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Monday, April 30, 2007


The day: 27th April 2007, Lunchtime.
The place: North Court, 1 Great Peter Street, London SW1P 3LL (020-7222 7080)
The venue: Quirinale Ristorante Italiano
The food: Fine Italian Dining
The drinks: Italian based, lots of usual suspect with few surprises, also some choice by the glass

Back for just a couple of days in London, we chose the politicos’ day off to visit this restaurant tucked away in a small street in the heart of the Westminster Village. We later learned that kitchen staff (headed by chef Stefano Savio) was below capacity: this will be an interesting experience in crisis management…

Downstairs from an elegant entrance we forgot to take a picture of - but you can check it out the next time you hold a demonstration in front of the House of Parliament - we entered a large rectangular room of cool modern style, mostly white/cream tones with leather chairs, brightened up by an array of colourful canvases and some dark wood panelling. Pleasant atmosphere. The tables are small and exactly, if not generously, spaced.

The menu offers several interesting dishes, and there is also a handful of daily specials. When we arrived (having had no problems booking a table no more than a couple of hours earlier) the dining room was half full.

The bread basket is large, unfortunately not on the table but held safely in the hands of Bread-Waiter - he’ll make another appearance later… So here is what we grabbed on the first serving:

Made on the premises (its non-industrial origin evident from a flaw in the dough), it was OK, but no more. With it came the smallest amount of extra virgin olive oil (Pasquini Reggello, Tuscany) we have ever seen, it was so shallow that an ant could walk through it.

Not that we care, because to reduce the calorie count we always skip it – but perhaps you don’t. The slice of bread and the shadow of oil were the only complimentary items on the table for the duration of the meal: no olives, no amuse bouche, no pre-dessert, no petit fours, no nothing. After 20 minutes of pleasant occasional chit chat with the very nice room staff, without anybody prompting us to order food (but we managed at least to order the wine), the presence of something more to choose would have been greatly appreciated. So when finally, after about half an hour, we managed to order, came the ominous warning from charming waiter Rudra (he is Italian, don’t worry) that the kitchen was under-staffed and a large party of diners had arrived unexpectedly earlier: ‘Normally it is not like this on a Friday night’ he said with an apologetic air. The same thing was told to us several times by the charming manager Valentina Cassandro in the intervening 35-40 minutes before our primi came at last.

They were Trofie with classic pesto and scallops; and Goat Cheese ravioli with peppers and artichokes in walnut sauce (£12.50 and £9.50 respectively).

In the trofie, a nice touch was the cream with the scallop coral emulsified in olive oil, though taste-wise it was not exactly an explosion from the sea. Trofie are always ‘callous’, but these were actually undercooked. The dish was pleasant, the trofie themselves were well made and nicely small, and the pesto was in generous quantity (as the pasta) with potatoes and green beans as in the Ligurian tradition (remember Man is from Genoa, tears stream from his eyes every time he eats pesto), but once again the flavour was not sparkling (for example, compared to the pesto we had at Giardinetto). The scallops were good.

Woman still preferred this dish to the ravioli. She found them a little undercooked. Man thought the cooking was OK, but the pasta could have been finer – Woman says it is the same as undercooked. Man counterobjects that Woman finds 95% of the pasta undercooked. Woman counter-counter replies that this never ever happened at Latium. Waiters come to separate the contenders The cheese filling was excellent, the walnut sauce working surprisingly well with the red peppers, but according to Woman overwhelming the cheese, a statement with which Man profoundly disagrees. We believed from the taste that the kitchen had forgotten the artichokes, but the photo proves they were actually there...– anyway, there were plenty of other tastes in the dish…

For mains we had ordered Grilled fillet of swordfish with sprouting broccoli, red onion marmalade and saba dressing; and Marjoran coated fillet of red mullet with cicerchia puree and Taggiasche olives, both at £16.50. We had barely finished our primi when Bread-Waiter arrived holding two mains. One was the swordfish, the other was clearly not the mullet.

