting both sweet and salty at the same time, the taste is pretty unique. Omelets cut into triangles cover up the sweet tasting, Cardamon flavored Vermicelli. Traditionally, however, eggs are whisked, beaten and scrambled very finely along with Onions, Cardamom Powder, Saffron strands and then the sweetened Vermicelli is added to the egg. Which version do I like? Ahhh… I’ve tasted both and I am slightly torn between the two. I guess, I’ll go for both – as long as they are cooked in such a delicious manner.
The Egg Malawach (below) that we ordered had scrambled Eggs, spicy Tomatoes, Za’atar (a spice mix popularly used in Middle Eastern cooking) and yes, the Kraft cream cheese (again!) stuffed inside special Yemeni Bread. The rolls were served with spicy dip of Tomato Salsa and Kraft Cream Cheese! I would say, these are stuffed up and more sophisticated versions of the Anda Paratha Rolls/ Egg Paratha Rolls served in the small Malabari cafeterias that feed many Dubai office-goers, who skip their healthy breakfast at home just to have these Anda Parathas, sans the Kraft Cheese Cream! The bottom line is that the Egg Malawachs does taste very good!
The Mediterranean Breakfast comes as a combo platter with Hommos, Labneh, Foul Medammes, Halloumi Cheese and Olives. Hommos or the Hummus is a popular dip or a spread used in Middle Eastern cooking and is made from cooked Chickpeas blended with Tahini (a paste made from ground, hulled Sesame seeds), Olive oil, Lemon juice, Salt and Garlic. While Labneh is a sour and creamy Yogurt dip. Our family, specially the Z-Sisters love the various Arabic dips like Motabbel, BabaGanoush and others. So this combo was quite a hit with the family, excepting the Halloumi Cheese. I have tried Halloumi on many occasions because I believe that liking a particular cheese is an acquired taste. I’ve really tried hard to acquire the taste, given it’s so popular in the country that I am currently residing in. But alas, I still haven’t acquired the taste for Halloumi Cheese and I’ve always found it very salty!
Barring my first visit, on my second visit to the Bikers’ Café, we had all the intentions of having Breakfast, but considering that we had booked a table for as late as 11:00 am on Saturday mornings, I think we ended up having a prolonged Breakfast cum Brunch, signing off with Desserts. Not unusual, as time and again, I’m always blaming my Bengali genes for our sweet tooth!
How much of sweets can go into a Bengali tummy which is completely full? Practically everything that is there on the Menu. We ordered the Leqaimat (above and below)– crisp fried golden dough balls coated with date syrup and sesame seeds, the Um Ali (a bread Pudding with raisins, nuts and cream) and the Sticky Dates Pudding. The Leqaimat and Um Ali (further down) are our favourites. Though the perfect Um Ali, for me, is something next to impossible – either they are too runny or too thick and depends upon individual preferences. Recently, I’ve tasted my kind of perfect Um Ali here and have learnt to make it as well, in a cooking class by the Beach – I’ll probably share the recipe soon in a future post.
While the Um Ali served was my-kind-of creamy and thick (above right), the Sticky Date Pudding (Alas, no picture!) too was deliciously sticky and when served with a huge scoop of Vanilla Ice-cream perched on a slice of Pineapple and topped up with Caramel Sauce – the only thing I can say is… sheer sweet bliss. Yes, all of the Desserts have passed my sweet acid test and have been able to please my Bengali sweet tooth!
The Verdict – The Bikers Café has much more in its Menu than the traditional Emirati dishes that we tasted. Given the dearth of restaurants in Dubai serving authentic Emirati food, we will most probably stick to what we ordered on our previous visits. We can always taste the Egg Benedict, Pancakes and the Spanish Omelet elsewhere, but with not too many widespread Emirati food options available, we’ll go back to Bikers Café, even if they serve only Emirati Breakfasts!
The only other place that we’ve tasted a traditional Emirati Breakfast so had been at The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) in Bastakiya – the windtower thronging alleys near the Dubai Museum area in Bur Dubai. But it’s been aeons since that first Emirati breakfast! Much later, I was thrilled to have found Al Fanar Restaurant in Dubai Festival City – the first Emirati restaurant. I took my parents who were visiting us and had an experience of what I would say was my first authentic Emirati food experience!
I have nothing to do with Bikes. That is, until recently. Now, I am following Bike trends just because my aging husband has resorted to a passion that must have been haunting him since childhood. The three women in his life (Big Z, Li’l Z and me) – we are trying to support him as much as we can – which right now translates into following the man (below) and his bike (above) in our car. But later, this may just translate into riding one of these mean machines ourselves!
First motorcycle-themed cafe in the UAE
There’s more to the Menu than what we have tasted. You can check the menu here.
The Saturday that I took the entire family to Bikers Café, diners gradually poured in. By the time we left, it was maddening – people spilling out of every chair handle and table, in almost every nook and corner. It’s pleasantly chaotic. The orders drift back and forth, but at the end of all the mayhem, the right orders do reach the respective tables amidst smiling and warm attendants and most importantly – pretty fast. One has to yell through the vroom-vroom of the proud bikers parking their prized bikes almost everywhere – on the pavement in-front of the Café, along the Café brick wall in the side alley but never, never on the open sand pits! Those sand pits are for 4-wheelers and other lesser mortals (read vehicles) to practice their mini dune bashing. And I’ve passed by the Bikers Café many a night and have seen entire herds of bikers parked in-front. And people just whiling away their time – standing and chatting and drinking Gahwa – Arabic Coffee poured out of the signature teapots, the miniature silver versions of which you may have seen in Arabic souvenir shops!
Our previous experiences in Arabic food had been limited to mostly Lebanese food, Jordanian food, Egyptian food and Iranian food. The UAE’s expatriate population had till now a very limited opportunity to know about the Emirati Cuisine. Almost impossible for most of us until and unless someone has had the chance to be invited by an Emirati into his/her home. We have been living in Dubai for quite a while and every time a guest would visit us and would wish to taste local food we would take them to most probably, a Lebanese restaurant. The only Emirati food experience we have had till now, previous to SMCCU, Al Fanar and Bikers Café, were the occasional Leqaimats cooked up by the local womenfolk at Heritage Village or some the UAE kiosk in the Global Village. So, a hearty welcome to Bikers Café and all I can say is – this place is throbbing and alive. We all #HaveBeenLivingInDubaiForLong, leading a fast-paced life, I genuinely want to incorporate the Café’s motto in my life – Never be afraid to slow down and enjoy the view!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: Our Breakfast-Brunch cost us approximately Dhs 260/- for the 3 of us (ignoring Li’l Z!). If you skip the Dessert and go for breakfast only, you could sign off your bill at Dhs 32/ to Dhs 40/, per person, excluding Tea or Coffee. The opinions stated here are my own and are absolutely independent. I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals but please do not use any material from this post. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.