DINING OWL AWARDS: 3rd – best for dates; 1st – ambience; 2nd – pre-dessert
When I visited: September 2015
Location: Lake Como (Bellagio), within the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni
Team: Ettore Bocchia (Head Chef)
Rating in the Michelin Guide: 1 star
What to wear: Men – shirt and jacket and nice trousers and shoes; women – a smart dress and/or smart trousers and a top
Ambience: Calm, tranquil, refined
Course of the meal: Fondant peach with raspberry sauce, almonds and nitrogen frozen ice cream
If I could change one thing: Stop replenishing the bread!
I was lucky enough to visit Mistral on my visit to Lake Como with my partner Owl and thought it had the most wonderful ambience and view of the lake. We went for dinner and watched the lights across the water while sitting on the terrace inside a glass box, with the glass in front of us down so that we could see straight out to the sunset and the stars.
Mistral is quite an old-school restaurant in that it only puts prices on male guests’ menus. However, the food itself is cutting-edge in that it uses the ‘molecular gastronomy’ that Heston Blumenthal is so famous for and which is shown off to best effect at restaurants like The Fat Duck. These contrasts are backed up by the gorgeous old-school music from a violinist, double bass and pianist that you can hear from the hotel lounge, which ranged from classical to pop.
The service was charming throughout. The maitre d’ explained the various menu options and the same server introduced each course. The sommelier was also charming and helped us choose a red Boca (2010), very dark and soft at 14%, and interestingly presented us with a ‘tasting glass’ to try the wine in initially before brining over the obligatory massive Italian red wine glasses. The wine list was reasonable, ranging from 30 and 200 euro.
We started with our usual glass of house Champagne each, with fish crisps, Parmesan, tomatoes and olive oil. The bread basket was also presented and then replenished constantly throughout the meal, as also happened at Vun – I couldn’t help thinking this was a bit wasteful as we really didn’t need a whole new basket, but the choice was great – tomato focaccia, very thin grissini (breadsticks), buttery croissants, wholemeal, cheesy twists and crescent white rolls.
The menu began with Sicilian red prawns with guacamole ice cream, coconut cream and cuttlefish ink waffles. Prawns are an Italian speciality and these were lovely and tender. The next course was “curdled” egg filled with sweet herbs and a tartare of “Fassone” beef; the combination might sound weird but it worked wonderfully. This was followed by celeriac dumplings (gnocchi) filled with peas, cream and caviar, which was nicely balanced.
The next course was turbot fried in sugar with steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes and leek sauce, which was lovely and light. The veal that followed was cooked at a low temperature with inuline Sabayon, fried potato and caramelised onions. I am not normally a fan of veal but in Italy it is often done beautifully and this was no exception.
I loved the pre-dessert – a “new Italian” mint meringue filled with wild berries, marinated strawberries and chocolate sauce. However, the dessert itself was the star of the meal: fondant peach with raspberry sauce, almonds and nitrogen frozen ice cream. We got the spectacular display of dry ice and the sumptuous taste of the ice cream and peach, and my partner Owl even got seconds when offered.
We were given an extensive tea menu when we asked for green tea, so went for a jasmine tea for a change in a cool tea set with a square theme; the teapot had a hole in the top for the leaf motif on top of the pyramid-shaped tea to pop out. We were also given mignardaises: a madeleine, a jelly, and a mini croissant with cream and fruit inside.
The quality of the food at Mistral together with the music, views and ambience makes for a heady combination. If you are in Lake Como, make sure to book this restaurant and ask for a table right out on the terrace.