I've lived in Muscat for ten years. One thing I love about Oman is the gentle pace of the development, but sometimes you see an opportunity going to waste, and just want to shake someone and say, "Look what you have! Use it!" That's how I've always felt about the Sheraton Qurm, on Shatti Beach. It's right outside the mall where I have my shop, so I see it every day, and it's provoked just such a feeling in me for years. The location! The view! The space! Just sitting there not really knowing what it is!

Until Moorish opened. Moorish, a locally-owned cafe and shisha house, occupies the ground floor and garden area of the Shatti hotel; it perfectly exploits this stunning location, and, for me, fills a gap in the market. As a sometime shisha-er (shishite? shishista?) I have felt the lack of cool, clean places to enjoy an atmospheric smoke-up in Muscat. Moorish ticks these boxes, and can add to its list of attractions a) a million-rial view, b) pleasant lack of Arabic pop channels played on grainy screens, and c) good food.

Moorish is owned and operated by a couple who really care what their customers think, and it shows. The menu is simple and what I order there is consistently tasty. There's no gimmick, it's just good. My long-time, go-to shisha accompaniments are cheese samosas and a lemon mint juice. You can find these all over Muscat in varying degrees of quality and price, but for my money these are the best. The lemon mint comes in a glass jar and is packed with fresh mint - not a leaf or two floating on top, a full juicy handful. And - hooray! - it's never too sweet. The cheese samosas are hot out of the kitchen every time and hit the exact right balance of gooey and crisp. Totally moreish.


 



I love social media. Caught by a craving for Indian food while stuck in traffic, I posted an enquiry on cult Facebook page 'Muscat - Where Can I Find?' to find a place we hadn't tried yet, and, from the number and enthusiasm of the recommendations, it soon became clear that it would be seriously remiss not to give Begum's a go. 


We (that's me and my husband) got there a few minutes before opening and we were not the only ones waiting. That was the first good sign. Begum's is a small, intimate restaurant with seating for 30-odd guests, with an almost cafeteria-like atmosphere as you're quite close to other tables, wherever you sit. That actually added to the friendly ambience.

Second good sign for me was the compact, focussed menu. I love restaurants who know what they do well and stick to that. We started with banjara kebab - chicken with ginger. The waiter tried to warn us off, giving us less spicy options, but we were hooked by the promise of a hot gingery starter so we went ahead regardless, and it was worth it. Delicious and tender and just on the right side of spicy for me. Just. As a precaution, we'd ordered cucumber raita to cool off - it was exactly as it should be, fresh and simple so it didn't mask the flavours of the main attractions.


Smoked aubergine with burnt garlic caught my eye on the menu next, and for a curry we got the chicken malvani, which came in a beautiful gravy, and the meat just fell off the bone. It's all served in copper dishes, which I am always charmed by. Because you never quite know what portion sizes are going to be like when you're eating in a new place, we also got a couple of naan (kulcha, which is embossed with seeds and herbs) and lemon rice. The rice was awesome - yellow and glossy, with fresh curry leaves that I think were flash-fried, studded with mustard seeds. Our plates went back clean, which the waiter noted with approval.

We're a very efficient couple - in just under an hour we had finished up a fantastic meal (for which we paid less than OMR 10 for two) and found a new favourite local.






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