There’s an unspoken a rule in food writing that if you start off talking about the tableware, chances are, you didn’t enjoy the food. But Primavera is assuredly an exception to this rule.
The restaurant has chosen a line of whimsical, beautifully hand-painted ceramics to flaunt off its cooking. The bold colours and animal motifs of Solimene pottery frame the rustic cooking of this modern trattoria and make such a statement that it’s a running conversation topic throughout the meal.
This stroke of brilliance is the brainchild of Michelin-star chef Oliver Glowig. The German-born maestro, who’s been making waves in his adopted home of Italy, was brought in to give Primavera a facelift. From the menu to the interiors and the place setting, the old-timer at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa is glossy with new.
But rather than taking the hyper chic route, Glowig has infused his brand of unassuming elegance into the restaurant’s DNA. Take the pesto linguine – no smokes; no mirrors. Pasta cooked to the definition of al dente, tossed into a freshly blended emulsion of basil, cheese, olive oil and pine nuts. Childhood memories of a summer basil harvest washes over with each mouthful, a nostalgic comfort that can come only when the cooking is honest and unpretentious.
Which is not to say the chef is all taciturn and no flourish. The beef fillet alla Rossini is a jaw-dropping beauty. A piece of perfectly seared steak is balanced on a bed of spinach and topped by buttery, decadent foie gras. And the finishing touch: truffle infused fries. The flavour combination is classic; but the addition of greens helps mitigate the inevitable guilt from such indulgence.
Part of the charm of this restaurant is the mix of what is familiar and what excites. The tomato risotto with buratta and anchovies caresses the tongue with creaminess then tickles it with the brine of fish. Yet the dish pales in comparison with an innovative lemon risotto with raw seafood. Cold, unadorned and virtually unseasoned, the seafood draws its flavour when combined with the warm tangy rice, taking on a ceviche-like quality.
In many ways Primavera adheres to the very essence of its name… a sense of renewal and beginning, with food that is fresh and bright. And no dish is this more evident than the tuna carpaccio with basil yogurt, pasta salad and fresh flowers – it is an edible allegory of spring.
The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa (+973 1758 0000, Open daily noon-3p, 7p-11:30p)