Rest Your Head

Hospitality guru and former Hotelier of the Year, Gordon Campbell Gray, has a distinct knack for knowing exactly how to showcase the best of a destination in properties he conceptualises and develops from scratch. This is almost certainly the result of Campbell Gray’s natural sense of style and fine eye for design, both of which seem attuned to the needs of discerning 21st century travellers, who care less for gimmicks and more for quality, functionality and good design.
A dedicated art lover and natural taste maker, Campbell Gray’s abhorration of needless excess is renowned and comes across in every hotel he touches. Personally involved in every aspect of the creation, design and philosophy of each Campbell Gray property to date, the brand’s latest opening in the Bahraini city of Manama further illustrates his skill for beautifully fusing culture and hospitality in a hotel setting.
There is nothing quite like staying at a Campbell Gray property and this is evident from the moment The Cultured Traveller steps into the arrivals hall at Bahrain airport to be met by a smartly suited ambassador for The Merchant House. Moments later, a gleaming dark blue Maserati Quattroporte – branded with The Merchant House logo – is whisking The Cultured Traveller in rich leather-clad luxury towards Manama’s financial district.
Located next to the vibrant Bab el-Bahrain souk, close to the Old Customs House, the opening of the Kingdom’s first five-star deluxe boutique property earlier this year comes at a time when downtown Manama is being revived and a new generation of Bahrainis are looking for cool places to socialise. Nowhere is this more evident than The Merchant’s House rooftop bar and restaurant, Indigo, which just a few months after opening is already attracting the city’s movers and shakers on a regular basis and has become the go-to gathering spot for Bahrain’s most cultured set.
Helmed by former Nobu Shoreditch chef Rob Shipman, a broad menu of classic dishes, Mediterranean fare and Asian-fusion offerings is universally executed with panache and delivered to tables by a well-trained team. Slick and friendly service is a hallmark of Campbell Gray Hotels which hasn’t been overlooked in Bahrain. The comprehensive breakfast menu includes Eggs Shakshouka which is not an easy dish to pull off to such perfection. The rooftop also features a small 24-hour gym, glass-sided lap pool and sun terrace – all perfectly formed and beautifully executed.
Downstairs, 46 suites across seven floors are separated by wide corridors hung with wonderful original artworks that are lit like a gallery, making walking to one’s suite an intense visual pleasure.
Each suite features an open-plan kitchenette and dining area, as well as a sitting room designed to appeal to both business and leisure travellers alike. Jura coffee machines are standard in even the entry level rooms of Campbell Gray hotels and guests are furnished with jugs of fresh milk upon request. Beds are dressed in the finest linens. Bathrooms are ergonomically designed and feature huge walk-in showers. It’s usually impossible to fault the design of a Campbell Gray room and The Merchant House’s suites are no exception.
A bijou onsite spa with a pair of treatment rooms restores weary travellers to a state of equilibrium using the finest aromatherapy oils and organic skincare products.
On the mezzanine level, a carefully curated collection of hundreds of books lines the walls of the library, divided by armchairs which beg to be sat in and more artwork adorning the walls, including revered pieces by Chagall and Matisse.
The ground floor is home to a double-height rock-star lobby, reception area and café, its walls covered with huge statement works which set the tone for the entire, super-stylish property.
Dropping anchor at The Merchant House, even for just one night, is so much more than staying at a hotel. It’s like checking into a lovingly curated design-led art installation, with a sumptuous bed thrown in for good measure. If you can swing through Bahrain to experience it – do!