Tag Archives: Italian cuisine

Talavera

In her introduction to The Second Classic Italian Cookbook Marcella Hazan, perhaps the most approachable, no-nonsense cookery writer ever, states emphatically that “There is no such thing as Italian haute cuisine because there are no high or low roads in Italian cooking. All roads lead to the home, la cucina casereccia – home cooking, which is the only good cooking – la buona cucina.
I think it’s this very homeliness that forms my fondness for Italian food – there’s precious little trickery and a good deal of honesty. On holiday in Sorrento, I used to lunch daily on one of the piers jutting out from the Marina Grande – a misnomer, it’s not at all grande (large) or grand. On several occasions the dish-of-the-day was spaghetti and tomatoes, with oregano and fresh basil. This simple fare tasted out of this world. I enquired of the two elderly ladies who were in charge of the kitchen what the secret was and, in her minimal English, she replied “long time”. I was then taken into the kitchen. The tomatoes, laid out on a huge tray, were just sprinkled with sea salt and baked for 45 minutes, then stirred into spaghetti as needed, leaving the customer to deal with the skins. As I said, simple.
A couple of days later I devoured a lip-smacking rabbit in red wine stew at the sublime Cumpa Cosimo in Ravello. The proprietress pinched my cheek, said I needed feeding up and asked me “Would I like another rabbit.” I assumed she meant “another portion” but I was wrong!
The next occasion I encountered rabbit was in an altogether more suprising location, Talavera in the basement of the Radisson St.Helens hotel. If there’s a pleasanter place to rock up to than the Radisson, as it’s known hereabouts, I’ve yet to find it. An elegant façade beckons and you almost hope it’s raining for the pleasure of being escorted to the portal by a flunkey with an umbrella.
The music in Talavera is Italian opera. There’s not much atmosphere in the daytime as the room is quite a dark basement. At night, though, it’s cosy and intimate, with candles on the tables. The antipasto selection offered a good, maybe a little lacking in imagination, but tasty for all that.. Main courses were, praise be, traditional and a wondrously substantial escalope and a fine roast rabbit, cooked Tuscan style, with a rosemary jus warmed us through on a cold night. It came with very fine mash and fresh vegetables. Desserts were excellent, including a really fine panacotta with caramelized pears – presentation lovely and portions lavish. The coffee was probably as good as I’ve had in a hotel restaurant in Ireland. Mention should be made of the wine list. There was a good choice of Italian regional wines, obviously compiled by someone who knew their business. Service was attentive, though never intrusive. Overall, I would rate Talavera as exceptional value for money. We spent a touch over e120 which included two bottles of the wine waiter’s recommendations.
Talavera, Radisson St.Helens Hotel, Dublin 4 Tel: (01) 218 6000

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