Bread Waiter: Here’s is the turbot.
Man Woman: Turbot? We actually ordered mullet.
BW: OK, it’s mullet.
MW: But you just said it is a turbot!
BW: Mullet, mullet.
MW: It clearly is not a mullet. And look, there are asparagi and truffle instead of cicerchia on the side.

The vegetable comparison seemed to strike a chord, and off he went to call the manager. She came, apologised and proposed we have the turbot with the compliments of the house. But we were in a strong mullet mood that evening, so while the kitchen busied away on our mullet, we shared the swordfish.

The fish came from France, and it was excellent and perfectly cooked. The advertised ‘cime di rapa’ (i.e. broccoli sprouts) looked more like simply broccoli. Anyhow good cooking, and the onion marmalade was also good. The saba (cooked must) is a rare ingredient to find in Italy, let alone the UK. This indicates a search for the right materials on the part of the chef. Still, though, here the taste was not prominent at all, to put it mildly. Good to know it was there, though!

Finally, the mullet arrives.

Was it worth the wait? It was certainly good, and the cicerchia (remember? We had it also in via Condotti) had been roughly mashed to retain an interesting texture. The taggiasche olives (ever present in so many menus these days) in this dish played for once a fitting part.

The dessert list was rather enticing, but what struck us especially was the cheese list, the most interesting we have seen so far in the UK, mostly from the North of Italy. So we opted for a pear bavaroise (at 6.50) and a selection of three cheeses (£7.50): here we really behaved, as one can order up to 11 varieties!.

The bavaroise had a small chocolate heart (a bit stingy, come on), and sat on a dry biscuit. The bavaroise itself was rough in texture, but definitely good.

Now the real king of the night, the cheese plate. We chose ewe ricotta mustia (Sardinia), cow Valsassina robiola and goat Fausti (both from Lombardy), who came with some salad, grapes, honey laced walnuts and quite a bit of bread (hazelnut and raisins brown rolls and carasau). A nice presentation, but above all a gorgeous taste. The escalation from the ricotta to the Fausti’ going through the robiola was a journey through one thousand flavours. The meal did conclude on a high note:

With a bottle of Vermentino Sella e Mosca 2004 at £22, the whole bill (including service charge) came at £102.38, just breaking our £100 rule. Ah, no water on the bill, but we took that the 0.75lt bottle was the freebie of the night.

Tonight the kitchen (remember, not at its full capacity) had been overrun by events. The room staff was amazingly cool given the circumstances; the large party we mentioned earlier were demanding and a little restless,

and the dishes were not coming out to meet the hungry guests. So this was a kitchen problem and the night was saved by the front room staff: all credit to them, and special mention to Rudra, who took loving care of us, recommended a restaurant near lake Garda (we’ll check it out soon), and told us about his life, so much so we are considering writing his biography

Still, though, we would have welcomed some symbolic gesture – when hiccups of this scale happen in Italy there is plenty of dessert wines to choose from to mollify the customers’ high blood pressure…

What about the cuisine? The raw materials are undoubtedly of high quality, and the care devoted to the cheese list is emblematic of the fact that sourcing is a prime concern (pity the wine list isn't remotely so interesting). There is plenty of intriguing items on the menu, and the thought behind each dish is evident. All in all we had a good meal. However, just two nights before we had sampled the cooking of a superior chef for a tenner less, at Latium (by the way, there too there were only three people in the kitchen and they managed to satisfy sixty people with no hiccups…). So, while we wish the best of luck to this chef, who certainly honours Italian cuisine in London, we think we’ll leave Quirinale to the politicos, as we find the prices out of line compared to the best value of Italian establishments in London, which in addition pamper the customer with more extras.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ristorante Zur Rose

The day: 21st April 2007, Dinner.
The place: Via J. Innerhofer 2, 30057, Appiano/Eppan (Bolzano), tel: +39 0471 662249
The venue: Ristorante Zur Rose
The food: Fine Italian dining
The drinks: Good list, strong on regional offerings

