This week the ladies that brunch reconvened for our weekly ritual of eggs, pancakes and gossip. As our social secretary, I took it upon myself to suggest a break from the norm, try something new and venture out of our local comfort zone . Much to my delight, my fellow desert gals agreed to partake and venture into Kuwait City to trial the aptly named Breakfast Club.
We piled into the car and our designated Italian driver loaded the GPS and took a deep breath to prepare for the journey ahead. As per my previous post driving in Kuwait is questionable and as our new addition to the club put it, it’s the Wacky Races. There are no rules, biggest car wins and you do everything you can to get to your destination avoiding catastrophe. I refuse to drive here so I have great respect for those that do and our driver did a sterling job, arriving in one piece and literally applauding the tire screech to steal the last parking space available, we certainly deserved the hearty breakfast we had all come hungry to try.
We entered the modern, mini Shard-esq office tower. We made our way through the retail portion of the lobby onto the mezzanine level and tucked in the corner between high-end fashion boutiques was our brunch haven. We walked into a surprisingly smaller outfit than I had expected, modern concrete floors and over-sized steel lighting fixtures sat in contrast to plush white padded booths – I liked it. We took our perspex seats and were each handed a mini iPad to view the perfectly photographed food, which would easily have fitted into any M&S advert, leaving you salivating, overwhelmed and wondering if it was appropriate to order more than one thing in a single sitting! The pondering of the table continued, with salty or sweet preferences being widely debated and tales of breakfasts back home exchanged with nostalgic eyes; all of us envious of the espresso bars of Rome which were hardly competition against the bacon roll memories of two Brits. I managed to cut my choices down to four items and as the waitress approached to take our order, the pressure set in and I had to make a final decision. My friends can vouch this is not something that comes easily to me, in any aspect of my life, let alone when it comes to food. Result, the perfect outcome, we had all ordered something different, so a wide spectrum of reviews and multiple tasting options would be available among friends.
As we waited for the food, the conversation flowed and I looked around the table thinking to myself that this is what I loved about my life. I was surrounded by good friends, making new ones and at that moment, any anxiety I had recently been feeling , faded away. I was woken from my pensive daydream by plates coming to the table and this is where eating out in this country drives me mad, as nothing arrives together. From the first person getting their order to the last, it was nearly ten minutes and still drinks were missing. For any small kitchen or new eatery this is unacceptable service and they clearly needed my legendary organisational skills and me back there cracking the whip. That being said, every single dish looked amazing and from the sounds of satisfaction the ladies were in agreement. The portions, as per my previous post Good food, good life were huge but we slowly made our way through what we could, before forks filled with the other options were passed round the table. It was unanimous, the red velvet pancakes with mascapone was the winner and I kicked myself, as this was one of my original four options, my major food envy had ensued. It was agreed that this had been a success and my only bugbear was the coffee was not great, which for another chance to taste the pancakes , I would be willing return for a sans caffeine experience.
As we planned to leave, a genius suggestion came from our driver. We spontaneously decided, that as we were in the city and had a couple of hours before the mummies had to be home for the kids, that we would continue our day of adventure and head to the souk. We excitedly piled back into the car, rerouted the GPS and we were off. Slightly concerned as we drove past the souk’s main entrance, due to negotiating the one way system, we spotted a sign for additional souk parking. As cars turned off the main road, filtering into a single lane queue for the car park, we became aware that a truck was inches away from us, trying to squeeze itself in front, at practically the final moment the lanes merged into one. Out of nowhere a normally serene, Italian goddess, showed her true Roman colours, put her foot down and aggressively beat the truck to pole position. She turned to her passengers declaring you don’t mess with Italians!! Raucous cheers and girl power fist pumps flew round the car as we parked.
Souk Al-Mubarakiya is Kuwait’s, largest and oldest souk and has been around in some form for over 200 years, a large open air market where everything from spices to knock off Ray Bans can be found. Now as a group of white western women we did stand out like a sore thumb but we happily navigated our way round the maze of stalls and “streets” taking in this amazing aspect of Arabic culture. The spices, incense, the strong odors of the fish market, the bustle of the fruit sellers, the melodic calls to prayer, all the smells and sounds had created an incredible atmosphere. We made our way onto one of the lanes which mainly consisted of fashion enterprises. Now I say fashion in the loosest sense, nothing on trend here but traditional abayas, as well as modern examples of Middle Eastern dresses hung from the doorways. Our Italian tour guide showed us a particular outlet where she had picked up a bargain some weeks previous. A dress which was traditional but wearable, the loose form and clean lines resembling something from her favourite Scandi fashion store.
I was the first to find something that caught my eye. A long loose-fitting maxi dress with rope belt detail, gold edging and the most vibrant Moorish pattern. The ladies agreed this was lovely and something uniquely Kuwaiti. This is where the fun began. We asked how much and the vendor stated his opening price, which we immediately recoiled at. A special (and dubious) today only discount was issued, which only dropped the price by the equivalent of two quid. Out of nowhere the Roman blood kicked in again and my friend started haggling hard on my behalf, we watched in awe as she pushed and pushed, not giving the guy an inch and holding her own. The deal was struck at 65% down from where he started and I walked away feeling like I had got a reasonable bargain. This pattern of purchasing continued as we visited three more vendors and as the rest of the party frocked up, we sent in the barter queen to close the deal. She was on fire! She had driven like a pro, bartered like a man and did it all with her usual style and grace. Wow.
The last purchase was made just as we knew we had to leave and by this point, we were roasting in the height of the desert sun. As we left the souk, five ladies in a row, Kuwaiti fashions in our hands, retail smiles on our faces, I commented that we truly were the Sex and the City girls. Friendships had blossomed, we had brunched and shopped in the city that day and as my gal from Scotland said, we were only minus the cosmopolitans.