Talavera – Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel, Dublin

A Night in the Kitchen at Talavera, Radisson Blu St Helen's, DublinI never did tell you about the time Patrick and I cooked up a storm in Talavera Restaurant at the Radisson Blu St. Helen’s, Dublin … did I? Well here I go …

Some months back, Patrick and I were two of an intimate group of bloggers and writers invited to a special ‘Taste of Italy‘ #BluBloggers event at the Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel, Dublin. As well as eating (and drinking) our way around Italy we also got the chance to cook up a storm in the kitchen with renowned Chef Giancarlo Anselmi AND because of the terribly hard work of eating, drinking and cooking while instagramming and tweeting we were given a bed to lay our weary bones at the end of it all! 

It was a special evening and an experience we were both thankful for. 

Our ‘Food Trip of Italy‘ experience began as soon as we arrived at the hotel with subtle hints of Italian flair in the shape of a stylish scooter parked outside the main entrance. On entering our room we were greeted with a bottle of chilled prosecco and some delicious ‘Baci di Dama‘ (popular Italian pastries originating from Tortona in Piemonte Region – The Name ‘Kiss from a Lady’ is got from the pastries resembling Kissing Lips) but for more on our stay, check out my post – Radisson Blu, St. Helen’s Hotel, Dublin – Our Stay in Photo’s because for now it’s all about Talavera and authentic Italian food and wine.

At 5.30pm that evening, the event kicked off with an aperitivo in the Talavera Restaurant. Here Patrick and I got to meet Chef Giancarlo, Yvonne McNamara; Radisson Blu’s Director of Sales, Declan Saunders of Tindal Wine Merchants who would provide a wine demonstration and wine tastings throughout the night, and the other guests. We were treated to tasty bites and prosecco. I wasn’t drinking at the time because I was pregnant, something that was not known amongst my friends for the night nor the hotel however my request of alcohol-free wine was delivered with no questions asked … so unfortunately I cannot give my verdict on the wine recommended however Patrick tasted enough of the wine provided for the both of us and he was very impressed with the pairings. 

Have a read of the Declan’s notes here …

SparkingProsecco di Valdobbiadene ‘Col di Manza’ Extra Dry Biodynamic, Perlage NV – not only the worlds first and only biodynamic Prosecco, but one of the few that can be considered a single vineyard cru Prosecco. A medium sweet palate with complex aromas of sweet citrus, herbs and white flowers, and zingy flavours of orange zest, white peach and mineral.

White WineJanare Falanghina del Sannio DOP, La Guardiense, Campania 2013 – 100% Falanghina. Straw yellow, characteristic fruity bouquet of good intensity. Acidity and sapidity increase progressively, giving a balanced, pleasant and refreshing wine.

Red WinesDolcetto d’Asti DOC, Alasia, Piemonte 2012 – Fresh, lightly spicy nose with red fruit and elderberry characters. Red berried fruit and strawberry notes on the palate. Medium bodied and spicy with fresh acidity and good grip – makes this an enjoyable food wine.

Janare Cru Lucchero Aglianico DOC, La Guardiense, Campania 2012 – 100% Aglianico. Deep colour with violet hints. Full bodied, good tannic structure and silky finish.

At 6.00pm we were led by Yvonne around the hotel for a brief but very enjoyable tour. We were told of some of the history of the hotel and got to see what the hotel had to offer with lots of little surprise features along the way, like the balcony from the reception rooms and the very gothic meeting room. I’ve featured these in my aforementioned review in photo’s.  

After the tour we went back to Talavera where Giancarlo gave us more of an insight into his experience, his style of authentic Italian cooking and about how he sources authentic Italian produce and uses fresh Irish ingredients in the kitchen. He also told us all about his kitchen brigade who are all talented Italian chefs who bring their own regional experience to the kitchen … shortly after this we were invited into the kitchen. 

Our Kitchen experience began at about 7.00pm. Giancarlo provided each of us with an apron to wear because we weren’t just there to observe, we were there to get stuck in … and that we did. We learnt of the fresh ingredients used. We witnessed a number of dishes in the making and tried our hands at preparing some ourselves including making gnocchi, one of my favourite Italian dishes. We watched demonstrations on cooking and really got a feel for what went on ‘behind closed doors’ … and I must say it was a smooth operation with not one fiery Italian word heard during all of service! 

… but it where’s the fun in cooking when you can’t taste the wares … well taste them we did and thankfully I kept the provided dining notes from the night as I could never remember all the names nor all the delicious dishes we licked our lips to on the night … and there were many … here are just some of my favourites …

Panzerotti – From Bari. These are one of the most famous and popular dishes from Bari. They are deep friend pockets of dough stuffed with mozzarella and tomato.

Piadina – is a thin Italian flatbread, typically prepared in the Romagna region. It has ancient origins. The etymology of the word ‘piadina’ is uncertain; many think the term “piada was borrowed from the Greek word for focaccia. The Romans troops had a sort of flat bread as a staple diet. It is a simple dish of rural populations, served with local Mortadella or Stracchino Cheese.

Arancini – named after little oranges are stuffed rice balls which are coated with breadcrumbs and fried. They are said to have originated in Sicily in the 10th Century.

Olive Ascolana – Olive all’Ascolana are from Ascoli, in the Marches. They are among the best-known Italian street food.

Risotto allo Scoglio – seafood risotto is a classical dish from the Sorrento Amalfi Coast but one will find that around the 5000 miles coast line – there are infinite variations of the famous dish.

Gnocchi al Castelmagno – Castelmagno is a very ancient cheese with origins dating back to 1277. Castelmagno Cheese immediately stands out for its intense and distinctive scent. It is characterised by a pleasing aromatic bouquet, finely granular in the mouth, with sweet tendency and an ending which reminds of the smell of almond, barely perceptible, typical of the cheeses of the province of Cuneo in Piemonte.

Cannoli – Cannoli is a unique and delicious Italian pastry believed to have originated in Sicily around the first century A.D. It is a tube-like dessert that consist of a crispy fried pastry shell filled with sweetened ricotta cheese.

Our ‘Night in the Kitchen at Talavera, Radisson Blu St Helen’s, Dublin’ was a night to remember, it was fun and informative. There is so much more to Italian food with regional history playing a massive part and Chef Giancarlo taught us this. 

The night for us ended with a very happy ‘buonanotte’ and a goodie bag full of ingredients to make Giancarlo’s favourite recipe – Risotto Al Funghi which I must share with you.

Patrick and I look forward to returning to Talavera Restaurant. Everyone from The Restaurant Manager to the Chef de Partie’s were welcoming. The food was delicious. We hope that Chef Giancarlo and crew turn their 2015 Irish Restaurant Awards Shortlist achievement for Best Hotel Restaurant into a win next year!

Talavera Restaurant is open 17:30 – 21:30 Monday to Thursday and 18:00 – 21:30 Friday to Sunday. For bookings phone +353 (1) 2186000.

Don’t Forget ↓

Edwina O'Connor
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