HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO

After 18 months of closure, Primavera Osteria Contemporanea is back at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain and better than ever.

The interiors have been given an upgrade. The open kitchen offers a great view of the chefs as they go about creating their fabulous dishes. There is a long table directly in front of the kitchen where special-event cooking demonstrations can be held as well as a private dining room. The interiors are warm and welcoming and, during the current cooler weather, there’s the option to eat on the terrace overlooking the pool and the pretty gardens. That’s what we did and I highly recommend it.

It was a pleasure to meet the property’s new Executive Sous Chef, Heros de Agostinis from Rome, who is currently working to train Primavera’s staff on the new menu he has created. We were lucky enough to have him join us at our table to explain the dishes we were about to try and make his own personal recommendations.

Since autumn is truffle season, and I am slightly obsessed with the flavoursome fungi, it would not have been good if I didn’t try some dishes from the truffle tasting menu. I started with Carpaccio di Manzo Croccante – crispy beef carpaccio with dry-aged parmesan, rocket leaves and Umbria black truffle. The thinly sliced, seasoned beef lies on a flat disc of crunchy baked parmesan. Add in a generous topping of shaved truffles and both myself and my dining companion were in taste-sensory heaven! She had grilled scallops with cucumber gazpacho which, in a pleasing show, was poured at the table. A dedicated foodie, she declared the scallops to be some of the best she’s ever tasted on the island. I tried a mouthful and was seriously impressed with both the texture – soft and yielding – and the flavour – delicate and sweet. For this dish, the gazpacho was the perfect accompaniment to avoid drowning out the seafood.

Next came Spaghetti di Gragnano Cacio e Pepe with raw Sicilian red prawns and Amalfi lemon. The prawns are served raw, about which I was slightly concerned, but Chef Heros explained the process by which they are harvested in southern Italian waters and immediately frozen on board the boats as they need to be eaten really fresh. The fishermen only sell the unfrozen ones to local restaurants as they can become tainted really quickly. Immediate freezing means the exquisite flavour is retained. They are juicy and slightly sweet, making a flavoursome addition to the cheesy, chunky pasta.

My dining companion had Bottoni di Pappa al Pomodoro – tomato ravioli with baked herb ricotta. It sounds like such a simple dish but ended up being one of the standouts of the night. The warm tomato sauce with sprigs of Italian thyme perfectly complemented the al dente pasta packets of softly melting cheese – I think I ate almost as much of her dish as I did my own.

We followed with pumpkin risotto and both opted for a generous topping of Alba truffles, grated at our table. As you would expect, this the perfect comfort food dish. The rich scent and taste of the cheese welcomed the pumpkin to form a perfect flavour combination and the topping of truffles, deep and slightly gamey in taste, along with a hint of star anise, presented the ideal foil adding a touch of flamboyance.

Last up for the savouries was Filleto di Manzo Black Angus with aubergine parmigiana and basil oil for me. And lamb chops with stuffed baby artichokes alla Romana for my friend. Both were fabulous. The beef was perfectly cooked, lightly charred on the outside and temptingly yielding and deep red inside. The aubergine and parmesan combination added the exact level of carby comfort required but without being overblown. The lamb chops were expertly rendered. Pink on the inside, tender rather than chewy and with a delightful piquancy.

For dessert, I tried the Tiramisu which has a rich coffee taste and perfectly creamy texture. My dining companion went for the chef ’s special, the Heros’ Sunday Cake, which was the second outright triumph of the evening and comes with its own story of when his grandmother would collect him from school in his native Italy and would make something similar as a snack that clearly left a big impression.

A combination of sweet flakey pastry with milk ice cream and chocolate sauce, this dish is a great indication of the childhood that inspired Chef Heros. It’s sweet but not overly so and the homemade ice cream is fabulously creamy. Granny sure knew what she was doing.

At the end of the evening, we were convinced that everyone should try out the new menu at Primavera. Do it, it’s yummy!

For more information or to make a reservation, please call Primavera at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain on 1758 6499

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