The Merchant House, Bahrain: Manama’s Best Hotel?
Review: Merchant House, Bahrain: Manama’s Best Hotel?
The Merchant House, 3 nights in an Urban Suite with “best flexible bed and breakfast rate”, 100 Bahraini Dinars per night, 90 Bahraini Dinars on the third night, excluding VAT, service charge and government levy. The Merchant House, 150 Government Ave, Manama 304, Bahrain. Tel. +97316671000. Prices and details are accurate at the time of staying at The Merchant House, Bahrain. Check out The Merchant House website for the latest information.
Written by Liam Collens // See other reviews here.
The Merchant House Bahrain pops with colour and character making for a stylish city break with spacious suites, but is it style over substance?
Contemporary designer hotel with bright colour-pops radiating throughout
The Merchant Hotel's staff and service are attentive and fun, especially the reception team
Well located within short striking distance of most things in Manama
Well-priced for this type of designer hotel
Aside from breakfast, the food and beverage could lean in more
Review: The Merchant House, Bahrain: Manama’s Best Hotel?
The Merchant House, Bahrain: What Stood Out?
The Merchant House’s Location
The Merchant House is within striking distance of Manama’s sites and attractions. A short walking distance of Bab Al Bahrain, a restored and modernised customs house entrance to the Manama Souq. Less than 15 minutes from The Avenues shopping mall, Bahrain Fort and – importantly – the Adliya area, which boasts some of Bahrain’s best restaurants including L’Orto and Fusions by Tala Bashmi.
The Merchant House is about 25 minutes from Bahrain International airport, or so online directions will tell you. The reality is that Manama traffic is hideous. You will easily spend closer to an hour between The Merchant House and Bahrain International Airport during a Thursday night or other rush hour period.
Note, The Merchant House is a city hotel. There is no beach; it is not a resort. There are plenty of those options available in Manama (and wider Bahrain). Look elsewhere if those things are important to you (read: family visits).
The Merchant House’s design and decor
The Merchant House’s contemporary design is the standout feature, as expected with boutique hotels. The bold use of colour and intentional contrasts delights those like me who are into that kind of thing. Smatterings of modern art are peppered around the property. The fabrics and sculptures lure like catnip for those who baulk at the corporate beige of most international chains. You know the ones.The lobby’s monochrome floors contrast with polished concrete. Oversized furniture resembles Dutch delftware with swirls of bright blue and white. Busts marked with black calligraphy. Floor-to-ceiling windows and internal glass partitions allow light to flood into the reception and Cafe Gray.
The Merchant House reads a little more designer hotel than a boutique hotel at times. This is not a criticism; just the sound of a hair being split. Some may consider 46 suites a little large for a truly boutique hotel. However, The Merchant House doubles down on the design-forward aesthetic that is commonplace in boutique hotels. There are nods to the former trading history of the renovated building with framed black and white photos dotted over the property.
The Indigo Terrace also pops with lime, pink and more oversized busts and designer-upholstered chairs. High ceilings, large chandeliers and a striking back bar of racing green and light wood. The decor and plush comfy chairs may convince you to spend some time here (see notes below).
The Merchant House’s rooms
Living Room. The Urban Suite’s living room area sports rust-orange designer chairs, a plush long sofa for stretching out before the coffee table and large TV. The whole room is mostly open plan with a partial partition: a perforated wall meets a latticed black separator between the bedroom.
Bed. The bed is large, marshmallow-soft with heaps of pillows for people like me who enjoy lots of pillows. Both side tables include multiple plugs for overnight charging and an electronic lighting control so you don’t need to get out of bed to turn them off (or on). There is also a smaller TV in front of the bed mounted on the wall.
Bathroom. The bathroom is very spacious with glossy ash surfaces, a generously-sized mirror, a large rain shower and REN toiletries.
Other checks. Fast, reliable wifi, hot rain shower with a spacious area, the room is pretty soundproof vs the neighbouring rooms and the outside Government Avenue.
You could get a larger room at a higher price but I do not see the need. I don’t know what I’m missing and I’m fine. My one wish? There was more than one luggage stand to accommodate for two separate bags.
The Merchant House’s service, team & facilities
Service. Approachable, informative and friendly. As with anything in the hospitality service, it’s the hospitality that makes or breaks. Hotels face the existential threat of Airbnb (which I resort to often). So opting for a hotel is usually down to my need for support. Here, The Merchant Hotel nailed it. The team helped with reservations, booked tours to the Tree of Life (not worth it in my point of view; my fault, not theirs) and helped us plan (read: thin out) an already packed trip with practical tips. Nothing is too much. A jovial group who probably enjoys meeting customers who also enjoy a laugh. Would return again based on the service from this team.
Gym. The Merchant House’s gym is smaller but well-proportioned with dumbbells, floor-to-ceiling mirrors and treadmills. A modest lap pool on the outside terrace offers views. It’s what the average person with an average interest in staying in average shape needs. True athletes seeking a PB deadlift may opt for one of the gyms nearby.
Spa. Unfortunately, I did not try the spa.
The Merchant House, Bahrain: Watch Outs
The Merchant House’s Food and Beverage
This is somewhat of a mixed picture and an area that would improve substantially, especially for dinner service. Cafe Gray on the ground floor makes for decent casual snacks and light meals overlooking the avenue and sneaking in some people-watching. This is your lobby eatery best suited for passing hotel visitors than hotel guests. It does the job.
Indigo Terrace is an all-day dining restaurant; a concept oddly out of place with a boutique hotel. Yes, Indigo Terrace goes some way to shed all-day dining’s negative preconceptions. The standout feature is – no surprise – the design including an al fresco terrace perfect for lunches with cocktails and wine. Even some brown doves – so smitten with the terrace – took up residence in a fake olive tree (perhaps equally drawn to the guest’s discarded breadcrumbs). The Merchant House’s breakfast is served in Indigo Terrace with nods towards regional options: grilled halloumi, shakshuka, chilled freshly-pressed juices and more.
Indigo Terrace’s dinner was less impressive lacking finesse demonstrating some “more is more” approach. Some unpleasant unrendered fat on my lamb shank and with a side of gravelly-stiff polenta. The menu reads as “all-purpose International”. This is disappointing as there’s an opportunity to celebrate and highlight Bahraini cuisine (or any specific cuisine for that matter). Sure, you may need the odd ‘safe options’ for less adventurous guests. To Indigo Terrace’s credit, Mrs EatGoSee really enjoyed her pasta. Still, a bolder vision and voice for local cuisine is welcomed, especially at a boutique hotel that executes decisive character elsewhere. A dedicated short menu of Bahrani cuisine is a good place to start.
I concede that, for me, food and beverage play an above-average role. Others will be indifferent; some may graze away outside the hotel. However, boutique hotels are all about executing with depth and brilliance. The Merchant House’s food and beverage offering dims the shine on otherwise solid five stars.
The Merchant House, Bahrain, Would I Return?
Emphatically, yes. The Merchant House delivers on eye-candy design supported by capable staff, generously-sized rooms and enough creature comforts for a long weekend. I expect the target market is out-of-towners coming to Bahrain from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and visitors flocking for Formula 1 each year. The Merchant House is not a budget hotel, but it feels special without breaking the bank. Breakfast is included but I may opt to eat elsewhere for lunch, like Fusions by Tala, L’Orto or Haji’s Traditional Cafe just behind the hotel.
The Merchant House, Bahrain, Who Should Go?
Boutique hotel lovers, those looking for something in the centre of Manama or Bahrain Formula 1 guests. Weekenders from Saudi Arabia or the UAE looking for something more personal than the usual big chain hotels.