Last weekend, abandoning the idea of attending the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (where my partner was filming), I jumped on a plane to my home town: Venice. Only a couple of hours from London, the picturesque waterways of this historical island make an absolutely fantastic weekend getaway.
The weekend coincided with the ultra glamorous Venice Film Festival. And as the heavens opened I decided to escape the crowds in favour of a sublime lunch at Quadri, one of my favourite restaurants in the city center.
Quadri restaurant is located in St Mark’s Square, on the first floor of the eponymous historic café. It is the only restaurant in the square and it has run for centuries. Quadri’s doors were first opened in the 19th century by the Vaerini brothers, when they decided to extend the older café into a seated dining space. In 2011 history repeated itself and the restaurateur Alajmo bothers, Massimiliano & Raffaele, took over with the aim to make both the cafe and restaurant a Venetian exaltation of flavours, colours, tastes and culture.
For those who do not follow the Michelin Guide closely, Max Alajmo is the youngest chef in history to be awarded 3 stars at the age of just 28. He is chef patron at Le Calandre in Padua, in the family restaurant where he began his magical career.
The recently restored Quadri is a place where innovation meets tradition, Venetian craftsmanship in form of Murano glass chandeliers hang elegantly among Bevilaqua fabric covered walls. The traditional pattern has been cheekily updated with the brothers’ faces, a reminder to me that their spirit is always present. French designer Philippe Starck was the mind behind the decor and he has achieved something remarkable here.
There is a hint of English in this place too. The outdoor sign was designed by GBH London. The golden letters are half oxidised to represent the high tide that the building is periodically hit by, and the watermark left behind. (See picture below)
Most important of course, is what’s for lunch. The local area is the foundation of the menus’ creative focus, raw ingredients are mostly sourced from Rialto market and they come from either its lagoon or the nearby mainland.
Fluidity and lightness are achieved in each course. You can choose from a selection of 3 tasting menus, two named after the two brothers and one called Quattro Atti (Italian for Four Acts) which is designed to be shared and enjoyed together with your companions.
Attention to detail is at the forefront, each member of the staff serve with dedication and style (I would love to get one of their fashionable uniforms!).
I picked the Max menu (see it below) with two bespoke alterations to include my favourite Alajmo dishes: raw meat + caviar, and a dessert of vanilla custard. Head Chef, Silvio Giavedoni, kindly agreed and my food dreams came true.
Of course wine is as important as the raw ingredients, the cellar boasts an array of fine and rare wines from all around the world.
We ‘inaugurated’ our lunch with Champagne Bérêche & Fils which paired really well with our first course. Paul Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1985 came after, 33 years in the bottle and it still showed great energy and intensity, savoury and earthy hints balanced by elegant tannins and an unexpected fresh acidity…on point!
We ended with the aforementioned custard dessert and a double espresso, which is second to none in town. It can also be sipped at the counter in the café on the ground floor for less than 3 euros. Giamaica coffee is their brand of choice, a small independent coffee roasters near Verona which selects the finest beans, making in a year the same amount of coffee that Lavazza makes in two hours.
I felt nourished after each course and my soul lifted… a journey of Venetian taste.
When you are next in Venice, I would strongly recommend to include it in your itinerary!
AVOCADO CREAM WITH DENTEX
FISH CARPACCIO PASSION FRUIT AND BERGAMOT
FRIED VENETIAN FOCACCIA
WITH TUNA TARTARE AND TUNA BELLY GELATO
ANGEL HAIR PASTA
WITH RAW FISH AND SHELLFISH SAUCE
HAND-CHOPPED RAW BEEF, SEAWEED WAFER
PETROSSIAN DAURENKI TSAR IMPERIAL CAVIAR
AND OYSTER CREAM
WITH CHARCOAL POTATO PUREE
SMOKE, OYSTERS AND TARRAGON
CLOUD OF TIRAMISU