Today, my Italian friends around the world, I’m taking you back home.
No, have no fear; you won’t have to make your way to the airport because, just in case you weren’t already aware, there’s a little piece of lovely Italy right here in London, hidden away behind the doors of a fantastic building that overlooks the wonders of Kensington Gardens. Today I am going to take you to taste a lavish aperitif at the Baglioni Hotel London, a 5 star establishment with that unforgettable Italian touch.
As an Italian who has been living in London for years, I am always sceptical when people come to me to sing the praises about the dishes and traditions of my country. But there are times, occasionally, when I find a pleasant surprise or two lurking just around the corner. Come with me and let me take you on a journey of delights, just like the one the one I had the privilege of experiencing recently.
According to history it was the Romans who first invented the aperitif, the mulsum, a drink made with wine and honey with which they began their banquets.
Centuries later, however, the ritual of the aperitif remains an established custom throughout the country. There are in fact, many Italians who decide to meet up after work, perhaps for a drink and to sample small morsels of dishes that are more or less representative of our own local cuisine.
Perhaps the most famous aperitif is the one that originates from Milan that made the Negroni – a drink containing gin, Campari bitter and red vermouth – so famous around the world. But there are many alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks that can accompany this delightful late afternoon ritual.
Have you ever tried a Spritz? Invented in Venice, this cocktail – which originally contained Prosecco wine and Aperol (an Italian aperitif) – is the perfect accompaniment for snacks and the dishes of the traditional aperitif.
It’s an Italian tradition that it is difficult to replicate skilfully and yet here, in the Brunello Lounge & Restaurant of London’s Hotel Baglioni, you’ll get the chance to experience one of the more genuine moments of Italy’s Dolce Vita.
You simply have to walk into the rooms of this splendid building, or perhaps if you too happen to have the good fortune of experiencing one of those glorious summer days that London occasionally bestows on us, you might do as my friend and I did and sit on the terrace overlooking Kensington Gardens and soak in the unique ambience of this special place.
The hotel’s staff will take care of everything else. Almost all are of Italian origin and their professionalism and courtesy made us feel spoilt throughout our entire experience here.
And so, having cast my initial scepticism aside, I had the opportunity to discover a piece of my beloved Italy in one of London’s most beautiful locations. My tastebuds also revisited the pleasures of land, sea and clean air.
When the moment came to choose a drink my friend and I opted for a Negroni which, when made the way it should be, is the perfect accompaniment for the delicious foods we had the opportunity of tasting.
You have never been to Italy if you haven’t tasted the country’s cold cuts of meat such as mortadella with its beckoning aroma designed to whet your appetite enticingly, or the cooked hams and salamis which should be enjoyed with excellent Italian cheeses like the world-famous Parmigiano Reggiano for example.
When this platter arrived crammed with delicious delicacies, I felt as though I was travelling back in time, as if I were suddenly sitting in one of the loveliest corners of Rome’s Trastevere district, or perhaps on a terrace overlooking the Adriatic. The bread basket contained small portions of specialities from all over Italy: Sardinia’s Carasau bread, grissini (breadsticks) from the north of Italy or the less well-known Apulian focaccia. As if this weren’t enough to satisfy our hunger for good food, more surprises were just around the corner and within a few minutes our table received a plate of the wonderful bruschettine (toasted bread) with tomato and burrata – a cheese that is typical of southern Italy and yet difficult to find in many of the regions of the country itself.
But as they know how to do things in style at the Baglioni Hotel London, they even arranged to serve a taste of the sea in the form of the traditional dish of fried calamari squid, a delightfully light dish which is typical of the Italian coastline and which, when enhanced with a drop of lemon juice, satisfies even the most demanding of palates.
Having enjoyed this voyage through the flavours of my country, I could not resist asking for an espresso which, together with some fabulous dainty sweet delights prepared by Chef Claudio Milani, made for a beautiful ending to a unique experience.
Although this aperitif has every right to be described as being lavish, the price was anything but. At £15, this Italian ritual that takes the place of a regular evening meal is something that you, lovers of Italy living in London or elsewhere who happen to be visiting the city, cannot fail to enjoy.
Cristina Carducci was born and raised in Italy. Cristina worked in Rome for many years as journalist until in 2010 she left the land so lauded by poets to move to London. Here she began working as a blogger, with a mission to tell the Italian community in London about the wonders that the city has to offer. LondrachiamaItalia was thus launched. With Italy in her heart, she began looking for a little piece of it here and so, through her various contributions as a freelancer; she began to discover and share the loveliest parts of Italy hidden away in different parts of London. She is also on Twitter and Facebook
If you really want to experience the Italian cooking of Chef Claudio Milani, who prepared this authentic Italian aperitif for Cristina, the Brunello Restaurant at Baglioni Hotel London looks forward to welcoming you. The unfussiness of traditional Italian cooking courtesy of a great Chef springs from his adroit combination of menus with recipes representing traditional Italian dishes and the use of fresh seasonal ingredients which evoke true Italian flavours.