A few weeks ago, I was invited to spend an evening at the Radisson Blu, St Helens Hotel, Dublin. And boy was I excited at the prospect! You just have to check out the beautifully restored estate hotel online, to see that it is exactly my cuppa tea. The mid 1700s estate hotel, which is now an Irish National Monument – has been so wonderfully brought back to it former glory, after falling into a state of disrepair. The extension, that now houses over 170 rooms, matches the original stone perfectly, and almost looks like its always been there!
Coupled with the beautifully manicured gardens, and cosy, classy beadrooms – I would probably move in given half the chance! Though Im not so sure they would be so welcoming to our menagerie lol….. You can see the view from our bedroom below. Whats not to love?
And as I mentioned before, the bedrooms themselves were absolutely lovely. From the comfy beds, to the fancy chairs – I could have happily relaxed in the bedroom for more than a couple of days.
As you may have expected – the true reason for this journey to Dublin, was indeed about the food! And as soon as we checked in, my mouth was watering. A sample of the night ahead was provided, with some prosecco to calm the pre event nerves! The Baci di Dama, an Italian specialty from Turin, provided a sweet treat to enjoy whilst getting myself organised. The chocolatey, hazelnutty loveliness – certainly something I will be giving a go in the near future!
But this is when the evening really kicked off – it was time to meet my fellow bloggers & journalists, and get stuck into our immersive cooking experience with Giancarlo & the team at Talavera Restaurant.
I need not have been nervous, we were welcomed like old friends, and whipped off on a tour of the hotel & its grounds with Yvonne Mcnamara, where we were allowed a sneaky peak into all the wonderful meeting rooms, and banqueting space the hotel has to offer, as well as what used to be the master bedroom! After which we were treated to a quick tour of Italy from a wine perspective from Richard, Tindal Wines. Which was obviously right up my street, and very interesting. My favourite wine of the evening being Janare Falanghina del Sannio DOP, La Guardiense, Campania 2013. I can not remember tasting a 100% Falanghina before, but I shall be sure to hunt it out again in the future.
During this time Giancarlo had started to wheel out the first of many courses of authentic Italian goodness. Giancarlo has been at the hotel for the best part of 16 years. And, with his mainly Italian staff, has set about creating a menu, that is hard to find outside of Italy. Or even in Italy for that matter. With an eclectic mix of hidden gems taking in every corner of Italy – it was a fantastic opportunity to try dishes that have been passed down from mothers, grandmother and beyond. As all the best dishes tend to be!
The opportunity to get involved in the kitchen was something I relished, even if my Panzerotti did explode in the fryer…. My gnochhi were cute! And something I watched carefully, as I have been dying to make my own for some time now. I literally took a million photos, so OI have included a little collage of some of my favourites below, but underneath I have some photos of some of the very tastiest morsels! And yes.. it was very hard to fit it all in…. I did pretty well though though ♥
I am 100% positive that there is a more glamourous name for this messy little lovely, but it escapes me – what I do remember is that it is pigs lard… basically pigs lard on toast! Is there any part of our pig friends that isnt yummy? The texture was a little odd, but id encourage you to give it a go if you do get the chance.
One of the dishes we got to have some hands on fun preparing was this Gnocchi al Castelmagno. Castelmagno is a historic cheese dating back to 1277 and is truly stunning. Slightly sweet with a touch of almond on the finish. And superb with the gnocchi. Perfectly indulgent.
The seafood Fregula was probably my top taste of the night – very fresh and light, choca block full of scrummy clams, a dish I could imagine enjoying on the sea front on a sunny Italian evening…. ah, if only!
Now for the Bottarga – salted, pressed & dried roe of grey mullet. We initially tried it in little pieces – and it was wierd… kind of like a fruit gum made with strong flavoured fish…. But once it was grated and served with a fresh spaghetti dish it really did add a pleasing saltiness. I really interesting flavour I would try again.
All rounded off with this little parcel of dessert. The Seadas is a large round cheese fritter full of pecorino. The two textures, crispy pastry & soft creamy cheese, work well together. All topped off with a drizzle of honey – a number of my favourite things rolled into one!
A real treat of an evening thanks to Giancarlo & his wonderful kitchen staff. Along with the front of house who offered effortless charm, and Yvonne & Mileska, who felt like friends I already knew. I dont hesitiate in recommending the Talavera restaurant as a location to head to for both a special occasion, or a bite to eat at any given chance. The restaurant coupled with the wonderful Orangerie Bar & the stunning rooms provide a little bit of old country charm, nestled in beautiful gardens, yet only a short car ride from the big smoke. A great spot for any day – or perhaps every day 😉
Giancarlo kindly packed us off with a recipe and some ingredients for Risotto Al Funghi – look out for that some time next week. I promise it is a good’un!