This is our first ‘post-blog’ venture in ‘foreign’ territory here in Italy. The province of Bolzano is in Alto Adige/Sud Tirol. This part of the world is formally Italian territory, but with a difference, and everyone is (or supposed to be) bilingual (German as well as Italian), with the cuisine hopefully getting the best influences from both cultures. Let’s see what chef Herbert Hintner, blessed with a Michelin star, can do for us…

The restaurant sits just off the Town Hall square of this pristine village along the winding WeinStrasse/Strada del Vino (Wine Road), which connects many wine producing villages in the Adige valley.

The interior is a coolly elegant version of several wood-panelled dining rooms that we have seen in the region (e.g. Orso Grigio, Malga Panna). The tables are very spacious, and well-spaced, with comfortable upholstered benches for those lucky enough (= women) to sit on the wall side.

The menu is on the shortish side, but still there is enough to choose from: in fact we had difficulty deciding among the very tempting offerings. Moreveover, this time, Man and Woman were with Friends, and did not want to bother them with a continuous shuffling of plates. So we decided to go for the ‘surprise’ four course set menu at €55. There were some worrying items for the English speaking customer, such as ‘Roasted local kid with asparagus from Terlano “Margarete” and ramsons pure’ at €25: local kids come cheap, we thought, maybe they are not tender Also, ‘sucking pig’ (with artichokes and tempura radicchio) at €24, was rather intriguing… In fact the kid goat turned out to be a perfectly tempting dish that He-Friend went for and liked, whereas She-Friend opted for the pork, which also looked very good.

Among the primi, we mention Friends’ choices: an asparagus risotto with prawns (€18) and ricotta stuffed squash flower with Mediterranean butter (€14). Still going backwards, their choice of starters was shrimps on marinated green asparagus and basil icecream (€17) and quails with marinated celeriac (advertised instead as 'celery') and goose ‘lever’ (!) at €16.

Herbert, have a quiet word with whoever translated your menu! Anyway, we are here to eat, not to check (we, not even native speakers!) translations. As usual, we are going to be picky and critical, with the understanding that in this place everything is of high quality and we are taking perfection as a reference point...

The bread is home-made and consists of an all right (no more - here we go with pickiness ) selection of rolls, sliced bread and grissini.

While we eagerly awaited our surprise, here are the amuse bouche:

Speck flavoured potato flan and raviolo filled with ‘amatriciana and parsley’. The amatriciana is a typical (central Italian) red sauce with pork cheek (which we noted also among the mains). It was good but the consensus around the table (which spanned the whole of Italy!) was that the raviolo was undercooked. Man was thoroughly enthused by the delicacy and intense flavour of the flan, Woman a little less so, as she found it too bland. Man frowns.

And here comes the first piece of surprise: Warm cod and octopus on a bed of salad leaves, warm potatoes and olives (on the a la carte as a starter at €18).

Great looking dish, and screamingly good too. We marvelled at the cooking of the octopus and the fish, rendering a succulent, sumptuous richness in the octopus and a delicate, moist texture in the cod. In such a delicate dish, the broad red ‘paintstroke’ of a chilly-based sauce provided a stunning punch. Superb.

Our primo turned out to be broccoli stuffed lasagnette with cheese sauce (on the menu at €13).

For the lasagnetta, imagine an ultra-thin and ultra-large ravioli. For Man, an interesting structure and a beautifully chromatic, painting-like presentation. Woman was less impressed by the presentation and concept. The mousse was made of Gorgonzola cheese and was very good, and provided also a nice contrast in temperature with the lasagnetta (this one cooked just right!). However, for us, the dish was too ‘ethereal’ to the bite, lacking the ‘chunk-effect’ of either ravioli or traditional lasagne, and it was also slightly cumbersome to pick up (maybe we are just revealing our rustic tastes here...). We would see it better as a starter.

