What happens when Harry Potter goes to culinary school? You get Biblioteaca, an ancient library-themed cafe and gelato wonderland in Shatti that serves healthy, quick bites and the most delicious ice cream in town. Last weekend, out on my usual ritual of cruising around town with my friends looking for new hotspots, I found myself in Shatti facing a majestic-looking navy signboard that read ‘Biblioteaca’ in golden letters. The old school typography and thick, blue velvet curtains obscuring the view inside, peaked my curiosity. I scanned the facade for more clues, hoping to figure out what on earth this place was — a fine dining restaurant? A luxe pub of some sort? A bookstore? There was only one way to find out. I approached the storefront, sun-reflecting off of the glass, and a gentleman dressed in a fashionable, almost boarding school-esque, uniform opened the door and welcomed me in. I felt like I was entering a posh hotel. As the library keeper (waiter) escorted me to a pleated leather sofa, I noticed a round gelato display, rotating to show off all the colourful choices. Beyond it was an open beverage display showcasing exotic-looking imported soft drinks. It turned out that the mysterious tavern was in fact a reasonably priced restaurant, café, and gelateria. From the library-inspired decor to the display showcasing a variety of cakes, I was smitten. **media** In addition to rows of books and dark leather furnishing, antiques decorated the space, from an ancient telephone set on the countertop to retro table lamps and vintage abajour lamps, to artsy, historic old photos on the walls. The seating areas were a combination of puffy, comfy, palace-like sofas in a chocolate shade; flashy red chairs surrounding round, mirror-topped tables, and a massive study table with dark wood accents paired with olive green-covered chairs. The styling of Biblioteaca is so transportative that I felt I could smell the old books and dust in the air, though there wasn’t a speck in sight. During the day, the space is a place of calm, while at night, it become a cacophony of young energy as the tiny place becomes totally packed. The A4-sized menu, printed on paper with dotted lines, text boxes, and a university-inspired logo is simple and to the point. You can order a variety of coffees, teas, milkshakes, affogatos, gelatos, and sandwiches. Some items are mixed with local flavours such as their signature, spiced-up karak tea, but the real draw here, the menu items that will keep me coming back over and over again, are the creamy, homemade gelatos and desserts. Especially memorable is the Dhofari coconut bar, a crumbly cake made with coconut powder and crushed pistachios with a rich, dense flavour that pairs nicely with a cup of spicy karak. Then there’s chocolate fridge cake, a thick, milk chocolate dessert in which cocoa and biscuits are layered for an over-the-top, indulgent, match made in heaven. The portion is massive and it is incredibly sweet, so this behemoth dessert requires a strong cup of black coffee to balance it out. But, my absolute favourite was the gelato. Biblioteaca has a wide selection of some of the best gelatos I’ve ever had in Muscat, from delicate toffee, saffron, and mango puree, to the ultimate flavour choice: Lotus chocolate, a dense, homemade gelato ice cream mixed with chunks of chocolate and glucose biscuits. Stumbling back out into the fading evening sun, I felt like Alice emerging from the rabbit hole. Biblioteaca is not your typical tea parlour; it’s a portal into another world. A quiet, reflective place in the mornings and afternoons, and a place overflowing with youthful, artistic energy at night. It is a place to go for simple pleasures, little indulgences, and a complete change of pace. —[email protected] Must Try • lotus chocolate gelato, OMR2 • mango puree gelato, OMR2 • dhofari coconut bar, OMR1.2 • karak chai milk, OMR2.5 Biblioteaca Location: Shatti Al Qurum(near City Cinema Shatti) Contact: +968 2460 4601 biblioteaca.com Hours: 8:30 am to 11:30pm *Keep an eye out for the awesome, soon-to-come breakfast menu, which will feature poached eggs and homemade gelato.