Today I am at Pendolino, a beautiful Italian restaurant in the city high up in the historic Stand Arcade. I am here for a leisurely lunch and find myself, relaxed with an “I’m in Milan” attitude as I gracefully admire the fashion boutiques on my way to the venue.
The bread is exquisite, even for a restaurant of this standard. There is a walnut loaf, the olive & garlic loaf and some beautiful Italian Focaccia. There is also a lovely selection (of three) olive oils to pair, which makes for such a decadent introduction to the lunch. The conversation commences, laughter ignites and soon the thoughts of life’s difficulties have passed us by.
For the wines, we decide to choose a bottle of red and white to pair with the different dishes. I am entrusted with the wine list to make the selection. I take this responsibility with the utmost care and due skill, as I would if I were approaching a speech as best man at a wedding or voting on election day. It’s a sobering experience, with the weight of your dining companion’s lunch experience hanging in the balance. A lousy choice could consign the lunch to a forgettable experience, while a thoughtful selection could make the entire experience completely breathtaking.
The white wine is the La Raia Gavi. It’s a biodynamic, organic medium-bodied wine made mostly from the Cortese grapes. The wine is from Gavi a municipality in the Piedmont region. The Cortese grapes have a moderate acidity and a very light flavour, which makes it a safe choice for most palates. The wine is beautiful with the light aromas of lemons and an overtone of floral herbs. The light taste of honeysuckle and lemons gush through the palate with the light acidity and a long finish.
For the red we have the Folesano Emilia-Romagna Sangiovese. This wine is from Bologna. Most of the Sangiovese grapes in Italy are from the Tuscany region (home to the Chianti), however the sangiovese from this particular vineyard is situated on the Reno river outside of Bologna where the soil structure results in an intense but elegant wine with a richer flavour (relative to the Chianti). The wine is such a delight to drink, with the immediate taste of cherry and dark berry fruits flavours with a stronger spice flavour to round out the experience. It complements the variety of dishes ordered at the table making it the perfect choice.
We have the entrees to start proceedings.
One of my dining companions opts for the Burrata Con Pomodori Di Varieta Primaria. It’s the Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata Mozzarella, Sweet Basil, Baby Parsley, Red Onion and Crisp Fresh Breadcrumbs. Looks very light and appetising, certainly a quality selection.
I opt for the Agnolotti Di Carne Alle Erbette to start. It’s the Hand Made Pasture Fed Beef Agnolotti with Mediterranean Herb Butter, Beef and Thyme Sauce. This place has its own pasta kitchen, so as one would expect, the pasta is flawless. The agnolotti (a type of pasta from Piedmont region) is filled with beautiful succulent beef, while the herb butter and thyme sauce provides a lovely pungent savoury overlay. The beef (and thyme) sauce also releases the wonderful juices of the beef, while the cheese seasoning provides a sharp creamy edge to the dish.
One the my dining companions opts for the Carpaccio Di Manzo All’Abese. It’s an Alba style Free-Range Raw Beef Carpaccio with Truffled White Walnut Puree, Testun di Barolo Cheese, Rocket Cress, Wild Baby Olives and Handmade Rosemary Grissini. It looks lovely…in fact the dish does remind me of the Harry’s Bar in Venice which invented the dish.
I have the Brasato di Manzo Alle Amarene as my choice for the main course. The dish is a Ten Hour Slow Cooked British Breed Beef, Parsnip Puree, Grilled Green Shallots, Pearl Garlic, Amarena Sour Cherry Sauce. A winter classic! The beef just falls apart on the fork, it has this rich oily texture with a succulent taste while the juices remain meshed in the meat. The beautiful soft velvety parsnip puree is so silky smooth with the right hint of garlic to taste. The beef has a fruity sour cherry sauce poured on top. The tangy fruity cherry sauce cuts through the richness of the beef. The grilled shallots offer a nice texture overlay to the “softer” ingredients. All the different parts of the dish work harmoniously to deliver a fantastic dining experience.
One of my dining companions opt for the Pesce “Fuoco Di San Antonio” Con Ceci Alla Viareggina. This is a Seared South Coast Leather Jacket Fillets with Viareggio Style Salt Cod, Tomato Braised Chickpeas and Saffron Potato. It looks divine and has some creative ingredients which would certainty shine.
The meal was quite filling, so we decide to have some coffees to finish rather than opt for dessert. It was a truly amazing afternoon, with great food, wine and company.