With mains, comes an off-menu veal shank with runner beans and chick-pea mash.

Woman thought this was nearly as good as the octopus. The meat was very tender, the connective tissues satisfyingly gelatinised and the reduction intensely flavoursome and rightly dense. If one really had to find a defect, the chick peas were a tiny too ‘stiff’. Thoroughly good. Man was once again struck by the vivid presentation of the dish and agrees with Woman on its excellence, with the only reservation that he found the meat ever so slightly rubbery (but really ever so slightly). Woman frowns...

At this point we must record our disappointment that, in a menu completely chosen by the chef, no asparagus was ever seen, despite them being in season, a local delicacy, and heavily present in the a la carte menu.

A predessert arrives only for Man and Woman:

A coffee ‘soup’ with a chocolate mousse: excellent in all respects. Rather inelegant, though, not serving it to the other half of the table, too, who had ordered a dessert to share after all, within a 'three-and-a-half' course a la carte (hence more expensive) choice, and the more expensive one at that. Too harsh a punishment, we thought.

Finally, our surprise dessert, again off menu, ‘strawberry variations’.

It consisted of a strawberry tiramisu’ (perhaps part of the ‘tiramisu’ variations’, on the menu at €12), a strawberry sorbet (perhaps part of the ‘sorbet variations’, on the menu at €7), a cream mousse on a strawberry tartare, and a lime sorbet (this also part e.g. of the passion fruit soufflĂ© that Friends shared, on the menu at €13).

Man enjoyed most the last three variations, appreciating the clear flavour of in particular the lime sorbet and the strawberries in the tartare and in the sorbet. Woman liked the first variation best, a tiramisu quite unlike your traditional version, so all in all we really liked it.... A pity that the crispy ‘cialda’ with the lime sorbet tended to break too easily, rendering it useless for its intended purpose. A similar ‘fragility’ was exhibited by the chocolate stuck in the sorbet.

Petit fours were also nicely offered.

Very very good!

We washed this down with four bottles of water (the usual 0.75 litre ones) at €3.10 each, and a bottle of Pinot Noir (Blauburgunder, as they call it in Sud Tirol) Hausmannoff 2003 at €39. Cover charge was €3 each (for the most cheap bastards among you, we note that many other places include the cover charge in the set menus – not here). The total bill, though, was ‘only’ 299.40, i.e. €150 per couple, just within our £100 rule! Hurray, another Michelin star within budget.

Despite our criticisms, Chef Hintner impressed us with a cuisine of great precision, neat flavours, attention in the cooking of fish and meats, delicacy and visual impact (to which, by now you know, Man is particularly sensitive). In this context, the occasional strong touch is a mark of the total assuredness and accomplishment of this chef. What to say of the restaurant as a whole? No doubt a superior establishment, with fine cuisine and professional service. But we were a little bothered by a certain pressure on the drinks, with an insistent peddling and the use of certain ‘low’ tricks of the trade to generate more demand – e.g. finishing off the bottle by serving all except one of the guests, the one obviously more keen (who, however, bravely held firm ). The prices are a little higher than those of other restaurants of comparable level we have sampled in Trentino, but they are still very reasonable on a national comparison for this quality, and Sud Tirol is in general more expensive than Trentino. We appreciated the chef coming out towards the end of the evening and greeting ALL tables, not just the ‘great and the good’ and the regulars. This is a nice attitude by an experienced veteran that many younger, more arrogant and less talented colleagues should learn from (obviosuly this is only possible when you have a few covers). This restaurant is superior to several other starred ones that we have tried. Overcoming a few imperfections, a second star would be well deserved. Actually, thinking back of that octopus, give him the extra star now!


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Ristorante Enoteca Il Libertino

The day: 29 March 2007, Dinner.
The place: Piazza Piedicastello 4-6 Trento, Italy (tel +39 0461 260085)
The venue: Ristorante Enoteca Il Libertino
The food: Superior trattoria
The drinks: Good list, strong on regional wines, several national ones, excellent choice by the glass.

