The famous Cilla Black saying “surprise surprise” says it all really. I was sat in KFC…yes I admit this is another one of my guilty pleasures! I asked Adam my boyfriend where we were going on our 3 day trip. We love our “mini breaks,”enjoying exploring and appreciating the beautiful English countryside staying in local B&B’s along the way. We have learnt the art of “countryside etiquette” if there ever was such thing. This includes saying “good day” to passing walkers; eating a full English for breakfast and of course a trip to the village pub. I would have been happy going to Wales which is where I had guessed, so when I heard Florence I was giddy with excitement!
Florence is a city with all things beautiful including the architecture, people, food and wine. We checked into the stunning Continentale branded as a contemporary pleasing hotel, situated right on the famous Ponte Vecchio.
After a lovely day of browsing the shops and exploring all the delights that Florence has to offer, our concierge booked a reservation at La Giostra whose doors have been open for 20 years. A cab ride away and apparently intentionally difficult to find, we pulled into the cobbled narrow street and welcomed into the restaurant by a mysterious looking man I believed to be the owner’s son. He was accessorised from top to toe with assorted silver bangles, necklaces and rings, and reminded me of a tribal leader preparing for a festive ritual. He had a calming aura about him and showed us to our table.
La Giostra which means “the carousel” has a personal, intimate atmosphere with only 16 tables. You are sat inside a piece of history which dates back to the year 1700, and was once a storage place for a local carousel…hence the name. With original brickwork, skinny candles flickering on the tables, copious displays of expensive wine bottles and lots of quirky artwork and photo’s, the restaurant has a beautiful setting and romantic charm about it. We sipped our Prosecco, (which was on the house) and dipped our bread in the deep green olive oil while we sat back and relaxed.
The menu has a large selection of dishes to choose from and of course written all in Italian the helpful waiter translated where necessary...which in my case where languages are not my forte meant translating practically everything! A plentiful selection of antipasti arrived at the table (another complimentary offering on the house) including bruschetta with plum tomatoes, chicken liver pate on crostini, marinated aubergine, roasted peppers, dressed celeriac and Italian cured meats. These bite sized tastes were all delightful and it became apparent I was going to be eating a lot over the next couple of hours!
I ordered “morelli” to start with. Before you pre-empted it, I have to say that I only chose this dish as it has my name in it! It translates as baby artichokes which were served carpaccio style dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Adam ordered giant asparagus with shaved parmesan.
For main course, astounded is an understatement when the wiener snitzel arrived at the table on yes a platter rather than a plate alongside various accompaniments. Adam is certainly a meat eater and has more than a healthy appetite; however this portion could stretch to feed a small army! I tasted some of course and size aside, the meat was tender and delicious with a light coating of crisp breadcrumbs.
I ordered a slightly more delicate main course of sea bass which was beautifully cooked, served with a medley of black olives, tomatoes, courgettes and potatoes which is a typical Italian combination.
During the meal service the owner’s son who I mentioned earlier casually sat down for dinner alone, and was served his ravioli and red wine. You could see the pride in his eyes as his eyes glanced over the restaurant where there was not an empty table to be seen.
After a lovely stroll back to the hotel, we skipped a visit to the gelaterie as we were so full. Adam said he had one last surprise and pulled out a ring box from his pocket. Overwhelmed with happiness and excitement and of course black mascara tears gently falling down my cheeks, I was on cloud 9 which is where I stayed for the next few days and couldn't stop smiling. Eek I’m engaged!
This dreamy restaurant is definitely somewhere to pay a visit to if you find yourself in this beautiful city.