La Pergola is perched atop the Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria (formerly the Hilton) - a ghastly yet authentic relic from the 1970s that is yet to realise that interior design has long since moved on - with impressive views looking down on to the city below. As Rome's only 3* restaurant, my expectations were not unjustifiably high. Sadly the decor of the room itself blends seamlessly with the hotel's, so the 1970s nostalgia continued. Ironically, a lot of the furniture in the restaurant is antique yet the 1970s elements and the way that the room has been designed makes it look as if it is all reproduction which I am sure isn't the intention.
It is now getting on for nearly six months since I dined here so I shan't provide a course by course report, rather I'll focus on the thoughts that remain foremost in my mind, so if you like something of a distillation of what I liked and what I really wasn't impressed with.
Whilst the water menu was doubtless innovative initially, perhaps it is now time to move on... does anyone really order a EUR 200 bottle of water for anything other than the novelty of it? Similarly the salt selection is quite fun, but again feels like a novelty.
The wine list is undeniably extensive and arrives as a very heavy leather bound volume (in keeping with the decor of the restaurant) rather than an iPad which is so much more user friendly; markups are very fair especially for a restaurant at this level. The topping up of wine and water throughout was patchy at best which just isn't acceptable; so much so that I still had about a third of a bottle of wine left to finish when the savoury courses had ended.
The food itself is generally very good (as you would expect)... the fish dishes were all very well executed and married complex techniques and flavours and were light and fragrant using wonderfully fresh fish and vegetables. The absolutely standout dishes were the pastas; the famous fagotelli were a delight and executed with such a delicate touch. A prawn pasta dish had a sauce worthy of any French restaurant that had such a shellfish depth that was juxtaposed with fragrant orange, simply incredible.
The sweet dishes in terms of complexity and quality were a notch down from the courses that had preceded them; they lacked finesse. Worst of all were the mignardises and petit fours. The chest of drawers that was presented at the end of the meal contained chocolate themed items, none of which were remotely impressive and were the sort of thing that would have been forgettable and just about forgivable at a restaurant pushing for 1* status; hugely disappointing. To accompany these was the most expensive mint tea that I've ever been served; the theatre of freshly snipped herbs is a nice touch, but having had the full tasting menu and wine would it really be too much to include a cup of tea in the price? As always, it's the small and seemingly insignificant things that one remembers.
At the end of the service a "meet and greet" from Heinz Beck was a nice touch.
Overall the quality of the dishes was inconsistent - especially items from the pastry section - and the service was a bit patchy in places; it was a very pleasant dinner but - and for me this is the real test of a restaurant - I feel as if I've ticked the La Pergola box and have no desire to ever return. The only thing that might tempt me back would be the pastas as they were exceptionally good...
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