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Call me a shmuck but while brunches, dinners and buffets often get the glitz and glamour of the dining ecosystem, a perfectly crafted business lunch is one of those elusive experiences that take a true artiste to capture.
It’s the Moby Dick of meals, because one has to walk the fine line between filling and healthy; communal yet professional; impressive to a prospective client yet not so rich that a food coma ensues. And it’s a prize that Jumeirah Royal Saray Bahrain’s Chef Claudio Dieli manages to secure with style.
As I walked into Jumeirah Royal Saray Bahrain’s Brasserie Royale restaurant and the lavish pastry counters to our table, I knew we were in for a treat.
My colleague and I were quickly seated by the floor to ceiling windows, which offered an exquisite view of clear blue waters. It felt like we were sitting at a Sicilian ristorante by the Mediterranean Sea.
To keep with the Mediterranean spirit, the pre-set menu that accompanies the view has two options – the North or the South. Designed by Chef Claudio as an ode to his Italian origins, each finds homely inspiration from the corresponding region.
I decided to go for the South menu, while my colleague ventured further North. As Chef Claudio stopped by to say hello, he explained: “The North menu is inspired by colder regions, so the food is richer with more red meat. It’s designed to keep you warm in chilly climates. The South is lighter and more about the sea. It’s like a quick fishing trip, but with the best catch around.”
Enticed by the chef’s words, our salads soon appeared magically before us. The North menu started off with a deep fried buffalo mozzarella salad, which somehow managed to delectably intertwine the flavours of deep fried buffalo mozzarella wedges, anchovies, heirloom tomatoes and olives.
While anchovies are notorious for their fishy taste, these were marinated in olive oil to sublime their fishy tendencies. As my colleague dove into the salty and meaty flavours of the anchovies melting into the cheesy goodness of the mozzarella, he gave the diving all-good hand signal and I was assured that he was on an unforgettable rich nautical adventure.
Meanwhile, on my plate, the grilled prawn Mediterranean salad was demanding my attention and I acquiesced, enjoying the freshly grilled prawns with a side of feta cheese, tomatoes and squid ink sauce. I have been reading about squid ink in the foodie corner of the internet, and this was my first in-person encounter. Not only did it add an inky black colour to the plate, appealing to the writer in me, it has a subtle salty flavour that folds well into seafood and pasta.
We wolfed down our salads and returned to our chat. What struck me as unique was the pacing of the meals. It didn’t feel rushed, since we had ample time between courses to converse about this week’s paper and we never felt forgotten as the next course appeared well before our stomachs started to grumble.
The South main course that I picked, on the chef’s recommendation, was the Sicilian style pappardelle pasta. With tuna, eggplant, cherry tomato capers, fresh ricotta cheese and a basil garnish, it was the Instagrammer’s perfect picture dish. And taste-wise, the creaminess of the ricotta cheese, the slight bitter of the eggplant and the silky texture of the pappardelle created a grand gastronomic experience.
Across the table, I heard nothing for a few minutes, as my colleague cut into his braised Wagyu beef cheek, folded on a layer of mashed potatoes, forked on a bit of the sunny-up egg and took a bite, followed by a moan of what I can only describe as pure pleasure. I stole a bite, just to find out what elicited this response during a professional lunch, and as the 24-hour-marinated and three-hour-braised beef cheek melted in my mouth, aided by the egg yolk, I realised that the sensual sound notes were worthy and necessary. It was, by a thin margin, the show stopper of the afternoon.
After devouring our main course, we had a quick chat with the chef and I found myself surprisingly active and alert, despite having indulged in quite a lavish lunch. When I asked the chef about it, he said: “Here, all our meals are about balance. With good balanced meals, your body doesn’t need a coma to cope.”
For dessert, we sampled the refreshing mango and strawberry “nice” cream, topped with blueberries and chia seeds, made in-house as well as a chocolate éclair from the pastry counter, and capped off the afternoon with a cup of coffee, rejuvenating me for an event-packed evening. Try it out for yourself and personally, I simply cannot recommend the Wagyu beef enough.
The Brasserie Royale’s business lunch, priced at BD15net is available from Sunday to Thursday from 12pm to 3pm. Call 77707070 for details and reservations.