A Taste of the Ocean

by Liz O’Reilly

Sat, 03 February 2018

A Taste of the Ocean

Liz O’Reilly samples the delicate flavours at this beachside favourite fish restaurant.

A trip to La Mer at Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa is always a treat and never more so than when you’re offered a sneak peek at the work-in-progress Valentine’s special dish.

My companion had her heart set on scallops to start and I asked the chef to prepare his own recommendation for me. Neither of us was disappointed.

The scallops were cooked to perfection and served with a deliciously light sauce of white grape, lime and butter – so subtle was the flavour that neither she nor I could put our finger on the exact ingredients. But then, when coming up with an accompaniment for scallops, it’s essential not to smother their own delicate taste.

My starter was probably the dish I would have chosen myself – prawns grilled with garlic and chilli. Meaty and firm with the flesh just the right side of chewy, you could taste the freshness coupled with the heat and kick of the chilli and the portion size was perfect – enough to whet the appetite without being overfilling.

Chef then sent out some sea bream with lemon and thyme. Again, perfectly cooked with a delightfully firm texture and the flesh flaking on our forks. We could barely taste the lemon and thyme, simply noting a faint hint to bring out the flavour of the fish.

The aforementioned Valentine’s special arrived at the table with great aplomb and chef came to explain that his inspiration for the dish had come from sitting on the Sofitel’s pretty seashore. Beautifully arranged with flashes of red, in a nod to the colour of love, we were presented with a cornucopia of seafood from mussels to red mullet smoked in chicory wood, sole and scallops presented in a roll and even peas fashioned from smoked salmon.

I’m sworn to secrecy on the exact preparations as the dish is still very much in development; enough to say though, should you choose La Mer’s wonderfully romantic waterside setting for your Valentine’s outing, you’ll be in for a varied fishy feast.

The final preparation to the table was, of course, dessert. Again, the chef’s recommendation and one that is always a particular favourite of mine – crème brûlée accompanied by a delicious raspberry sorbet. Apparently, according to chef, crème brûlée is very simple to make but anyone who’s tried will know this is not strictly true. Getting the texture right is, in my view, an art form. It needs to be firm without drying out and this one ticked all the boxes. Just the right amount of vanilla – I’m a purist and not a great fan of all the flavours people seem intent on adding to a dish that’s already perfect – and topped with a delicious coating of burnt sugar. Perfection.

Afterwards we popped downstairs to Tapas to listen to the Latina band, which proved to be the perfect way to round off the evening. I’m sure that, come Valentine’s Day, they’ll be serenading lovers with their South American beats.

La Mer at Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa