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Archive for May, 2011

Date visited: 29 May 2011

After booking lunch at Villa Crespi, situated by Lake Orta in Orta San Guilio, we discovered that the bus from Stresa to Orta was not running as it was still low season. This wasn’t going to put us off though. We discovered that Lake Orta lay on the other side of Mottarone (a mountain standing above Stresa at around 1500m) so we decided to have a crack at walking/hiking from our hotel directly to the restaurant via an alpine mountain – why not burn the calories in advance of consuming them?

The scenery and the forest scents were absolutely spectacular. One boat, two cable cars to the top and a 17km walk down later, we reached the restaurant, decorated in the style of an Arabian palace – a very welcome oasis. After a quick change of shoes and a splash of water on my face, we were sat in a lovely patio facing the garden sipping a lovely franciacorta and sampling about 10 amuse bouches.

20110529-200643.jpgWe chose the ‘Taste of Italy from South to North’ tasting menu. Every dish was delicious and the wine well matched, only using Italian wines. Notable dishes are: a lovely amuse bouche of oyster with cucumber and yoghurt (my new favourite way of eating oysters), scampi and scallops served on a skewer with apple an celeriac broth, and gnocchi with seaweed and venus clams. They also served a tasty foie gras, scallop and pigeon course, but we both felt slightly overwhelmed by the richness and could not finish it. I was also disappointed by the cheeses but maybe once you’ve had cheese at Ledoyen and Arpege you have ruined all cheese experiences for life.

Dessert was excellent an fruit-based (I’ve decided that no restaurant should serve chocolate in the summer) and I really enjoyed the final wine pairing (unfortunately cant remember the wine: maybe Chambave Muscat 2009, certainly something sparkling and appley).

The staff were laid back, friendly but still professional. We chatted with a few people – of course showing off our 2.5 hour trek and learning from them about the history of the building. It was a wonderful lunch and a great end to our trip. Judging by the number of maseratis in the car park, you’ll pay a mean price to stay in one of the 14 luxurious hotel suites, but one can dream!

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We broke our trip from Paris to Lake Maggiore with an overnight stay in Turin so that we could visit Combal Zero, recently promoted to the 28th best restaurant in the world. It is described as ‘equivalent to a round of electric shock therapy, stimulating mind and body alike’ and from ice-cream eggs to helium balloons, it was truly a memorable evening! I think it struck a very good balance between weird/shocking/inventive food (which can put many people off) and dishes that taste great and are enjoyable to eat.

It’s pretty impossible to find, especially if you are using public transport and it’s also very difficult to get in! After being dumped by a local bus in what appeared to be the grimmest part of Rivoli we gave in to data roaming charges and opted for google maps, which led us up a steep hill towards the castle. Once we reached the castle grounds, which are well worth an independent visit, we wandered around for about 10 minutes trying to figure where the restaurant was, with most ‘castle assistants’ just generally waving us from one building to another. We finally found the restaurant but this involved climbing through a hole in a fence, under a barrier and then eventually being rescued by one of the chefs and led through past the kitchen and store rooms! The VIP entrance indeed. We’re sure there is an easier way and maybe we just missed a sign, but this way in seemed pretty fitting and set the scene for an adventurous meal.

Our favourites were: the onion (which is deconstructed and reassembled with beautiful flavours between each layer), cold fusion (which involved frozen fruit and an egg yolk filled with cream which combined created the taste of ice-cream) and an all-potato dish where we were given a picture guide of the potatoes and how they featured in our dish!

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We left in very good spirits and with a can of Combal Zero tinned tomatoes as a souvenir – suitably random.  Well worth the stop over in Turin – we would definitely return if we were in the area again. Maybe next time we could use the front door!

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Just finished a lovely lunch in a small wine bar in Stresa called Enoteca Da Giannino located on a quiet cobbled street, Via Garibaldi. The wine selection was great, including many local wines. The cheapest glass was around 3 euros and we enjoyed a hearty selection of prosciutto, salami and cheese for around 15 euros. A quick and easy, yet still sophisticated, lunch with 2 small glasses of wine each to ponder over, while avoiding the tourist traps in the piazzas round the corner. We bought a couple of wines to enjoy back in London, including this 2004 Barolo.

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First post

We love good food and wine, and we especially love dining out. This blog attempts to share our good (and bad) experiences with food and wine in London and across the world. Enjoy!

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