RESTAURANT, HOTEL LA SOLARA
If you are staying in the middle of the beautiful city of Sorrento, I have a good idea for an evening out. Go to the via degli Aranci, catch the free shuttle ‘bus of the Hotel La Solara, look out at the lovely views of the sea and the coast on the short ride up to the heights, and then enjoy a jolly good dinner in the hotel restaurant – before catching the same charabanc back into town. It will not cost you a fortune, but it will bring you much pleasure.
Of course, I must admit that the exterior of this four-star establishment might not stir much admiration in your breast (unless you are a devotee of The Modern), but the hotel is surrounded by a garden and groves of olive and lemon trees, which do much to lessen its severity. And inside all is both pleasant and comfortable. Certainly, when I arrived the welcome from Antonio at the front desk suggested that fine, old-fashioned Italian hospitality was alive and well at La Solara.
The dining room is large and has a wall full of plate glass windows to take advantage of the lovely panorama without. Thus it was possible for me to sit at my table and watch the sun set over the island of Ischia in the distance. There was canned music, but it was not too intrusive, and the members staff (in black bow ties and jackets or waistcoats) – many of whom have worked at La Solara for many years – worked hard to ensure that the service was both friendly and efficient. I was looked after particularly well by Marcello and Nello.
The food here is straightforward and well cooked. To begin, I paid a visit to the salad bar and brought back tasty portions of salmon, marinated tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and ratatouille. In fact, they were so tasty that I would have been quite happy to make my meal consist of the produce of several more visits. But then I would have missed the wonderful fish. Before that, however, I indulged myself with a plate of soft fettuccine, with tomatoes, ricotta, basil and almonds. Then it was a magnificent whole sea bass (for two), simply grilled and served with olive oil and lemon. This was served by the table – and served so expertly that not a single bone reached my plate. Soft, yielding and succulent, this was exactly what I always want a sea bass to be. I finished with a refreshing cappuccino parfait.
Apart from the champagnes, the wines in the cellar are all from Italy. Prices are exceptionally friendly and run from 13€ for a local rosé to 170€ for Dom Pérignon champagne. I quaffed a splendid, full-bodied chardonnay – from Sicily, but in the style of the New World – for just 25€ (Grand Cru, Tenuta Rapitalà, 2013).
After dinner, I paused for a while to listen to the jolly musicians, who were entertaining the residents sitting in the lounge. The hotel guests seemed to like their efforts, and so did I. Then I was back on the ‘bus for the return journey, happy that my outing had been so worthwhile.