Kitchenation has got to be the funkiest looking cafe in Riyadh. I can’t believe it has taken me so long to find the place given it is in Tahalia Street. Granted it is tucked away in the new Mira Hotel, between the more outdoorsy eateries of Zaatar wa Zeit and Elevation Burger. It has also only been open in the last five months and in the past month I have been back twice – once alone, once with a group.
Walking through the reception area to the cafe you almost think ‘this is going to be a boring, same old hotel cofffee shop’. But then you walk around the corner and the color jumps out at you almost making you to stop and go ‘Whoa’. When I stepped over the threshold into the cafe proper for the first time I couldn’t help smiling at the eclectic collection of colored chairs and cushions around wooden tables. On the walls are shelves with a seemingly random display of knick-knackery, some old and historical looking, some used and pre-loved looking. In their midst is a scroll of brown paper onto which is written philosophical sayings. It’s all quite eye-catching and well, funky. Funky is not usually a word used to describe anything in Saudi.
On one side of the cafe is a counter with an array of sweets that you have to look at twice, just to make sure you were seeing things properly as each one is displayed on a colorful set of mis-matched trays and bases, with the sweets only identifiable by their hand written names on chunks of wood. The pavlova dreams are huge. As are the macaroons sitting in their crafty container that I still can’t decide is a snake or hollowed out turtle!
The menu is just as colorful and has an almost childlike quality with quite an extensive selection for a hotel cafe. Once seated the place mats are an entertaining game that keeps you occupied and engaged in laughter and conversation until your meals arrive.
As hotel food goes, it’s pretty good – tasty and well presented. The Crispy Shrimp and the Crispy Shrimp Salad were both quite satisfying as Appetizers and perfectly cooked. The Chicken Strips are good to share with others. The pizzas are huge and a Doggy bag was required by our group at the end of our meal. Being on a bit of a diet the day I went with friends, I opted for Chicken Caesar and liked having the breast of chicken at the side of my plate, juicily waiting for me to add it to the salad myself.
Not being on my diet the day I went alone, dessert was an absolute eye-candy treat. And wouldn’t you know it, that is precisely when my phone ran out of battery, so I didn’t get to take a photo of it. I’d chosen the smaller pavlova dream served with fruit and it came presented on a platter artfully decorated into a chocolate and sauce flower. I sat admiring at it for a few minutes wondering if I should go and recharge the phone to take a photo – and decided perhaps I could come back another day for this dessert and make sure I bring my camera!
I’ve enjoyed not only my meals at Kitchenation, but the environment. It would be great if the funky surrounds also came with relaxed smiling service. Not that the service didn’t come with a smile. It did. But it’s just that this is Saudi Arabia and the wait staff in most dining spots always look in fear of losing their jobs if they say something wrong or drop a fork. A bit of jocularity along with the Kitchenation order taking wouldn’t go amiss in one of the more distinctive cafe’s I have come across in Riyadh.