Discovering a Taste of Italy at Talavera, Dublin
Between gigs, work projects, a break away, a family wedding and an exhibition launch, it’s been a fairly hectic few weeks so it’s only now I sit down to write about a great night enjoyed at Talavera, the Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Italian restaurant on the Blackrock end of the Stillorgan Road in Dublin.
A few weeks ago I had been invited as part of a small group up to the hotel to hit the kitchen with chef Giancarlo Anselmi for what would be a journey across Italy from top to toe with some gastronomical hidden gems unconvered and cooked up.
In the hotel 16 years and counting, Giancarlo strikes a calm demeanour, extremely passionate about the food of his homeland and proud about the offerings of Talavera. While there are dishes on the a la carte offering to satisfy a broad range of tastebuds, the cuisine – and ultimately the ingredients – are primarily Italian. So too are the bulk of the restaurant and kitchen staff, by choice moreso than opporunity.
The mix of chefs and cooks in the kitchen from north, south and central Italy mean that different family traditions and ways of prepping food are allowed to creep into the cooking process, giving you a real flavour for food right across the country.
For my own part, it’s been maybe 15 years since I’ve last been to Italy but the food on offer for the night brought back loads of flavours, all complimented by some fine wine choices from Tindall Wine Merchants.
The night was divided between roundtable talks with the few of us in the group getting a real lesson on Italian food and wine with plenty to consume including some Panzerotti (dough stuffed with mozarella and tomato), Piadini (Italian flat bread), Njduja (spreadable spicy pork sausage), Arancini (stuffed rice balls), Panelle (fritters made with chickpea flour), Stracciatella, Fregula, Gnocchi and more besides.
In between courses, we all got to don an apron, spend some time in the kitchen prep area and rustle up some dishes, eventually at the end of the night walking away with some nice ingredients (and extra wine) to whip up some dishes at home. My Twitter account shows we ended the night with a variety of pretty strong Italian shots.
There was great craic in the kitchen and around the table, any question asked of Giancarlo (who’s a wealth of stories and experiences) or the management answered with gusto and as an experience – the food, the cooking, the accommodation (below) – it was a fantastic one to get at the right time of year for me too in trying to take a few days off work.
On The Hotel
While the bulk of the night was spent in the restaurant, an early arrival and overnight stay meant there was plenty of time to take in the Radisson Blu St. Helens hotel and grounds.
Before everything kicked off in the restaurant we were given the grand tour and history of the hotel. While it’s in the group over 15 years, there’s huge history and preserved aesthetic about the hotel, particularly with the gardens (which, incidentally for their size, have just one man responsible for the lot).
Accommodation-wise we were extremely well looked after, fresh Baci di Dama in the room on arrival with some drinks, cosy beds in a quiet room to the front of the hotel and Mrs. Any Given Food full of praise for the room service ordered while I got to cooking.
I barely recognised the restaurant the following morning for breakfast, a plentiful buffet that gets extra gold stars (from herself and myself) for having a supply of hash browns, a pure guilty pleasure of ours for hotel breakfasts.
It’s a real five-star experience and my thanks to Mileska and the Radisson and Talavera teams for the invitation. If you’re on the look out for an Italian restaurant in the Blackrock area with some quality Italian food, great staff to match and a bit of extra class about the place, then be sure to check out the Talavera and say hello to Giancarlo while you’re at it.