Often has the question been put to me by my close collaborator Aaron Hayes, “Have you ever been to Vesuvio? Oh we must go!” Typically whenever I ask him he has no money, which is definitely the best thing to have when visiting this beachfront-based ristorante. Yes, the following meal cost me £41, thusly an establishment definitely worthy of Expensive Tastes.
Instead of Mr Hayes, I was joined by my colleague Miss Helen Lloyd, a fellow food and travel enthusiast who used to write food reviews for Thompson and whose passport and suitcase has seen the likes of Egypt and Portugal as well as Spain and Italy. The restaurant is only a ten minute walk from the hotel so I descended from work, taking advantage of the stunning clifftop views on the walk down. Helen was slightly late, which did not seem to bother the staff too much and they were more than happy for me to wait at my table, giving me a headstart at looking at the specials board. Sitting down at quarter-past six, we were informed upon booking that we needed to vacate by eight, and so of course we presumed we would have plenty of time.
The menu presents a gorgeous display of temptations, meat, pasta and fish. I was not diverted from the specials though – I was captivated by the Bream for my entrée and Misto di Calamari e Sardine for my starter. Helen chose mussels, or Cozze Primavera (see pictured) and a salmon steak accompanied by a langoustine.
In English, as obvious as it might be, Misto di Calamari e Sardine means Mixture of Calamari and Sardines. Having enjoyed many a Calamari dish in Italian chain restaurants such as Bella Italia and Prezzo, I was expecting to be presented with a small pile of deep-fried baby octopi accompanied by a few small, yet whole fish to make up the other half of the mixture. I was very wrong to assume so. The Calamari came out properly in the form of lightly fried rings. However, my sardines came out looking more like mackerel fillets (see pictured). Additionally, they still contained small bones. It did not taste quite like mackerel, but neither did it taste like sardines, which I always understood to be tiny little fish that one commonly bought in tins, but could be purchased fresh in Italy to go in pasta dishes (delicious, by the way). This starter was garnished with rocket and a mint yoghurt “salsa”, but it tasted sweet like something out of a Muller Corner. Rather pointless, to be perfectly honest.
Nonetheless a decent start to the meal. But having never had Bream before, although always understanding it to be one of the few fish that everyone should eat before they die, I had no idea what to expect (my expectations being so wrong so far, I dared not trust them anyway!) The fish came out 100% whole (see pictured), its little face partially hidden with rocket leaves, and coated in parsley, baby peeled prawns and a creamy shrimp and crab sauce. The latter did wonders for the overall taste and texture of the flesh. Once I had picked through the bones (of which there are many, but are to be expected of a whole fish), I found the meat melt in my mouth – as cliché as that might sound – especially in accordance with the delectable sauce. Of course one gets vegetables on the side but I only reluctantly ate any! That fish was enough on its own.
The little prawns were a nice touch, and Helen commented on how much easier it was for me not having to peel my prawns as she struggled to keep her hands clean with her langoustine, which had come perched ever so elegantly on top of the asparagus stalks, which sat across her salmon steak (see pictured). I could only sympathise with her as I have had such incommodious experiences with the shellfish myself at buffets such as Days in Bournemouth and restaurants such as Mambo in Torquay.
Having endured the two courses, Helen and I thought we would merely look at a dessert menu, even though we were most probably not going to have one. Of course the waiter brought it over and we not only found some very sumptuous-sounding desserts, but cocktails as well! For instance, Strawberry Daiquiris – my favourite (see pictured).
We decided there and then that we could not resist, even when the staff reminded us we had to vacate the table, and thus they relocated us out onto the al fresco terrace, overlooking the nearby beach. In early autumn, which is often more summery than August, the air was mainly that of barbeque smoke, but this was all forgotten about when we were brought our choices for dessert: the pair of us had chosen Raspberry Cheesecakes (see pictured). These came drizzled with mascarpone and a tart-flavoured “tuile” as Helen informed me it was called.
Quite unlike the White Chocolate Cheesecake I had had in Amalfi the week before, this cheesecake was more mascarpone-flavoured as I had expected it to be, but the raspberry layer was simply divine. The biscuit was solid; it was not drowned in alcohol. And as for my Strawberry Daiquiri, I could not have made it better myself (because I do not know how to make them).
I have to say since the end of May, I have found a contender for the best restaurant I have visited this year. Bearing in mind in Bridport, I did not have a three-course meal with a cocktail, and it did not come with a sea view, I think the extra money was to be expected. A price worth paying for such utter quality. Even the waiter congratulated us on how much we had consumed!