My ertswhile traveling companion, life coach and general man about town GF has a theory about popular cafes.
He reckons that the most successful cafes in places like Australia and the Middle East all share one single unifying characteristic – they all look out onto a car park.
In my experience this theory has some validity, especially in the Middle East. Whether it be the proximity to parking, the convenience or the general ability to people watch, I’m not sure. But it does have some basis in reality.
With this in mind, on a cool Muscat evening, I coaxed GF out of the relative warmth and safety of his apartment to chauffeur me to a burger joint that, wait for it, overlooks a roundabout.
More specifically, the Kiwi Cafe overlooks a roundabout in Seeb, past the airport in Muscat, Oman. To say that this is random would be an understatement.
and yet, on a Friday night with the world at our feet, that’s just where we headed. It would have been a less stressful journey had my phone battery not died, rendering us incapable of reading the map GF had emailed me earlier.
However, due to his miraculous powers of memory and superb driving (he made me say that), we tumbled across the Kiwi Cafe. Speaking of overstatement, this is not a cafe, rather a shed, with plastic chairs – overlooking a roundabout. This joint has attained cult status, through nothing more than word of mouth and a fairly good Facebook page. We felt compelled to go.
It’s a shed serving fairly decent burgers and the clientele a cross-section of Omani society including western expats (us), Indian families and Omanis.
Feeling nostalgic, I ordered the Sunrise burger for its beef bacon and fried egg – just like an Aussie burger from the local Milk Bar. All that was missing was the beetroot. The beef is apparently NZ beef but the buns were generic burger bread rolls which detracted a bit from the overall taste as did the American style cheese slice.
Tripadvisor entries had warned of long waits and I can see why. The place was popular and with just one server on duty (and two cooks, clad in chef’s whites) we were lucky to arrive before the rush. GF ordered the steak and cheese burger which he deemed average. My burger was more of a success but was lacking in the sauce department. The fries however were perfectly cooked and crispy.
The beef was flavorsome and I am told it’s organic. Other offerings include hot dogs, inventive takes on the traditional lamb shuwa and also camel and ostrich meat options for your burgers.
You can personalize your burgers, adding extra patties or cheese and bacon and for OR5 (QR50 or USD13) for two burgers, fries and drinks and a hefty waft of exhaust fumes you can’t really complain.
En route back to Muscat, we took a detour to check out what literally seemed like a moveable feast.
Along a stretch of road, several vendors had set up BBQs and were grilling up skewers of lamb, beef and chicken and even quails.
Called Mishkak, these Omani dishes are available for just a few pennies and grilled before your eyes. I can’t vouch for the hygiene standards (we’re talking the back of a van here) but judging by the popularity of the set ups, the turnover is high.
I jumped at the chance to try one when offered by one of the vendors and the lamb was indeed tasty, tender and I’m in perfect working order today.
As for GF, he has the start of a cold today. Apparently it’s my fault. Swings and Roundabouts indeed.
Where: Seeb, Hail Al `Aamir, Muscat
When: Mon – Thu: 11:00 am – 12:00 am
Fri: 5:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sat – Sun: 11:00 am – 12:00 am
How: 9361 3740 or www.facebook.com/kiwicafeoman