Dinner at La Frateria di Padre Eligio
Had a remarkable dinner last night. Filippo Mangani, who does some work with Les Caves in Italy, recommended a few places to us, and one of them was La Frateria di Padre Eligio, quite near where we are staying. So without knowing much about it, we booked, found our way there, and entered with very few expectations.
It's a remarkable place. The restaurant is part of a project called Mondo X, and it is a community set in a restored 13th Century Franciscan convent staffed and run by ex-drug addicts (see http://www.lafrateria.it/). But rather than just be a humble, rustic eating place, it's actually a high-end, multiple-Michelin-star level restaurant in an idyllic setting. The menu is hand written, and there's no choice. We ended up being presented with eight courses (if you include a large selection of antipasti to start with), all hugely creative and perfectly executed. The wine list was excellent and extensive, but we modestly ordered just a solitary bottle (in addition to the complementary bottle of Prosecco) - a Schiopetto Pinot Bianco 05 from Collio.
The service was amazing: attentive, perfectly judged and not at all self-conscious or fawning. The food was memorable, if slightly excessive - these were not small courses. The bill was high, but fitting for this sort of establishment (253 Euros). I felt hideously underdressed in a T-shirt and sandals, but they didn't make me feel bad about it. Clientele was mixed: the restaurant was full, with about 25 covers. One Italian table, two American (there seem to be lots of Americans in high-end places in Tuscany, and few Brits), one mixed (businessmen) and one indeterminate.
Journey back was tricky (I got lost at one point and found myself driving through tiny medeival streets, and then we passed police and ambulances next to a car that had left the road in the torrential rain). This morning we are off to Montalcino.