We walked across the bridge on the Adige river to reach its right bank. This is the Piedicastello suburb of Trento, and in the first square sits Libertino, a trattoria and wine bar with some ambition to be a little more…do they succeed?

Inside, one sees the inviting display area with all sorts of hams, salamis and cheese. It develops along three rooms, one of them particularly cosy and intimate, just a pity it is in front of the toilets.

The menu is short but inspiring. Starters and primi come all at €8-8.50, mains at €12-13, and desserts at €5-7. The true bargain is the four course set tasting menu at €30, with an extra €10 for matching wines (four different glasses). We went for two of these, one fish, the other meat based.

In the meantime, the bread arrives: for this price range, a really good offering, with granary, walnuts, with sesame and plain white rolls, served warm.

As starters, the fish menu had rolled swordfish on a bed of polenta from Storo while the ‘land’ menu had warm asparagus and Casolet (local cheese) tart

The tart was very good: a very light and soft pastry (why did they call it brisee’? It definitely was not!) encasing a flavoursome filling with a quiche-like consistency. Delicate and sweet, with a nice acidity provided by the Casolet.

The swordfish was good though less exciting. This is a traditional Sicilian dish where thinly sliced swordfish is filled with breadcrumbs, pine nuts and sultanas and grilled. The local version had lemon rind replacing the sultanas, and a fantastic and plentiful polenta bed hosting the fresh fish. What was a bit subdued was the filling. Also, though this is not a fine dining restaurant and the issue of presentation is less crucial, perhaps a little more effort in this direction might improve the dish significantly.

The tart was accompanied by a glass of Sauvignon Luisa from Friuli, while the fish came with a glass of “Anthilia” Donnafugata from Sicily.

Next, the primi: orzotto with bruscandoli (hop tops), and Gnocchi with sardines.

The orzotto (barley cooked risotto style), while a tad undercooked for Woman, was good looking and excellent, with the vegetables retaining their original structure and matching the grilled speck on the top very well. All this was rounded off perfectly by the sweet Trentigrana cheese.

The gnocchi were even better by Womans’ standard, whereas Man, the glutton, found that the sauce was on the stingy side. We both agreed that the gnocchi themselves were near perfect, with the springy but soft consistency that we like.

Accompanying wines were Lagrein Kretzer Dorgali for the orzotto, and Gavi di Gavi Broglia for the gnocchi.

Next, the mains. Here Woman asked for a deviation, which was accepted with good grace by the kitchen, which replaced the set deep fried lamb cutlets with beef medallions wrapped in speck. The fish menu had instead ‘Trentino style’ salted cod with polenta.

The beef was simple, correctly cooked and delicious. The accompanying vegetables were also good, but too greasy to our taste.

The salted cod (baccala’) had been cooked in milk, with potatoes, celeriac and anchovies. The resulting cream was good, but the flavours were not very discernible (anchovy, celeriac: were they really there?). Woman found it too rich, and we both agreed that by this time we were a bit tired of polenta… The cod itself left Man underwhelmed (in spite of having been reduced to tiny little bits, it was still ‘woody’, and not very tasty) .

The meat came with a glass of Pinot Noir Carlotto from Alto Adige, while the cod came with a glass of Dolomiti Vin de Molini Pojer and Sandri.

Finally desserts: a ‘torta de fregoloti’ for the meat menu, with a Moscato Rosa Gaierhof from Trentino; and a strawberry mille feuille with ‘Sole d’Autunno’ Maso Martis from the Dolomites.

The torta is a bit like a shortcrust pastry with almonds. Well done in its genre, but after a meal like this it felt a little stodgy. Nice accompanying honey, though.

The millefeuille was light, crispy, tasty. Even the not-yet-in-season strawberries were inexplicably good! Much better than the one we had in Beaune.

All in all, we spend €86 including water (€2) and a €2 cover per head charge.

