When Taj Land’s End invited me around to dinner at one of their in-house restaurants – Maritime by San Lorenzo, my interest was piqued on several counts.
Helmed by Tuscan chef Alessandro Bechini, the restaurant is an offshoot of the eponymous San Lorenzo restaurant in Knightsbridge, London, and over the years has built up a quiet but steadfast reputation for serving up authentic Italian specialities.
And then there was that promise of an evening unlike any other, as our meal was going to revolve around a blind tasting…
Fortunately, we had ample time to settle in upon arriving and so were able to appreciate the understated elegance in the restaurant’s design before the blindfolds went on. I especially loved the clever woodwork which created a wave-like illusion against one part of the the wall!
Aperitifs were quick to arrive at our table – a wonderfully smooth bellini for me and fresh fruit mocktails for my teetotaling dining companions – while we hungrily broke into some crusty focaccia bread – freshly baked and then toasted with olive oil, garlic and herbs.
There on, things got really interesting, as dinner took on a unique sensory twist that sharpened the rich flavours imbued by Chef Alesandro’s recipes.
Without seeing the dish placed in front of me, I was left guessing each of the distinct elements of my Sicilian-style penne alla Trapanese in turn – the seamless blend of parmesan and pecorino cheese… the herbs… and the nutty undertone from crushed almonds & pistachios that added a lovely crunch.
Tarunna took as much joy in discovering the textures underlying the deceptively simple Spaghetti Schillaci, that Chef had prepared to suit her vegan disposition. Her husband on the other hand was having far too fun much photographing us so was conveniently excused from the blindfolded proceedings!
We also had a blind tasting of our soups, which thankfully were presented in miniature cups (clumsy moments averted).
A decadent truffle-scented porcini mushroom soup for T and a hug in a mug for me – in the form of a hearty minestrone, which featured an earthy medley of root vegetables and green beans, laced with pesto and smoothened by a subtle hint of parmesan cheese.
And speaking of cheese, I have to say that the burrata (an absolute favourite of mine) was a thing of simple beauty. Presented just with fresh tomatoes and a touch of pesto, we savoured each buttery bite.
Things resumed on a much more graceful note after that – blindfolds off, we were handed our personalised menus for the evening.
Given that the restaurant is famous for its seafood focus, T’s hubby went for a Trancio di Branzino al Vapore.
That’s steamed sea bass to you and me!
He found it well-balanced and cooked with finesse – the dash of artichoke cream going a long way in enlivening the dish.
Meanwhile, T and I found that there are few things better than a hearty pasta done right on a Saturday night.
Although the menu is rooted in traditional recipes from Sicily and Calabria in Italy, it’s been tweaked over time to cater to Indian tastes, particularly our predilection for the spicy – as the extreme fieriness of the arrabbiata went to show!
Paired with a well bodied glass of Chianti, there was also a lovely, comfort-food quality to the fresh, wholesome flavours bursting forth from my wholewheat spaghetti with pesto and green beans.
I was opportunely using the evening to experiment with a new mirrorless DSLR camera (the Sony Alpha 5000)… So let’s just say that the mini #foodtography session that had started during dinner escalated with the arrival of dessert, which always makes for the prettiest of subjects, don’t ya think?
We plumped for a crumbly apple pie and a chocolate fondant… But if I’m being honest, neither quite hit the spot.
The tart sourness of the pie (a feature of the green apples used in the making) was a bit unexpected, while the fondant was a tad dry and missing that gooey decadence we were hoping for.
But the vanilla ice cream – smooth vanilla bean with a subtle zesty note to cut through the rich creaminess… well now, that’s a whole other story and one that had us asking for seconds and then thirds and fourths!
Seeing as the evening would have been incomplete without a traditional Italian liqueur to wash it all down with, the ever-so-hospitable team at Taj went one step further – presenting us with elegant mini-bottles of limoncello to take home!
Good food, good vibes and good friends… all the makings of a great Saturday night mood wouldn’t you agree?
Maritime By San Lorenzo, Taj Land’s End, Byramji Jeejeebhoy Road, Bandstand, Bandra
I was a guest of the Taj Land’s End but as always, hog full credit for my opinions.