Interview: Offering a Blend of Elegance, Warmth and Sophistication

We sat down with Justin Kim, General Manager, The Merchant House to find out what makes dining at the five-star Boutique Hotel special.

As the first five-star boutique hotel on the island, The Merchant House is a landmark in the heart of Manama. Within its artistic walls are an array of food offerings that for the most part are inspired by the farm-to-table approach. Justin Kim, General Manager of The Merchant House believes that striking the right balance between quality and innovation is key to offering an unparalleled dining experience.

In your opinion, what makes a restaurant special?

Creating a truly special restaurant involves several key elements. One of the most important aspects is the quality of the food; using the freshest ingredients and a talented culinary team that adds their creative touch to dishes, turning them into signature specialties.

Intelligent service is another crucial aspect that sets a restaurant apart; striking the perfect balance between attentiveness and respect for guests’ privacy. The staff must be trained to anticipate and fulfil requests but also provide guests with the space and comfort they desire so that they can relax and enjoy their meals undisturbed.

Finally, the ambience is necessary to tie everything together to create an exceptional atmosphere. By meticulously designing the dining space, the restaurant can offer a blend of elegance, warmth, and sophistication. Everything from the decor to the lighting needs to be carefully curated to elevate the dining experience.

 How do you ensure your restaurants always meet the highest standards of quality?

Our approach to quality is a commitment to several factors. We prioritize using top-quality seasonal ingredients sourced both locally and internationally. This allows us to create a diverse culinary experience that showcases the vibrant flavours of each season. We strictly adhere to protocols aligned with HACCP certification, ensuring that our kitchen processes and service delivery maintain impeccable cleanliness, hygiene, and safety.

Furthermore, we continuously evaluate and assess all aspects of our restaurants, from kitchen operations to service standards. This enables us to identify areas for improvement and ensure that our staff members receive ongoing training to stay updated with the latest industry practices and provide attentive and personalised service to our guests.

Finally, we appreciate the importance of staying ahead of evolving preferences and trends. Regular menu revisions are carried out based on a combination of menu engineering techniques and comprehensive market research. We analyse guest preferences and incorporate innovation in the cuisine to ensure that the menu remains fresh, whether one is new to the property, or a regular guest.

What are your thoughts on Bahrain’s restaurant sector?

I think the restaurant scene in Bahrain is incredibly dynamic and diverse. I love that it’s constantly evolving, with new pop-up concepts or trendy restaurants being introduced so regularly. Additionally, the diversity allows me to indulge in myriad flavours, techniques and traditions from around the world, all within a 30-minute drive from anywhere. This cultural tapestry not only satisfies my taste buds but also broadens my understanding and appreciation of different culinary heritages.

 What is your personal favourite dish?

Indigo’s Beef SSamJang is my personal favourite because it beautifully represents the essence of the restaurant – contemporary Mediterranean cuisine with a hint of Asian influence. It features tender, succulent beef marinated in a flavorful blend of Korean SSamJang sauce which is a harmonious fusion of savoury, spicy, and slightly sweet flavours.

 What are three dishes you would recommend guests try at your restaurant?

There are many dishes I’d recommend but I think the most unmissable would be the Salmon Ceviche, Hammour, and our Chocolate Fondant, which is served as a hot running chocolate centre complemented with cold homemade vanilla ice cream.

What are your favourite places to eat in Bahrain?

Masso, Seoul, Re/ASIAN CUISINE, Fusions by Tala, and Goodness Cafe are some of my favourite dining spots on the island.