As Oro Restaurant at Belmond Hotel Cipriani glitters with its recent accolade, we explore the culinary delights that await diners this season at each of Belmond’s Michelin star restaurants.
From the bounty of spring in Italy and the freshest edible blooms in Britain to the finest summer selections in Brazil... our imaginative chefs draw inspiration from the season’s best local ingredients to deliver a star-studded dining experience.
With its picture-perfect location on the tip of Venice’s Giudecca Island, views spreading out across the lagoon that leads towards the famous Piazza San Marco, dining at Oro is an ethereal and glamorous affair. An impressive domed gold leaf ceiling serves as the restaurant’s namesake (‘Oro’ means ‘gold’ in Italian), while a magnificent handmade Murano glass chandelier further accentuates the sparkle. To those who have experienced it, it should come as no surprise that the restaurant has been recognised by Michelin and awarded a star less than two years since its grand reveal.
The restaurant reopens for the year on 17 March, and Executive Chef Davide Bisetto has grand plans to ring in the beginning of the season. He has devised an exclusive menu, available only until the end of April, themed around the encounter between winter and spring. “It will be a legendary menu,” he enthuses, “with plates that combine early vegetables from the garden with the latest winter crops, such as cabbage and black truffle. At this time of year you get the best flavours from the meats and fish you’d associate with winter, such as goose and sea urchin.” Chef Davide is a master of his culinary art; earlier in his career, he was lauded for becoming the first Italian chef to earn two Michelin stars in France.
Dishes to look out for include Gnocchetti vegetali con primizie di Primavera; small gnocchi complemented by the freshest garden produce such as peas, artichoke, asparagus and fava beans along with winter staples such as cauliflower. Savour deliciously cooked goose with black truffle, rich flavours one would associate with colder months, given a fresh new vibrancy with the addition of the new season’s basil. Veal with turnip tops is perfectly paired with pistachio and castraure—the first small artichokes that bloom from the lagoon islands.
“Most of this produce is sourced from the Lagoon’s local gardens, especially Giudecca and Sant’Erasmo islands,” explains Chef Davide. This way he captures the true flavours of Venice at their most seasonal, offering guests a taste experience that truly and authentically reflects the time and place in which the dishes are served.
The Sizzle of Rio
As Europe shakes off the frost of winter, Rio de Janeiro is still in the full swing of summer. And right now, nowhere in the city is hotter than MEE at Belmond Copacabana Palace. Featuring dramatic décor and an elegant pan-Asian menu, this restaurant has become one of the most sought after dining venues. Take a seat, and you will be whisked on a gastronomic journey through Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Korea and Japan to name but a few of the restaurant’s far-flung influences. MEE’s trailblazing spirit was officially recognised last year, becoming one of the first restaurants in South America to receive a Michelin star. At present, it remains one of only six venues to receive the accolade in this happening city.
The restaurant is led by Executive Chef Kazuo Harada. This well-seasoned chef has some big plans to excite diners in the coming months. Not to be missed is the Kaki Ponzu; a colourful and scintillating dish of fresh local oyster, quail’s egg yolk, sea urchin and ponzu, carefully created to echo the vibrancy of summer. Brazil’s oysters are renowned as some of the best in the world, noted for their size and firmness, plus a creamy texture that pairs oh-so-wonderfully with their bold, briny flavour. Pairing them with the classic Asian ponzu sauce is a match made in heaven. “Ponzu is made from yuzu, a small citrus fruit originating from East Asia,” explains Kazuo. “It gives the ponzu an acidic edge that is tempered with floral notes, perfect for adding extra flavour dimensions to the fresh oyster.”
MEE is also home to Rejane Kowano, Rio’s only sake sommeliere. She is on hand to advise on the best sake to pair with each dish, providing a fully-rounded experience. For the Kaki Ponzu, she suggests sampling Nanbu Bijin Junmai Ginjo, a dry and full-bodied sake with pleasing floral and fruit notes that make an excellent companion to the zing of the dish. Alternatively, sample the cocktail of the season, Bubble Ink. An intense concoction of Zacapa rum, champagne syrup, orange saccharum oil and ‘electric’ jambu tincture. This Brazilian herb is used extensively in Chinese cuisine and medicine, with a pleasantly energising effect on the tastebuds. It’s a surefire way to liven up your palete and put you in a great mood.
Britain's Modern Classic
“Forget about any guide. Focus on your guest and what nature has provided, utilise it at its best and treat each item with reverence,” explains Gary Jones, Executive Head Chef at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire. The cuisine at this celebrated restaurant hotel is the vision of Raymond Blanc OBE, a vision which is lovingly realised by Chef Jones. “I personally only ever worry about producing good food, never about reputation. If the food is consistently good, the rest will follow.”
Gary’s approach to the food he creates has paid off. The restaurant has retained its two Michelin stars for 32 consecutive years, having received both upon opening. It enjoys a reputation as one of Britain’s best restaurants, and is a bucket list dining experience for many self-proclaimed foodies. As the seasons change, the menu also transforms to reflect this stunning time of year. Gary confesses: “Any time is a good time to dine at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons… but spring, for me, is nature’s awakening of new life.”
“The first signs of spring are seen in the wild garlic leaves, or ramsons, that spring from the shade of the trees in our Mushroom Valley. They produce sweet, pungent allium flavours that are a perfect match for our new season Jersey Royal potatoes, which we prepare into a shot glass of soup to welcome our diners.”
Other dishes include the long-awaited first season asparagus, sourced from a trusted Cornish supplier that is nourished with seaweed over the winter. It’s paired with gull’s eggs, which are limited in supply, harvested by specially licensed eggers and only available for a short spell. The yolks are a vibrant orange, full of rich flavour that is further accentuated by a little Jabugo ham or crisped smoked bacon. “The fact we have to wait for these ingredients is what makes them so special,” explains Gary, “they are at their very best for only a very short window. We respect what nature provides, and we deliver dishes when they are at their most colourful, nutritious and flavourful.”
by Daniel Hayden