ENHANCED Mediterranean FLAVOURS

Palma, one of the newest eateries in town, offers comfort food with a twist. Fernanda Langhammer headed there to check some of their dishes and must-tries.

The latest destination on the island creating a lot of buzz is, without a doubt, the recently opened Raffles Al Areen Palace Bahrain. The first Raffles Hotel opened in Singapore in 1887 and has since been the place to go, from royalty and class-A celebrities to people just visiting for an Instagram click – a reference for ultimate luxury and personalisation. The Raffles brand is known worldwide for embracing local culture, meaning no property is the same. Each Raffles hotel or resort has its own personality with the distinct signature of incredible sophistication, impeccably trained staff and butler service.

And it’s no different in Bahrain. Stepping into the lobby is like entering an entirely new universe. The crisp white walls in patterned Arab designs contrast with the greenery of various vases carefully distributed in the space with scattered black accents, such as the eye-catching fountain in the centre of this ample, welcoming area. The natural light coming from the ceiling creates a whimsical atmosphere. Beauty for the eyes that puts you in relaxing mode – an elegant retreat where simplicity meets awe-inspiring décor elements.

It was not my first visit, but I have to say that the impeccable interiors get me every time. Everything is well-thought-out and flawless for a timeless style. Not that I would need an excuse to keep coming back but, this time, I had a culinary mission: to experience Palma’s menu. Offering Mediterranean cuisine with a local twist, the restaurant follows the same laid-back sophistication seen throughout the property. White, gold and teal are the predominant shades in the décor, with crystal chandeliers following the same colour scheme. The seating arrangement is a mix of chairs and sofas surrounding round and square tables, painted in tones of sand and grey with pots of plants adding refreshing greenery.

The restaurant concept is a family-sharing style with an elevated experience of kitchen-to-table curation. The organic white plates caught my attention as they let the main component – the food – stand out. The ingredients are sourced from local farms, as sustainability and freshness are key elements in Raffles’ values. A highlight goes to the goat cheese, created exclusively for Palma.

We started the dining feast with a basket of freshly baked bread, from sourdough with its distinctive tangy flavour to soft rolls, on which we spread the restaurant’s unique butter with sumac – a traditional Middle Eastern spice. Its deep red colour adds a sour taste, like lemon, but with an earthier note. Absolutely delicious!

The starters were the Lemon Thyme Infused Slow Roasted Beetroot Salad and Kibbeh Mashwiya. I know beetroot is a vegetable many dislike, but I adore it. Its sweet and soil-like zest is well balanced with green leaves, the crunchiness of sunflower seeds and small pieces of pumpkin chips working well with the star of the plate: goat cheese mousse. The balsamic dressing is made with watermelon juice and sour mango emulsion that expands the flavours of the fresh ingredients. I added all the elements for one perfect mouthful that delivered an explosion on my tongue, mixing textures and different levels of complexity. The kibbeh is made with minced lamb with a hint of local spices, pine nuts and raisins to lift the flavours. It has the perfect ratio of dough and filling, and the capsicum coulis and garlic yoghurt boost the taste experience – a traditional dish with an original touch.

It was time for the mains. First, we had Samak Chermoula, fried seabream in a bed of lemon butter sauce mixed with charcoal dust and a finely chopped mix of parsley and capsicum placed between the fish and the sauce. The seabream was perfectly cooked and the black sauce added a visual effect to the dish – a pleasant surprise. The other plate, and my favourite, was the Black Seabass with Chinese artichoke, Pedron pepper and crustacean bisque. The fish was flaky and the smokiness of the bisque (made with grilled lobster and tomato base) added a salty contrast to the natural sweetness of the bass, a perfect combination. Last but not least, the 36-Hour Braised Lamb with garden roots such as carrots and sweet potatoes accompanied by Wild Mushroom Frikkeh Risotto. The meat was full of spices on the outside with a melting-from-the-bone interior with juicy natural flavours. Frikkeh’s origins trace back to ancient Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. It is grain made from young durum wheat, which is roasted and then polished to remove the shells. It has a very interesting texture, and its mild flavour allowed the mushroom’s pungency to come alive.

After the savoury feast, it was time to please our sweet tooth with the signature creations from Chef Yazid Ichemrahen, World Pastry Champion. We had the 100% Vanille, a sleek-looking dessert layered with a base of biscuit noisette (ground hazelnut), on top of this, a thin gianduja paste, then a thick vanilla cream (where you can spot loads of black seeds) covered with a thin vanilla enrobage (a sugar- and chocolate-based coating for confections). The name says it all: it is a vanilla concoction. The smell hit our nostrils before we tasted it, and the intense flavour was well balanced with the other ingredients’ lightness. I can say that it was the most perfect vanilla bite I ever had in my life. The other dessert was the Grand Cru Café. This one played with our taste buds; the different textures have a big role here. The coffee cloud, as one of my dining companions described it, was composed of a fine streusel (a more floury crumb), praline, iced coffee, caramel and caramelised hazelnut. You have to eat it as a spoonful, and the ingredients dance in your mouth; it gives a sensation that I can only recommend trying as the best way to describe it.

Palma should be your next dining destination if you fancy food created with local and fresh ingredients that elevate Mediterranean staples and a selection of star desserts.

For more information or to make a reservation, please call Palma at
Raffles Al Areen Palace Bahrain on 1784 5000.
@rafflesalareenpalace.bahrain

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