The Flair – Rooftop Restaurant at Hotel Sina Bernini Bristol is an opportunity to experience old-world Dolce Vita charm, while sampling a menu from one of the most exciting young chefs in Rome.
Chef Alessandro Caputo, Sicilian-born but Rome resident, has managed to pack a lot into his short career: spells at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck (3 Michelin stars), as well as at Michel Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche, (2 Michelin stars), two of London’s most influential restaurants. Before joining The Flair earlier this year, his latest role was as second chef to Massimiliano Alajmo at Caffè Quadri in Venice (3 Michelin stars). Yep, there’s a pretty starry theme developing.
Caputo joined The Flair initially as second in command to chef Andrea Fusco, but has now made the kitchens his own, with a menu that raids Sicilian fields and seas, whilst creating something modern yet subtle, with surprising depths.
Curious diners might like to book the chef’s table to watch the brigade at work in what is honestly one of the best looking kitchens in Rome (with THAT view).
However, in the warm months, it’s hard to say no to al fresco dining on one of Rome’s most iconic rooftop terraces. Earmarked for a modern upgrade in the next nine months, for now The Flair – Rooftop Restaurant offers simple elegance with views of Rome that make the need for more embellished flourishes largely redundant.
Dinner commenced with Caputo’s signature style – combining ingredients without ‘contaminating’ them – emerging instantly in this flavourful amuse-bouche. We were invited to hand roll these segments of flattened and stretched mozzarella, ricotta and tomato salsa into tight spirals and pop them into our mouths in one go – the result was an explosion of Mediterranean flavours.
The starter was another triumph of simplicity. Red prawn carpaccio made a handsome bed for a rosette of burrata, crunchy breadcrumbs, and parsley mayonnaise. Delicious.
It was time to see what Caputo could do in the pasta department as our tasting menu continued. These handmade tortelli were filled with stracciatella cheese, and served with cooked and dried tomatoes, before being drizzled with Millenaria tomato broth. The layers of tomato taste gave depth and reinforcement, serving as a reminder that the humble yet iconic tomato transforms in each stage and incarnation of the cooking process.
Caputo’s minimalist style had proved an immediate hit. I love the way that Italian cuisine at its best is often a winning combination of a few simple (quality) ingredients, whose differing characteristics bring out the best in each other. Caputo reduces that approach to the bare bones of taste, while producing dishes which are richly rewarding.
This risotto was breathtaking in its essential approach which allowed each of the subtle flavours to sing: mozzarella water, anchovy cream, lemon and caviar. An absolute triumph.
The fish-led dinner proceeded with this Pollock-esque main course – featuring a handsome splash of red fruit sauce, a swirl of pureed chard and fragments of smoked duck, setting off a fillet of yellowtail wrapped in a chard leaf.
I loved the ingredients of this dish, although the earthy flavours of the chard slightly overwhelmed the delicate fish. I chatted to Caputo afterwards about this, and he thought that my tasting portion did not reflect the superior balance of flavours in this dish, which is achieved when served at usual size.
It was time for dessert, and this was another Caputo signature dish: apricots in vermouth, served with black tea crumble and green tea ice-cream. This was a masterclass in textures, with the flavours balancing well and proving the perfect close to a high-summer dinner.
We couldn’t resist these handmade petit fours at close of play, combined jellied fruit with white and dark chocolate for a discrete denouement. All in all, this was a fantastic dining experience and I can’t wait to see where Caputo will go next in his subtle yet meaningful exploration of Mediterranean flavours.
Before leaving the terrace, I couldn’t resist gazing once again at that view: as the moon rose over Piazza Barberini, I was struck by the unique thrill of a summer night above the Eternal City, enjoyed from one of those iconic vantage points that stays in the memory for a long time.
The Flair – Rooftop Restaurant, Hotel Sina Bernini Bristol | Piazza Barberini 23 | Rome | Tel 0039 06488931 | Always open
Testaccina was a guest of The Flair – Rooftop Restaurant