Biella is a small town almost equidistant between Milan and Turin in the Piedmont region of northern Italy: an area I’m familiar with, having spent a few years living there. It’s also the name for a chain of eateries in the Gulf, a branch of which is located in Bahrain City Centre. Thus, with the name Biella conjuring up two different images for me, I was keen to find out just how authentically Italian the food would be.
Admittedly I am a bit of an Italian food snob. With a fair amount of curiosity and a great deal of hunger, my gastronomic partner and I headed into town one weekday evening looking forward to a delicious dinner. Having located Biella easily enough on the first floor of the mall, I was impressed with the choice on offer: a great range of soups, starters, pasta dishes, fish, meat and desserts. All the staples of a good Italian menu were there. For a moment, I began to think I was back in Italy. Filled sandwiches were also available, perhaps a good lunchtime option.
In due time, we selected our starters and main dishes, and our choices were dutifully repeated out loud by the waitress as she scribbled on her order pad. I must say we landed lucky with a pleasant waitress who was attentive without being overbearing; the latter can so often be a characteristic of waiting staff in this part of the world. Top marks for her.
Within moments, a small basket with delicious toasted bread was brought to the table and a dip of balsamic vinegar and olive oil was quickly prepared. So far so good. Adding to the authenticity of Biella were some Eros Ramazzotti tunes, which quietly drifted out from the restaurant’s stereo system.
Shortly afterwards our starters arrived, for my dining partner a creamy mushroom soup and for me a caprese salad – tomato, mozzarella and salad leaves. A starter, I believe, should whet your appetite and tantalise your taste buds for what’s to come. I’m afraid that wasn’t the case, at least with my caprese salad it wasn’t.
After burrowing under a tall mound of salad leaves, which had been placed on a small plate and overdressed with oil and vinegar, I eventually located the slices of tomato and buffalo mozzarella. They were nice enough, but my discerning taste buds told me that the mozzarella should have had a slightly firmer consistency. My dining partner enjoyed his soup, but also felt the portion was far too big. So big, in fact, that we both hoped the next courses would be smaller.
Our mains followed soon after. The service was speedy, partially due to genuine efficiency, but there was only one other occupied table as we were eating. For the main course, my friend had grilled salmon with salsa verde. A sensible, healthy option for a gentleman on a mission to lower his cholesterol.
Not personally worrying about such things for the moment, I had selected veal escalope with mushroom cream sauce. It was possible to order side dishes of vegetables, but we didn’t need to do this, as my friend’s salmon came with a fennel and herb salad. Tasty chunks of potatoes with a hint of rosemary were part of the sauce on my plate.
My friend finished his salmon, enjoying it but commenting quietly to me that it was a bit undercooked. I looked closer and could see hints of pink flesh peeping through. My veal, however, was cooked to perfection and was as tasty as I remembered from my days in Italy, but again I was put off by the size – enough for two adults at least.
With my stomach moaning about being overfilled, I declined dessert, but my friend opted for a panna cotta, which he declared was the best part of his meal. A refreshing Earl Grey tea was my choice, a wonderful soothing flavour, but again served in an oversized cup.
Aside from the superlative portions, the food was generally good. Although at nearly BD28 for two, I’d say value for money was just scraping average, and we likely won’t return soon unless we’ve been on a starvation diet for a while.
The bill (for two) 1x San Pellegrino water BD0.7 1x Diet Pepsi BD1 1x Caprese salad BD3.6 1x Mushroom soup BD2.7 1x Veal escalope BD6.9 1x Grilled salmon BD5.9 1x Earl Grey tea BD1.3 1x Panna cotta BD2.6 Service charges BD2.47 Total BD27.17
Time Out Bahrain staffhttp://www.timeoutbahrain.com