Lifestyle / Travel

Hotels in Bahrain: Review of Ritz-Carlton’s luxurious 5-star resort in the Middle East

The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain proves to be your private island destination with service fit for a King with its own private beachfront view

May 02, 2017 | By Sanesh Balasingam

The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain

I arrived in Bahrain a little after nine in the evening, after two connecting flights, I was looking forward to a warm shower and a comfy bed. My driver effortlessly handled my luggage and ushered me into a gleaming white Rolls-Royce Ghost. Exchanging pleasantries, he asked all the usual questions how long my flight was, where I was from, but there was one question that left me slightly baffled. He asked if I liked white, milk or dark chocolate, I told him my preference, he offered me the onboard wifi and off we went to the hotel.

Rolls-Royce Ghost

At the hotel, I was promptly whisked upstairs to the executive floor where I was warmly greeted and given my room key. Upon arriving in my room I was delighted to find a tray of chocolates exactly as I had described earlier with a personalise welcome note and a massive ‘Welcome to Bahrain’ sign sprawled across the shutters. The next morning at breakfast, after being greeted by name by everyone from the waitress to the chef that prepared my breakfast, I decided to go for a walk around the property. Walking around in the desert heat, I was struck by the sheer scale of the property — from the private marina where you can charter a yacht to go dolphin (yes, dolphin!) watching to the lagoon that connects one end of the property to the other to the private villas with a stunning sea view — this was a massive property. Yet wherever I seemed to go there was always someone ready to assist or ask how my day was or simply stop watering the plants, smile and nod. Speaking of the plants, the hotel had sourced almost every type of tree and shrub from South America. There were even beautiful pink, Chilean flamingoes in the middle of a well-curated pond that allowed for alfresco seating with a direct view of the birds. When I asked one of the managers why flamingoes they simply quipped, “Well it’s Bahrain, everything is possible!”

Being an enthusiastic gourmand, I had to try the restaurants at the hotel. Seeing as there are eleven restaurants that cater for everything from Mexican cuisine to Indian and Italian cuisine and I had a two-day stay, I decided to meet with Executive Chef, Christian Knerr to get his view on the top three. I narrowed it down to Primavera (Italian), also because I had heard so much about it even before my stay, Cantina Kahlo (Mexican) and Nirvana (Indian) — the latter Chef Knerr pointed out would be his top choice for a Michelin assessment.

First up, Primavera, where Chef Alfonso Ferraioli and his Italian crew greeted me as if I was in a traditional Neapolitan restaurant. The warmth and genuine desire to make your dining experience unforgettable clearly resonated in the smiles of each and everyone at the restaurant. Then there was the eight-course sampling menu of what can only be described as deliciously unpretentious Italian heaven. From the ricotta ravioli (which he learnt from his mother) to the scrumptious fried pizza with a simple but rich tomato sauce and a sprinkling of fresh Parmigiano and the perfectly done steak I thoroughly enjoyed every bite. Chef Alfonso’s cuisine is like that girl you met in South Italy one summer, she may not have been clad in designer heels or an haute couture dress but she had a brilliant smile, honesty in her eyes and you know mama would just love her.

The indoor pool

After lunch, I took a long walk along the beach to explore the old forts that offered breathtaking views of the Arabian Gulf. To burn off some of the million calories I had inherited, courtesy of Chef Alfonso, I hit the gym and went for a swim in the indoor swimming pool. Did I mention that the hotel has three pools, two outdoor pools, that feel like it is refrigerated to help you cool down after a long walk in the desert heat and an indoor heated pool, perfect for after the gym. Before I knew it, the sun had set and I felt peckish, ready to take on an Indian institution run by Chef Mahipal Singh. Again, and this time somewhat unsurprisingly, the team were all from India. Dinner was fit for a maharaja, with various kebabs, butter chicken, naan bread (an Indian staple), biryani rice and fish curry from Kerala. What I really liked about this restaurant was that it had influences from all over India as opposed to just a single state.

The next morning after a light but fulfilling breakfast I went for a swim in the main pool before stopping by Cantina Kahlo for what was to be an authentic Mexican lunch carefully crafted by the gifted hands of Chef Cesar de Leon Torres. Having driven around almost all of Mexico in my travels, I have to admit that my expectations were pretty high for the “authentic” component of this experience. Walking in, however, I was surprised to find that everyone in the team was Mexican. We swapped stories about my time in Mexico and they gave me some travel tips for my upcoming trip to Tulum. There was a real Mexican vibe to the place and food, it was genuinely authentic. We started off with guacamole (obviously!), and soon the table was full with everything from flautas, to ensaladas, tortas and a sampling board of Parrillada Kahlo which is grilled meat — Mexican style. A couple of margarita’s later, I found myself feasting on the most delicious churros I have had anywhere outside of Mexico. They were fried to perfection and paired with a scrumptious homemade dipping sauce of condensed milk. To top off the fantastic experience, the staff provided me with a series of handwritten suggestions ingeniously placed in a wine bottle, which they insisted I had to break to discover. This was truly one of the most thoughtful gifts I had received throughout my travels.

I spent the rest of the afternoon, in the peace and tranquillity of the executive lounge catching up on some reading. As the sun sets, I looked out the window of the seventh floor, sipping a glass of champagne, taking in the beauty of a Bahraini sunset. In a world where so many luxury hotels pride themselves on mood lighting, vibrating armchairs and how many shower jets they have in their bathroom, it is refreshing to find a hotel that prides itself on a core quality of hospitality — ‘sincere service’.

On the morning of my checkout, I decided to cross the lagoon that connected both sides of the property the proper way. Wading through the middle of the lagoon, the expanse of the Arabian Gulf in front of me, I had an epiphany, The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain isn’t merely a place to stay — it is what I would call home.

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