Food in Oman is less about petite servings and flowery touches and more focussed on heritage. You will find a smorgasbord of flavours across Oman, with many familiar dishes that have found their way into modern western society. Value-for-money shwarma is always a popular choice – chicken or beef roasted on a spit – served as a wrap, sandwich or open plate. Grilled kebabs, while often closely associated with Turkey, are also an easy hunger fix, accompanied by traditional flatbread or many small dishes of cheese, peppers, yoghurts and vegetables known as "meze".
Those in the mood to savour fresh seafood will find their mecca along the coast, specifically in Muscat city. Muscat has the monopoly over Oman's upmarket dining scene, largely due to the international hotel chains that take residence in the capital, while no-frills cafes and coffee shops can easily be found in town centres across the country. Sample tasty street fare at your local souk or marketplace, including spicy curries, chai tea, biryani rice dishes and a range of slow-cooked Omani delicacies that embody elements of Yemeni, Indian and Arabian cuisine.
Al Kharjiyah Street, Muscat 100
There is something to suit every palate at Ubhar, from adventurous Arabian dishes to classic burgers and pastas. Located in the Bareeq al Shatti Mall, this upmarket yet affordable establishment never fails to draw a crowd for lunch (12:30 to 15:30) and dinner (18:30 to 23:00). While Ubhar may be the name of a lost ancient city, there is nothing archaic about this eatery. A fusion-style menu melding traditional Omani cuisine with modern touches includes mains such as fragrant muttrah paplo soup, camel meat biryani and fish machboos. Make sure you save room for dessert, sampling sumptuous sweets like Egyptian milk custard with rosewater sauce, saffron creme brulee or the classic Omani treat halwa, literally translated as "sweet".
2817 Way, Shatti al-Qurm, Muscat 112
D'arcy's Kitchen is a favourite for tourists craving home-style favourites and Omani in the mood for western dining. This family-friendly venue is best known for its hearty continental breakfast platters, piled high with golden hash browns, fried eggs and sauteed mushrooms, matched with a variety of freshly squeezed juices. The sunny yellow and blue decor complements the attentive staff, who serve your a la carte dishes with a smile. There are two D'arcy's in Muscat, one at the Jawarat A'Shatti Complex in Shatti al-Qurm and the other in Madinat. If you choose to dine at the former, the beach is within easy reach to walk off your meal with a stunning ocean backdrop. Make sure you bring cash as credit cards aren't accepted.
North Ghubra 32, 3215 Way Al Khuwair, Muscat 133
Some 370 metres of private beach stretch before you as the sun slinks away on another incredible day in Oman – this is the setting that awaits you at The Beach Restaurant, just off 18th November Street at the highly regarded Chedi Hotel. Take a seat at a table within earshot of the tumbling Gulf of Oman and peruse the extensive seafood menu by candlelight. This beachfront venue is one of the most prestigious restaurants in town, open for dinner from 19:00 to 22:30 every evening (23:00 on Thursday and Friday) and only operating from mid-September to the end of May. Treat yourself to Omani lobster lasagne, kingfish carpaccio, melt-in-your-mouth local snapper or indulge with a vast selection of international caviar and wine.
Madinat Sultan Qaboos, Al Bashair St, Muscat
It's easy to see why Kargeen is an award-winning establishment, from its distinctive decor to opulent banquet-style feasts. Translated as "little wooden cottage", Kargeen Caffe exudes Arabian ambience with its colourfully knitted cushions, carpets and ornate lanterns gracing the quite open-air terrace – the garden is in high demand so book ahead if you can. Kargeen has you covered from breakfast to nightcap, open 07:30 to midnight Saturday to Thursday, and 17:00 to midnight on Fridays. The restaurant prides itself on being the "perfect shisha place" in Muscat and is also noted for its budget-friendly meals, from labneh plates to mix-and-match mezza salads and icy beverages including the popular fresh mint lemon.
Bait Al Bahr
Al Waha, Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, Muscat
You can almost dip your toes in the gulf waters from the comfort of your al fresco table on Bait Al Bahr's open wooden deck. Located at the deluxe Shangri-La just moments from the heart of the city, Bait Al Bahr restaurant is a popular choice for both locals and visitors, open for dinner nightly from 19:00 to 23:30. The atmosphere is casual and inviting, with glistening candlelight lighting the evening as the sun slinks away behind the palm trees. Peruse the extensive menu which focuses on the traditional local fishing trade – enjoy a trio of shellfish with ginger spinach salad, a baked Atlantic cod with foie gras foam or a signature Omani lobster feast.
Muttrah Corniche, Al Bahri Road, Muscat 117
Lead your tastebuds on an international journey through India and China into Oman with lunch or dinner at Kurkum. A new addition to the old city centre, Kurkum is dressed in clean, white tones with splashes of pink orchards adorning the tables, complementing its modern take on Omani-fusion cuisine. Elegant and refined, Kurkum serves tasty dim sum starters, curried and tandoori creations for the main event and a variety of flavoured lassi drinks and juices to balance the spices of your meal. Located on the Corniche next to Muttrah Fort, Kurkum boasts harbour views of the historic port and welcomes patrons every day excluding Friday, making it an easy pitstop to refuel and refresh during your neighbourhood sight-seeing.