THE RESTAURANT, ARMANI HOTEL MILANO
Where I proceed, the Michelin inspectors follow. The day after my visit to the dining room at the Armani Hotel in Milan, it was announced that a Michelin star had been awarded to the restaurant. Now, you might suppose that I am not perhaps the most obvious person to be found enthusing about a seriously modern ‘designer’ restaurant located in a seriously modern ‘designer’ hotel. But this establishment on the via Manzoni in the centre of the city is the sort of place that causes even the most determined reactionary – and I am pretty determined – to put aside his aversion to modernity and enjoy its remarkable pleasures. I certainly did. I suspect you will, too.
The view from the restaurant – through its plate glass walls – is delightful. Dominating the panorama, as always in this town, is the Duomo. On my visit its pinnacles and spires were floodlit and showed virgin white again the darkening sky. Inside there was more clever lighting, under the black and white floor. I was taken to my table after a short period in the adjacent bar. The stay there was short, because it is immensely popular and is blessed with canned music, making it therefore both too crowded and too noisy for your correspondent. In contrast, in the dining room all was calm and quiet.
If, like me, you have hearing which is not perfect, you will need to be careful about which of the tables is given to you, or you might find yourself sitting opposite and quite a long way away from your companion. But my problem was dealt with promptly and courteously (promptness and courtesy being the hallmarks of the service here) and, after a few moments, I was at a large table, next to my companion.
I was told that everything in the building had been designed by Mr Armani himself. This included, of course, the glassware (made by Spiegelau), the beige napery and the dark suits of the staff. Certainly, the atmosphere was restful and harmonious – although, just occasionally, a door would open and some of the noise and ‘thumping’ music from the adjacent bar would dash in.
Executive Chef Filippo Gazzoli was offering a five course truffle menu for 175€, it being the season for the divine fungus, but I decided to go for four courses from the carte (for which you should allow around 120€).
I began with some really delicious Spanish ham – which was a ‘reserve’ and designated ‘5 jotas’. With it, and creating a startling combination of tastes and textures, came beer foam and panzerotto bread, which had been filled with cheese and deep fried. The excellence of this dish certainly deserved a Michelin star. My fusilli pasta was quite al dente and came with a strongly-flavoured sauce of rabbit confit, peppers, cheese, olives and liquorice. As I was in Milan, it seemed right to eat veal Milanese – which came in the form of a large cutlet, with pont neuf potatoes, cabbage and béarnaise sauce. I ended with a pear in Barolo wine, with rice pudding and lime sorbet.
The wine list has around 300 entries, ranging in price from 45€ for a negroamaro from Puglia to 4,100€ for the 2001 Pétrus. I was pleased to see my favourite Italian sparkling wine, Annamaria Clementi, Ca’del Bosco (in its 2006 vintage) on offer by the glass (25€). Among the tempting bottles from Italy include the 2011 Luce (250€) and these 2012 gems: Ornellaia (250€), Sassicaia (500€), Solaia (350€) and Tignanello (150€). And the 2007 Bordeaux vintage is represented by Cheval Blanc (1,560€), Margaux (1,540€), Haut Brion (1,560€), Mouton-Rothschild (1,430€) and Latour (1,640€). My own drinking included a good Brunello di Montalcino, full of typical black fruit (Castello di Velona, 2008 – 110€).
The Restaurant at the Armani Hotel Milano has now been visited by me, and it now has its Michelin star. These two blessings should make everyone in the kitchen very happy.