From the moment you walk into the newly renovated Italian restaurant Oliveto, it’s hard not to be impressed. Clean, contemporary lines punctuate the interiors while floor-to-ceiling windows offer views from the sophisticated main dining area of an older part of Bahrain on one side, or the stunning poolside and bar area on the other. The staff are waiting to greet you cheerily on arrival and, as we go in winter, there’s an entire rack of thick, warm coats ready for the requests of chillier guests.
There was no need for that on our visit, however, as the sun beamed down on us, cutting through a light breeze and leading us to sit outside. Our waiter quickly made up a table for us, as we perused the menu, leaving us yet again impressed by the hefty selection of classic Italian dishes catering to all tastes.
Right at the beginning of the menu, we come across a little introduction to the restaurant itself, detailing how the restaurant first began life back in 2004 to coincide with the first ever Formula One race in Bahrain. Sadly, the original Oliveto burned down and has since been closed for two years. Of course, it’s not all bad news when a restaurant is reborn quite obviously bigger and better than before.
So after far too long, and a few helpful clarifications from our eager waiter, we finally narrow down our options and plump for the salmon tartare and a parmesan cheese soufflé with beef carpaccio to start with, followed by the spaghetti vongole and saltimbocca alla romana (veal escalope) for our entrees.
As we wait, we soak in the ambience. It’s quiet, as it’s a weekday lunchtime, but very pleasant and it’s easy to see how an entire afternoon could be sucked away here. Sadly, these first impressions led us to have high expectations that the food didn’t quite live up to. The salmon tartare, although very fresh, didn’t come with much else and overall the dish was rather bland.
Meanwhile, the parmesan cheese soufflé, looks- and texture-wise, more resembled a crème caramel than any soufflé we’ve had the joy of tasting. Although, it has to be said, the pesto on the carpaccio (which was a little thickly cut for our tastes) was full of wonderful flavour and the entire dish was fantastically presented. For our main courses, unfortunately the spaghetti with fresh clams, garlic and chilli in a white grape sauce left an almost rancid aftertaste which we attributed to the olive oil. However, the veal escalope, which comes wrapped in bresaola, again in a white grape sauce with sage and demi-glace, was far more palatable, if a little average for these prices.
We weren’t quite ready to give up yet, aware that the large menu must have some gems. So we quickly ordered two delicious sounding desserts – the nutella calzone and their homemade tiramisu.
This is where they won all their points back. The nutella calzone had a perfectly crispy and sugary casing with oozing hazelnut chocolate spread within, while the tiramisu was wonderfully executed with intense, spot-on flavours yet still quite light overall as a dish.
So the question begs, would we go back? Despite some obvious disappointments, emphasised by the steep prices, it has to be said that we would. A venue as impressive as this, with desserts as delicious as that, isn’t to be overlooked in Bahrain so we’ll gladly give Oliveto another chance to tickle our taste buds, hopefully next time to great effect.
The bill (for two) 1x salmon tartare BD8 1x carpaccio di manzo BD7 1x spaghetti alle vongole BD6.6 1x Saltimbocca alla romana BD13.8 1x Tiramisu BD5 1x nutella calzone BD5 1x Surgiva mineral water BD2 1x Café Americano BD1.8 Service charge 15% Gov levy 5% Total BD59.4
Time Out Bahrain staffhttp://www.timeoutbahrain.com