Italian tradition at Rocco Forte's Oro
Due to circumstances beyond my - or indeed my intended dining partner's - control, I ended up sitting down to dinner alone at Oro, the signature Italian restaurant at the Rocco Forte hotel, which certainly gave me ample opportunity to take in my surroundings.
The vast room on the ground floor oozes old-school glamour and is dominated by a large circular bar. Curved banquette seats create little pockets of space and a glossy but subtle gold-and-cream theme runs throughout. Far from being a cosy neighbourhood Italian, this is a sophisticated spot.
The service from the waiter who looked after me was excellent, right from the beginning of the meal to the very end, when he chased after me to return a forgotten jacket. It's great to witness well-informed staff really interacting with customers and not just reciting a menu, but enthusiastically talking through it and throwing in the odd recommendation.
One page of this menu is dedicated to very classic Italian dishes - risotto alla Milanese, fritto misto, vitello tonnato - before leading on to a selection of antipasti, starters and main courses with a more modern slant. My simply presented starter of gnocchi with Parmesan cream was lovely. The little dumplings were soft and light and the sauce was delicate, but full of flavour; a hint of lemon prevented the Parmesan from being too overpowering and the portion size was just right. Selecting from the list of more traditional dishes, I opted for the rack of lamb for my main course. While the two cutlets of French trimmed meat were chubby and pleasingly pink in the centre, I struggled with the rest of the dish. Three rectangles of roasted potatoes were disappointingly hard in the middle, as if they'd been taken out of the oven that bit too early and they lacked the crispy, crunchy exterior of a truly great roastie. A small spoonful of tomato concasse flecked with sweet basil was pleasant and helped cut through the richness of the meat, but there was nowhere near enough of it.
Rather than being given a menu, the dessert options were recited to me and I have to admit, I was surprised by the lack of choice: tiramisu, a "chocolate, chocolate, chocolate" creation, panna cotta or a selection of homemade sorbets or ice creams. I chose the tiramisu, which came classically presented and proved to be a bit of a disappointment. I couldn't detect any coffee flavour and while the layers of mascarpone were suitably rich and creamy, the sponge oozed watery liquid, which diluted the taste further.
While my meal at Oro had its highs and lows, I do think that the restaurant has potential and I would be interested to return in the future, to see if the inconsistencies I encountered have been ironed out.
A meal for one at Oro, Rocco Forte hotel, Abu Dhabi cost Dh303.92 including service. For reservations, call 02 617 0000. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito
Published: February 23, 2012 04:00 AM