Heinz Beck now has a mini-empire of restaurants, stretching from Italy (Rome and Tuscany) to Portugal, Dubai (which just opened), London (Apsleys) and (from late 2014) Tokyo. The flagship, Pergola, opened in 1994 and is situated on the top floor of the Cavalieri hotel, which is perched on one of the hills of Rome and overlooks St Peter's Basilica. The dining room tables are arrayed around the picture windows overlooking the city. The wine cellar here is vast: an array of rooms containing 65,000 bottles of wine, with 3,500 different labels offered on the list. There was even an extensive mineral water menu. Example wines were Lis Neris Lis Bianco 2008 at €70 for a wine that you can find in the high street for about €37, Jermann Vintage Tunina 2011 at €90 compared to a shop price of €49, and Guigal La Landonne 2000 at €660 for a wine that retails at €333. The nine course tasting menu here was €210, with a full a la carte choice as an alternative.
Bread was made for scratch in the kitchen and was of a high standard. Carte de Musica was extremely delicate, and the loaves were excellent, but my favourite was the extremely delicate pizza bread, served warm and as light as focaccia (19/20). A nibble of mussels with chickpea puree and Pecorino was pleasant enough, with the chickpea flavour very good, though it was hardly life-changing (16/20). Amberjack carpaccio marinated in white balsamic mint infusion and coated in pomegranate powder began the meal, presented in a cloud of dry ice. The fish was very good, the pomegranate working well; my only comment was that it was served very cold, so much so that some of subtlety of flavour may have been lost (18/20).
Scallops marinated in ginger and lime were next, served with black corn on an amaranth grain. The mix of textures worked really well, and the scallops had good sweetness, though for me the ginger and lime flavours could have been a touch bolder (18/20).
A pretty dish called "the water garden" used tapioca cooked with a herb consommé with scampi carpaccio, scampi, clams and avocado. The shellfish were very good, the tapioca not in itself adding a lot of flavour (17/20).
The meal stepped up a gear with "woodland", with dried porcini, truffle, foie gras and an artichoke crisp. This was superb, the liver flavour stunning, the artichoke giving a nice textural balance, a rich delight (19/20, pushing 20/20).
Fagotelli carbonara is the restaurant signature dish, and was as good as ever, the liquid filling of the pasta delightful, the seasoning precise (19/20). Black cod mash with celery infusion and crust was also excellent, the fish beautifully cooked and the celery having deep flavour (19/20).
A modern take on osso bucco was a new dish that involved a beef tartare with a jelly made from veal using a centrifuge served on crispy rice, with the traditional gremolata sauce here in the form of parsley, garlic and lemon on the side of the dish as a reduction. The concentration of flavour in the veal jelly was remarkable, with the lemon in the sauce providing just enough acidity to prevent the richness from being overwhelming. This was a spectacular dish, the modern technique here allowing the dish to not be too rich yet retaining its essential flavour and essence (20/20).
John Dory with liquorice crust, almond purée, white shrimps and salad was very pleasant, the fish good and the shrimps very sweet, the liquorice subtle (18/20). Venison salami with lardo di colonatta and artichoke purée had lovely flavour, the venison tender and the artichokes going very well with the dish (19/20).
The cheese board here is entirely Italian. Pre-dessert was green apple with caramel ice cream with caramel foam and crisps with white chocolate and little peanut nets. Mignardise appear in a little silver arrangement of drawers, each drawer containing a different dish. A mini tiramisu was spectacular, while assorted jellies were delicate, as were biscuits and a little cylinder containing creme patisserie. A wide range of coffees is available, served with yet more petit fours such as a fine chocolate with a passion fruit centre. Service was superb from start to finish, as polished as you could wish for. A typical bill, if you were careful about what wine you ordered, would come to perhaps €200 a head.
Further reviews: 19th May 2010