Dine between the sea and the stars
A springtime sojourn may be far from one’s mind during the winter months, but given the shortest day of the year is mere weeks away and ergo the days shall once again start to get that little bit longer, now is the perfect time to start planning for warmer climes to drag us through the dark hours of January and February. Always good to have a little something in the diary to look forward to...
The diamond in the crown of this dream stretch of coastline holds court amid the clifftops above Amalfi; perched overlooking the glistening expanse of blue stretching to the horizon is the Monastero Santa Rosa, a luxurious hotel and spa escape homes within a spectacular 12th century monastery. You’d be forgiven for driving past it given its subtle facade, but the moment you cross the threshold you’re in some kind of Italian Narnia.
The Executive Chef Christoph Bob, an alumnus of some of the world’s most celebrated restaurants, has created a menu packed with the freshest ingredients and bursting with flavours inspired by the surrounding Campania region; think richly sun-ripened fruit and vegetables, herbs plucked from the hotel’s own gardens and plenty of seafood from that dazzling coastline.
With specialties like the appetizer trio of crustaceans, lobster with chickpea puree and smoked olive oil broad bean salad with Colonnata’s bacon and king prawn ravioli with Corbara’s tomatoes and candied lemon - and that’s just to start - each and every dish on the menu combines the freshest local, organic ingredients of the local fishing village of Conca dei Marini.
Given my penchant for a caprese salad (essentially having one with every meal during my week in Italy...) it had to be done. With tomatoes mellowed with months of Italian sunshine, the flavour in every mouthful was sensational, cutting perfectly through a creamy chunk of mozzarella drizzled in extra virgin olive oil. The il Crudo di Parma con Burrata spread of melt-in-the-mouth Parma ham, oozing burrata and a crisp bruschetta with yet more of the divine tomatoes was a hit, though a salad of rocket, tossed in lemon vinaigrette and topped with grilled prawns, figs and toasted pine nuts was less of a success; at first arriving minus the prawns, it appeared their flavour didn’t quite work with the accompanying fig.
For heaven in dessert form, the semifreddo with raspberry coulis and was divine; fresh and fruity, with exactly the right juxtaposition of sweet and tart. It’s probably worth stopping for lunch just for that to be honest.
Halfway between the sea and the sky, Il Refetorio is a slice of tranquility a million miles from the coastal road below with a heavenly menu to match.
Monastero Santa Rosa
Via Roma 2
84010 Conca dei Marini SA