There is some interesting cooking going on at Libertino. Far from perfect, but overall very satisfying and of good quality. What is really top is the value for money: €40 for what we had is a bargain, and the a la carte dishes are also well-priced. The wine list is extensive (it is an ‘enoteca’), especially concerning the regional wines (meaning from Trentino: those from Alto Adige/Sud Tirol are classified as ‘foreign’…) and you can also go just for a bit of cheese or ham and some nice wines.

The room staff is a bit of an issue here, which we think will have to be resolved for a step-change upwards in the tone of the establishement. The ‘boss’ (a real wine expert) is excessively grumpy and detached and clearly has not well realised that he is in the hospitality business. HOSPITALITY, you understand? This implies among other things that some occasional smile and show of interest in your customer is a necessity: come on, just pretend you care

Apart from this, one can have an excellent time here.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ristorante Castel Toblino

The day: 25th March 2007, Lunch.
The place: Via Caffaro 1, Sarche,
Trento (IT) (tel +39 0461 864036)
The venue: Ristorante Castel Toblino
The food: Fine Italian Dining, with strong regional influence
The drinks: Reasonable list, regional and other choices, also several half-bottles.

This restaurant is in the ‘Lake valley’ (Valle dei Laghi), occupying a splendid 13th century castle on lake Toblino, and in front of beautiful vineyards where the wine of the same name (of which we had tried excellent samples previously) is made. An enviable setting, raising the usual question for this type of establishment: are we paying for the location or for the cuisine? We had passed in front of it too many times, driving along the winding road in the pleasant valley, or contemplating the lakes from high above, not to try and answer this question...

As we said, it’s impressive on arrival:

The dining room is off an imposing internal court, with the open kitchen on the other side. The tables are comfortable even if not vast. The dining room IS vast. It’s a castle, after all:

On the list three set menus….and an a la carte, with starters at €15, primi at €14, and mains at €22.

Bread is made on the premises:

Good with a good assortment.

We are welcomed by a glass of Brut Conti D’Arco, and by this:

A rabbit roll with walnuts on a puree of celeriac. Finished with some extravirgin olive oil. Remarkable start, the cream light and delicate, the flavours clear and balanced…but Woman looks unhappy…ouch…what is this? A small piece of rabbit bone. Not good. We reported to the waiter and no response ever came from the kitchen.

We began with the ‘carne salada’ (a typical local cured beef) from the menu.

It came with cooked apple slices and dabs of grana cream and balsamic vinegar. Colourful and visually appealing. The apples, beside providing colour, also conferred richness to the consistency. The beef itself was succulent and flavoursome. The grana cream exhibited an immediate pleasant acidic note on the palate which matched (in theory, see below) the other flavours (especially the sweet apples) very well. Overall, we liked the dish although it lacked some clarity and decisiveness: for example, the small grana cream dollops were almost insubstantial, without a strong impact. The balsamic vinegar 'points' were rather pointless. We think the presence of balsamic vinegar must be justified by its absolute need in a dish, or by its absolute excellence making it a protagonist. In this case, neither of these two absolutes applied, in our opinion. Hence, we and the dish would have been happier without. Also, in one apple a piece of the hard core had been left. We would have been happier without this, too.

These two dishes came very quickly after ordering, making us almost breathless. Then, a long, long pause ensued. What was happening in the kitchen? Clearly, chaos. Read on.

For primi, we were supposed to have Canederlotti with Puzzone di Moena cheese, Savoy cabbage and black truffles from the set menu, and Duck tortelli from the a la carte (€14). Instead, after the long pause, two dishes of Tortelli arrived!

So, another pause ensued...


...until the proper item was prepared. The other one was not changed, so we ate in a staggered way. This was a rather low point of the experience.

Tortelli were good, although Woman found the pasta too ‘al dente’. A very rich cream, tending to the heavy side but overall satisfying in an ‘unsubtle’ sort of way.

