I’ve looked at Al Forno every time I walk through Amwaj Lagoon and promised myself a visit one of these days, it always looks busy and has a nice terrace with the lovely water view common to all the Lagoon venues.
But I must admit to pleasant surprise when I finally got inside. The interiors are slightly rustic, without being overdone, and the menu is far wider than the pizza and pasta staples I had expected.
In fact, spotting whitebait on the appetisers list meant I would probably forgive Al Forno pretty much any transgression. These tiny poorman’s fish are one of my favourite things when deep fried in thin batter but, amazingly, this is the first time I’ve found them on the island and it’s certainly not for want of looking.
But, I digress, I should first mention the homemade garlic bread with delicious olive tapenade and tomato salsa which arrived at the table as a welcome snack. Seriously good tapenade, strongly tasting without being overly oily, I could quite happily have simply just munched on this - but then I’d have missed the fish.
The whitebait arrived piping hot, as they must be for the batter not to swamp the flavour of the fish, and accompanied by a generous helping of homemade tartar sauce. My face spread into a happy cheesy grin of delight as I tucked in and, for this experience alone, I shall return to Al Forno.
That said, next time I won’t bother with a main course. I ordered monachelle Al Forno, fresh pasta shells baked with chicken, rosemary, roasted pine nuts and baby spinach in a creamy sauce topped with mixed cheese.
My main gripe is that it arrived as I was just starting on my whitebait. To be fair, this is very common here in Bahrain but I will never understand why restaurants categorise something as a starter/appertiser and then don’t let you enjoy it as such.
Sending my main back to keep warm was probably its downfall as, by the time I was ready to eat it, the cheese was well and truly overcooked and flavourless but the rest was fine, there was plenty of chicken, the pasta, despite that extra heating time, was still al dente and there was a good serving of pine nuts to add that roasted flavour. The sauce was a little bland but, I’m sure this would have been fine had the cheese not been over baked.
By that stage there really wasn’t room for dessert but, in the interests of both research and, let’s face it, greed, I decided to opt for the tortino al cioccolato described as ‘a delicious chocolate fondant served with vanilla ice cream – ideal for chocolate lovers’. Now, I’m not usually a big fan of chocolate desserts finding them far too rich but this looked so pretty – did I mention there’s a menu full of well-presented pictures so you know what your food should look like – that I decided to take a chance.
I’m glad I did, the outer coating was crumbly giving way to a rich inner fondant sauce, slightly and perfectly tart against the intense sweetness of the outer pudding.
I accompanied my meal with a mojitino, the alcohol-free version of the classic South American cocktail with muddled fresh lime, and mint leaves with syrup topped with soda water. Absolutely perfect for a warm afternoon and light enough not to affect my dining pleasure.
The main course aside, and I will remember to be very specific in my instructions in future, I was thoroughly impressed by Al Forno. It’s good value, a lovely venue, the staff are friendly without hovering and I would definitely go back.
The bill (for one) Whitebait BD3.650 Monachelle Al Forno BD3.950 Tortino al cioccolato BD2.750 San Pelegrino BD0.950 Mojitino BD2.100 Tea BD1.450 Total (inc tax) BD14.850
Time Out Bahrain staffhttp://www.timeoutbahrain.com