Our experiences of Italian fine dining are few and far between. An excellent effort by restaurant Rubacuori at Chateau Monfort in Milan on our honeymoon was about it for our ventures into Italian high-end cuisine. So we decided it was about time that changed.
The Four Seasons name pretty much guarantees that you will receive an experience tailored to the more luxurious end of the spectrum. Checking out the Florence-based hotel raised our pulses in excitement. This is a beautiful property located in a quiet area of the city with a garden area to rival the famous Boboli at the Pitti Palace. A real oasis of calm in the lap of luxury.
Oh, and there’s a restaurant. Not just any restaurant – a restaurant with a Michelin star. Yes, this was to be our first taste of Michelin-rated Italian cuisine. A prospect that excited both of us especially when we realised that we would be enjoying our meal in the outdoor area serenaded by a classical pianist.
Getting to The Four Seasons isn’t too much of a hassle. We comfortably strolled from the Duomo area up two or three picturesque streets before turning into an unremarkable street that you would never assume houses a building of this stature. A walk of around 20 minutes in total. Look for the flags above the entrance and you have arrived.
Once inside The Four Seasons Hotel it’s like entering a different world. A beautiful array of expensive fashion items in glass cases and a lobby area fit for a king. Kind of like the Italian version of London’s Ritz Hotel.
We were guided past the rather swish bar area to the gardens which looked every bit as beautiful, if not more so, than the pictures. With 10 minutes to spare before the restaurant opened, we had the chance to take in the wonderful surroundings.
Seated beneath the large canopy, our menus were presented to us. The prices are fairly hefty, as you may expect from a place as grand as this. With appetisers going for around €27-45 (£24.15-40.26) on average with Caviar setting you back €160 (£143) should you fancy a splurge.
While you mull over your selections, the waiting staff supply canapés. A seat for a ladies handbag is also provided. To begin the meal, a little pre-starter from the chef is dispatched from the kitchen. A delicious salad of Shaved Leek and Asparagus with a Mousse of Mint and Pecorino. Incredibly fresh.
As we were the first wave of diners into the restaurant the place was rather quiet but nicely so. We ordered A La Carte going for Pici Pasta with Guinea Fowl Ragu, Chanterelles and Pecorino at €29 (£25.94) and the Cavatelli ‘Cacio e Pepe’ with marinated Red Prawns and Baby Squid at €36 (£32.20).
Both dishes were outstanding with perfectly made Pasta and the rich Ragu that glazed the strands of Pici Pasta all just brilliant. A great balance of homely Italian food raised to a level of elegance. The very fresh seafood was undoubtedly the standout star of the Cavatelli dish.
Unfortunately, some uninvited guests began to intrude on our experience. Due to being outside and having a humid climate at this time of year, not to mention the lure of some of the best food in the city, wasps began to surround our plates.
We asked the staff to be moved inside which, to their credit, they did without fuss or question. We felt really bad for them having to apologise for something really beyond their control but full marks for the way the situation was handled.
If anything, this didn’t detract from the experience. Quite the opposite in fact. We got to sit in the beautiful indoor dining room and enjoy our main courses. Iberico Pork Secreto with Jerusalem Artichoke Puree, Horseradish and Coriander at €49 (£43.80) and Roasted Turbot with Turmeric Carrots, Pistachio on Zucchini Veloute at €51 (£45.59).
The Secreto came beautifully presented with a rich, delicious sauce complimenting the high quality meat and well-made Puree. The Turbot was expertly cooked with all of the flavours working so well together. High end ingredients cooked with precision will always be a crowd pleaser.
By now other diners had started to join us due to the wasps ongoing shenanigans outside. I should also mention that the bread offered between courses was superb with fresh Focaccia and Pinwheels of Onion Marmalade the best of the bunch.
The wine also was a hit with a bottle of Tuscan red coming in at €40 (£35.77) comprising of a rich, oaky flavour that complimented our dishes very well indeed.
Just prior to the final course a pre-dessert came our way courtesy of the chef. A Melon Consommé and Jelly with a Panna Cotta, Rose Petal, Sugar Tuile and small Melon Jellies to accompany the dish.
Neither of us are huge Melon fans but this was superb, the Rose Petal added a floral yet subtle flavour that enhanced the dish. The following plate of small Choux Buns filled with Salted Caramel Mousse and Raspberry Tarts with small Daisy Petals on top was our next treat – all of which went down very well.
The dessert menu read very well with a good mix of French and Italian puddings. We opted for a ‘deconstructed’ Tiramisu and Baked Alaska both at €23 (£20.57) to round off our Italian fine dining experience.
Both desserts, by appearance, were a knockout. We have never seen a Tiramisu like this and probably will never again. A Mascarpone Mousse wrapped in a Chocolate Sponge with Coffee Meringues, Marsala Wine Jellies, a Coffee flavoured Microwave Sponge and a Sorbet on the side, Perfect flavours with those Jellies giving a real kick of alcohol.
The Alaska was Cherry heaven and one of our favourite combinations of flavour – Cherry and Pistachio. Thin Sugar Strands served as a wonderful decoration to finish the dish, simple in concept but deceptively complex. Well worth ordering if you find yourself with a decision to make.
A stand of petit fours signalled the end of our time at Il Palagio – or so we thought. The manager offered us a taste of their home made Negroni.
While we tucked into the Chocolate Macarons and the Apricot Jellies, we had a taste of the Negroni. To be honest, it was a little too strong for our taste. Extremely fiery and bitter with a higher concentration of alcohol than a regular Negroni. Not really agreeing with our palates.
The final bill rolled in at €268.50 (£240.12) which for the quality of location, food and experience (minus the wildlife) was actually very good.. We will definitely return the the hotel again in the future more likely as guests to really make the most of the hotel.
The grounds and facilities of The Four Seasons, Florence are just magical and are perfect for treating yourself once in a while. Enjoy the peace, opulence and a first-class restaurant experience.