The canederlotti were a nice execution of a regional classic. The flavour of the cheese was very clear and intense, as was that of the dried Savoy cabbage (identical to one we had in Malga Panna. Come on you two boys: who copied? ), with a nice overall balance (sweetness coming from the canederlotti themselves, acidity from the cheese). The truffles were overwhelmed. Very pleasant to the palate, but once again a slightly confused dish. The taste of the canederlotti and the quality of the cheese were not superior to those we can have at half the price at I due camini.

For mains, Confit of rabbit with corn cake came from the set menu, while the a la carte choice was Fassona beef with asparagus at €22:

Fassona is a cow breed which is very fashionable these days, omnipresent in the menus of fine dining establishments all over Italy, and we have seen it in the UK too. How many Fassona cows are there in Piedmont, we begin to wonder? Is a rebellious Fassona army the next great threat to the world?

The beef was rather good and cooked well. Surely we would have preferred a ‘chunkier’ cut to really feel the beef. The root and other vegetables on top were simple, nice and unobtrusive, letting the beef speak for itself. And the usual fru-fru dollops here and there...

With the rabbit, we hit another highlight. The yellow object resembling polenta is not polenta, but an ‘eggy’ corn-cake. Delicious in itself and a very good and original partner for the rabbit, too.

The portions, as you saw, were generous throughout.

For desserts, our ‘free’ choice was Kaiserschmarn (€10) while the set menu dictated Vin Santo parfait.

Before that, a complimentary pre-dessert appears:

A gin-and-tonic lemon sorbet. Quite decent, useful to refresh and clean the palate though nothing to write home about.

And here are the desserts:

These desserts were truly discomforting. The Kaiserschmarn was a dry and bland interpretation of what is supposed to be a rich and satisfying messy omelette generally served with a berry compote. Not this compact stodgy waste of calories.

The forced choice was no better than the free one. In the parfait, Vin Santo could have been any other alcohol, the character undetectable. The whipped cream accompaniment felt cheap. Another waste of calories.

With a bottle of water at €3, a Pinot nero Gottardi at €24, and a coffee for Man at €2, the hit was €121.

In the end, entering this castle was a bit like entering an amusement park: the experience was a bit of a roller-coaster, with dramatic peaks and troughs. Unfortunately it ended on a trough. There is a sense in which a restaurant like this could be a victim of its own location: in a castle, you don’t have much choice of the type of environment you offer.

The front room staff, clearly well instructed by the management, are very able in overcoming the risk of an excessively stiff atmosphere. They were warm and smiling and friendly, generating a sense of relax in the large room (praise in particular for our ‘own’ waiter/manager Dante, who, we discovered has had extensive experience in the UK and like us is new to Trento). He wants to become famous, and certainly with this blog he has chosen the perfect medium to do here he is:But the cuisine (Chef Stefano Bertoni) has a lot of progress to make, in our opinion, before raising to the standard this setting deserves, and also to the standard set by the competitors in the city.

The excellence and visual beauty of a couple of dishes shows that, despite the disappointments, this progress is not impossible. However, apart from the problems with the dishes themselves (especially the desserts), a lot of effort put in tightening up the overall workings of the kitchen would not be misplaced. The bones in the rabbit were a mark of sloppiness; so were the bits of apple core; and most of all, the mistake in serving a pre-set sequence betrays lack of concentration and of basic kitchen organisation – note that there were no more than 15 covers to serve. And the lack of any communication following these mistakes is an unpleasant symptom of a bad attitude to the 'common' customer.

After the meal, we roamed around upstairs where we discovered acres of space, another beautiful dining room:

If we have the chance, we’ll be back in one year time to check if any progress has been made. At the moment, we see no reason to choose this restaurant over any of the Michelin starred rivals we have sampled in Trentino, or even of others.

Maybe more a place for corporate functions (provided they don't mess up the kitchen service as they did with us!) and for special occasions than for sheer dining pleasure.


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