Review: Il Baretto at King Abdullah Financial District, Riyadh

This Italian restaurant has got an old-school grandeur and charm to it…

Il Baretto opened in November 2021 to much fanfare, occupying a picture-perfect spot by the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD); the elegant space paired with a classic Italian menu made for an instant hit among Riyadh diners.

After all, it’s the first restaurant to have made its debut in the capital’s most coveted address for a hip lunch, after-work drinks, dining, and entertainment.

Enjoy the charm of Italy

Il Baretto

Come dinnertime, it’s comforting to stroll past KAFD and into Il Baretto. Enter through the massive doors and its electric, ultra-sexy ambience instantly entices us. The lighting is moody, and the rattle of cocktail shakers, accompanied by great live jazz, sets the room abuzz.

Yet, it has a deliciously traditional air – think white tablecloths, plush banquettes and impeccably presented staff, who really can’t do enough for you.

Il Baretto

Adorned with dark wood flooring, chic marble, hues of granite, abstract paintings, black-and-white photographs, and decorative glass sculptures, the interior of the fine-dining establishment is both cosy and roomy all at once – making it the perfect spot for intimate dinners and private gatherings alike.

The impressive bar area is a Deco-glam creation with high bar stools that looks out onto the restaurant. Of course, many people will stop by here on their way to their tables, but this is a destination in its own right.

Il Baretto

The Italian stunner also offers alfresco dining, with an outdoor seating area filled with the picturesque KAFD skyline view in the background.

A curation of Italian favourites and modern classics

Focused on showcasing fresh ingredients through a medley of classic Italian dishes, Il Baretto presents an array of antipasti, salads, Josper grilled mains, house-made pasta, and hand-stretched pizzas.

We begin our dinner with fresh oysters (SAR63 per piece), refreshing tomato salad (SAR70), and the pleasant (but a tad light to the taste) green beans and artichoke salad (SAR95).

burrata with black truffle Il Baretto

Better bets for appetisers include burrata with black truffle (SAR140) – it’s effortless and delicious; the burrata’s sweet, delicately creamy interior is enhanced by the truffle’s umami notes – and the tuna tartare (SAR145).

The tiny dice on the tuna is a marvel of knife work. It’s studded with microgreens and layered with fresh guacamole, all in a pool of tomato dressing. The dish is all about acid, with a sharpness that gives way to the heft of avocado and the sweet, understated freshness of the fish.

On the menu, you’ll also find inventive dishes that take traditional recipes and flip them with modern, unexpected twists. An example is its foie gras crème Brulee (SAR160): a soft and silky foie gras custard and the thinnest Brulee of dark caramelised sugar on top.

Sitting in a world halfway between an appetiser and a dessert, the foie gras crème Brulee with red onion chutney and toasted brioche comes in as the most well-balanced dish on this list. Heaven.

Il Baretto rack of lamb

In terms of mains, the biggest crowd-pleaser is undoubtedly the rack of lamb (SAR350). It is prepared medium-rare or as requested, and the texture is impressively tender and flavourful. The meat comes crusted with aromatic herbs, is served with roasted aubergines and offset with ribbons of thick lamb jus.

The spectacularly rich and decadent beef fillet Rossini with seared foie gras and black truffle (SAR410) also goes down a treat.

Il Baretto beef fillet

But what’s an Italian joint without pasta? We particularly enjoy how Il Baretto holds true to simplicity when creating classic recipes. Take, for example, the spaghetti vongole (SAR190), where a tangle of al dente strands is topped with a handful of shelled clams. It’s a mere handful of ingredients, composed without frills. Yet, the focus on perfecting every humble component comes through with every bite.

Il Baretto business lunch

If you’re dining in a group, get the salt crust sea bass (SAR830 per kg). The fish meat is pleasingly silky and comes with a topping of chopped tomatoes, which livens up its otherwise clean, almost plain flavour.

Sides of asparagus (SAR60) and tender-stem broccoli in garlic and chilli (SAR50) are cooked reasonably, while the mashed potatoes (SAR60) are incredibly smooth and fluffy.

Alas, we’re too full to sample the dessert menu as we would have liked. But the server eventually brings out a plate of off-the-menu mini profiteroles to round out our delicious meal. And if there’s time to linger, take it all in while making your way through the extremely good mocktail list.

Il Baretto cocktails

Italian restaurants may be aplenty in Riyadh, but with its prime locale, luxurious interiors, and a wide variety of tasty Italian fare, Il Baretto may just be the best Italian fine dining in the city. This one’s certainly for the list.

Il Baretto, KAFD 5.08, Riyadh 13519, Sun to Wed 12.30pm to 4pm & 7pm to midnight, Thurs to Sat 1pm to 4.30pm & 7pm to midnight. Tel: 9200 12508. @ilbarettosa

Images: Provided