Authentic Greek Delights

Apple Sharma enjoyed Mediterranean culinary magic at the InterContinental Bahrain, where the Rigani concept brings the vibrant flavours of Greek cuisine to life.

Traditional Mediterranean food is renowned for its health benefits due to its antioxidant-rich ingredients – one of the many reasons to enjoy this celebrated diet. So, I was very much looking forward to experiencing Rigani – a Greek concept at the InterContinental Bahrain, served in a charming setting on the terrace of Selections restaurant.

On arrival, we were warmly greeted by the Restaurant Manager, Nabil Ben, who introduced us to Rigani, informing us that it offers both a degustation and an à la carte menu, curated by Greek Chef Parisis Grigoriardis.

Every evening, the Selections Terrace is transformed into a mini-Greek haven, complemented by authentic décor and traditional music. Stepping outside, you are immediately transported to the Mediterranean, complete with white and grey furniture accented by blue table mats, evoking the colours of the Greek flag. Large wicker lamps hang from the ceiling, casting a warm glow over the space, creating an intimate and cosy ambience.

We began our culinary adventure with a generous selection of cold starters, including the classic Tzatziki, a creamy yogurt sauce with cucumber and fresh garlic. This is one of my all-time favourites and I can eat it till the cows come home. You just can’t beat the simple yet delicious garlicky flavours that pair so perfectly with warm pita bread. The rich and flavourful Melitzanosalata, a roasted eggplant dip with feta cheese, tasted very much like the Middle Eastern baba ganoush minus the tahini, while the Tvrokalteri, a feta cheese dip with oven roasted green and capsicum chilli was deliciously creamy The Skordalia, a velvety potato and garlic dip, traditionally eaten during religious fasting periods, was a hearty and comforting dish and the Taramasalata, a fish roe dip, was light and refreshing. The classic Horiaitiki Greek salad, bursting with freshness and colour, transported us to lazy afternoons at seaside tavernas.

Transitioning to hot appetisers, we indulged in the crispy delights of Spanakopita, where homemade crusty filo pastry enveloped a luscious filling of spinach, herbs and feta cheese. The chef’s live demonstration of rolling out the dough added a touch of authenticity as he explained that this was the same process that most Greek grandmothers use.

The Keftedakia, Greek meatballs served with tzatziki dip, much like the light and crispy Zucchini and Eggplant Fritters, were tasty little nuggets that went down a treat. Meanwhile, the Lahanodolmades, tender cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and minced meat bathed in a luscious avgolemono (egg and lemon) sauce, offered a comforting embrace with every bite. Another simple yet soul-satisfying dish was the Fasolada – a rustic and delicious white bean soup that warmed our hearts with each spoonful.

The main courses were a celebration of tradition, with each dish paying homage to the rich flavours found across the Greek islands. The feast included Arni Gastras, Patates, Ladorigani – the chef’s signature of slow-cooked braised lamb shank with potatoes and oregano. A triumph of a dish, the shank sat majestically on a generous serving of roast potatoes smothered in the most deliciously rich and velvety gravy. The juicy, tender meat fell off the bone and into the bowlful of the jus that had a very distinct flavour imparted by the cooked stock, olive oil, oregano and mustard.

The Papoutsakia, derived from the Greek word for ‘little shoe’, was another unique delicacy presented in its most humble form. A hearty dish of halved eggplants stuffed with spiced ground meat and tomato sauce, topped with béchamel and cheese, it looked like a deconstructed moussaka and had a similarly comforting taste. More meaty goodness ensued with the Sofrito – tender and flavourful beef escalope with garlic and parsley sauce, served with mashed potatoes.

Continuing down the path of familiar Greek-Italian flavour profiles, we were presented with the Pastichio – a Greek version of lasagna – layered bucatini pasta bake with spiced meat ragu and tomato sauce. Next up was the Kotopoulo Youvetsi, a chicken drum stick casserole with orzo pasta, herbs, tomato sauce and goat’s cheese, and Garides Makaronia, spaghetti with shrimps in traditional tomato sauce – all offering a delightful combination of flavours.

We finished the carnivore run of the menu with Greek Kebbab, flavoured with cinnamon and capsicum paste and served with pita bread. Rounding off the feast was a lovely veggie dish, Gemista, a baked stuffed tomato with rice and a medley of herbs. Alas, we spoke too soon! Although bursting at the seams, we couldn’t refuse the decadent desserts presented by Pastry Chef Mohamed Safras. The Ekmek Kadaifi, a luscious confection of shredded filo pastry (much like a kunafa), custard cream, topped with a layer of airy whipped cream and sprinkled with pistachios, tasted as good as it looked. And the Mosaiko, a heavenly combination of chocolate and biscuit served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, was the perfect finale to our culinary odyssey.

If you’re looking for authentic, homemade-style, rustic Greek cuisine in the heart of Bahrain, look no further than Rigani. The ambience, food and service all come together to create a truly memorable dining experience that is nothing short of Mediterranean magic. ✤