As I traverse the globe in search of interesting places to visit on your behalf I find things have at times become homogenised and uninteresting in certain parts of the world. Here in Bahrain they do things differently when it comes to lunch.
Every once in a while, I come across a little gem of a place tucked away somewhere. In the case of Primavera Bahrain not so much tucked away just not very well known. It should be. There is Italian cooking and service at its best in one of the Kingdom’s finest hotels.
The experience really starts when you arrive at Building 112 or The Ritz-Carlton, as any taxi driver would call it. Entering into the plush, spacious and cool foyer you will be greeted by staff offering you chilled water, a flannel should you need one and asking how your day has been and how can they make it better. This is not some gimmick imported from the worst of America, this is genuine service with a smile.
The restaurant is on 2nd floor and from the moment you enter the modern hip space (there is a private dining room that has grass growing on one wall that’s how cool this place is) you are in their hands. The chef Alfonso Ferraioli is Italian and he insists (and I believe him) that you can’t offer the real deal unless everything is from the homeland. And it is. From the crockery, ingredients, tableware and crucially the staff.
Primavera is the sort of place where you find yourself thinking I’d like a drink and before you know it they have brought you something in a glass you haven’t tried before but it’s perfect. It was that sort of lunch. Executive Chef Oliver Glowig who is German/Italian has a couple of Michelin stars under his belt, he clearly understands what customers want and how to deliver it.
All the food I had was good and would not have looked out of place in Piedmont, Liguria or Genova. All the dishes have a provenance and a story. The olives and other bits and pieces before were lovely but the journey began proper with Vitello tonnato. Usually prepared on special occasions the veal is served cold with a mayonnaise and salad. This was summer on a plate, clean and deep flavours. The octopus that followed was one of my favourites, tender and came with a super fresh pesto.
I really could eulogise about the food at Primavera but it is as much down to the great staff and décor that made it a special meal. It’s all so relaxed but perfect at the same time. The assistant restaurant manager described it as “little Italy, where pure traditional Italian food is interpreted by true Italian cooks, paired with mostly Italian vintages, by Italian ladies and gentlemen.” And that’s about right. Sure, it’s modern Italy but that’s fine by me.
The food kept on getting better with a couple of pasta dishes (pesto and Pecorino since you ask) and then some fish and a succulent piece of beef with truffled mash. Wines are something they take seriously as well. With a substantial cellar on show in a temperature controlled glass room you can have whatever you want or (wisely) let them choose for you.
The meal was rounded off with a light flourless chocolate cake and a bowl of fresh fruit. I sat for a while still taking in the flavours and experiences of this outstanding lunch. In fact, if you eat there I’d plan to stay at least two hours so you don’t have to rush anything and then allow another hour to wander around the manicured gardens of the Ritz-Carlton, which, with the beachfront, flamingos (real ones) and perfect loungers must be the best on the island.
So seek out this little gem of a place and order yourself a feast you will not forget in a hurry, this is a friendly unpretentious restaurant that your taste buds will thank you for.
Primavera, Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain, Bldg. 112, King Mohammed VI Ave, Block 428, Al Seef District, Manama, Bahrain
Website and Reservations: http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/middle-east/bahrain/dining/primavera
The restaurant is located on the 2nd floor of the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain and is open for lunch from midday to 3:00pm and for dinner from 7:00pm to 11:30pm. Valet parking is available.
Type of Restaurant: Italian Fine Dining Restaurant
If the weather’s right book a table on the balcony overlooking the gardens.
Price Band: Mid-priced for a 5-star hotel
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Neil Hennessy-Vass is a widely-published globetrotting food and travel writer and photographer and one of our regular writers and contributing editor.
Photographs by Neil Hennessy-Vass