I actually really like the Gulf Hotel. It manages to combine typical fancy hotel opulence with down-to-earth character and user-friendliness, if you know what I mean. This duality of feeling carries over into its Italian restaurant, La Pergola, the grande dame of Italian cuisine in Bahrain, now in its third decade of business. You’ve got your rather old-fashioned, themed-restaurant elegance, with classical-style murals running up the walls and across the domed ceiling, and then you’ve got your reliable, accessible menu. It’s not hip and it’s not deigning to compete with the spate of ultra-trendy, more Mediterranean-style Italian restaurants that have sprung up recently. It is what it is, and it seems to be working for them.
There was quite a lot to choose from on the menu. For starters, my friend ordered the deep fried mozzarella and I opted for the chickpea, tomato and basil soup. These took a little while to arrive and when they did the deep fried mozzarella looked suspiciously like deep fried prawns. The waiter was mortified and the correct dish, another fair while later, was ceremoniously borne out in a procession of two waiters and the manager. I don’t know if the portion is usually that big or if they were just over-compensating, but my friend was now faced with three enormous fillets of cheese, each the size of a small steak.
My soup, meanwhile, was delicious and filling enough to abate my hunger pangs while still leaving me with plenty of room for my main course.
What could we go for in such a setting but the lasagne and the spaghetti bolognaise? Neither of us ever order these in restaurants as, almost without fail, they are tasteless, watery, lacking in meat and rubbery. Not here, though, we were pleasantly surprised to discover. Very good, very tasty, exactly what you’d want. They more than made up for the boob with the starter. We were slightly let down again by the dessert, however. We’d chosen to share a tiramasu, being both a bit stuffed after our hearty mains, but it turned up in a rather small glass and resembled more a watered-down trifle. I left it to my friend to finish.
Still, the service had been just right, not intrusive like it can be in many restaurants in Bahrain, and overall we would rate it as one of the better hotel Italian dining experiences.
The bill (for two) Deep fried mozzarella BD3.000 Chickpea/tomato soup BD2.500 Lasagne D4.000 Spaghetti bolognaise BD4.200 Tiramisu BD3.000 Double espresso BD2.200 Large bottle of water BD1.800 Total (incl. tax/service) BD25.690
Time Out Bahrain Staffhttp://www.timeoutbahrain.com