After checking in at the Ambra Cortina, a luxurious fashionable hotel where we stayed for 2 nights, Dad and I were immediately whisked away into the Dolomites for a chance to taste some of the town’s best Alpine cooking.
Elisabetta, the hotel’s owner and our host for the evening, drove us and fellow travel blogger Fiona (from London Unattached) up a winding dimly lit road looking down onto the town. “It should be Michelin star!” she exclaimed in her sophisticated Italian accent as we parked outside a cosy chalet style building, a few heads laughing over wine inside.
We’d arrived at Al Camin, one of Cortina’s top fine dining restaurants. Walking inside, Elisabetta immediately greeted the staff as if they were family, showing us to a comfy corner of the room. Wooden walls were decorated with traditional crafts, each individually created by local artisans of Cortina who trade in laces, weaving and carpentry.
Al Camin is a family run establishment, owned by head Chef Fabio Pompanin and his wife Lorena, who swiftly poured us a glass of fine Prima Cuvée Brut. The restaurant was intimate and cosy, offering a warm, welcoming atmosphere only found in the friendliest of places.
A woven bowl of breads were brought to the table as our first taste of Italian red wine was poured from Fabio’s carefully selected collection. The choices of baked goods was grand, including a pile of addictive crunchy herb bites.
Sitting looking over the menu, it was easy to see why the restaurant was famous for fresh, seasonal produce and traditional mountain cooking. Deer featured heavily in each course and I couldn’t resist ordering the fallow deer tartar to start.
The tartare itself wasn’t as flavoursome as some raw meats I’ve had previously, but the combination of hazelnuts and porcini mushrooms was divine. Perhaps it was the exquisite presentation but I just couldn’t stop taking pictures of my plate!
The rest of the table each ordered the soup of the day after it received rave reviews from Elisabetta. The nettle soup was equally bright in colour and flavour; a creamy, warming appetiser.
In true Italian style, I decided that I couldn’t miss a chance to sample each course and with pasta being one of my favourite foods, the rosemary tagliatelle with rabbit and olive ragu was an unmissable dish.
This was perhaps my favourite plate of the night, a rich yet not too heavy bowl of homemade pasta, served with a sweet tomato based sauce. Although a fan of olives, I’m less favourable of their intense flavours when in a dish as they can be extremely overpowering, yet Fabio’s rabbit ragu was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had to this day.
For seconds Dad chose the grilled sea scallop with radicchio baked in foil, sprinkled in Parmesan and drizzled in balsamic. They were perfectly cooked and presented beautifully, a simple yet satisfying plate.
Next came the deer loin with raspberries, red onions and finferli mushrooms. A perfectly pretty plate, it received top marks from Fiona.
Lastly I ordered the poached egg with taleggio cheese fondue and black truffle. I was intrigued by how it would be presented and wasn’t disappointed when I saw a hot bowl of melted creamy cheese topped with a silky egg and thin truffle slices. It was heavenly rich, gooey and filling. Although a divine dish, I did feel that it needed a little texture, perhaps some toasted foccacia or similar.
As our plates were cleared, the wine was replaced with a vintage bottle of Livio Felluga Dolce. With each sweet sip we became more entranced by the irresistible dessert menu.
Feeling a little full, I selected the lightest sounding option of puff pastry cornets with ricotta and orange sauce. Independently the soft cheese and citrus flavours were beautiful, but together I couldn’t help but find it a bit of an off putting acidic flavour.
Dad on the other hand ordered the best pud on the menu, buckwheat cake with egg nog mousse and cranberries. Safe to say I had serious food envy of his festive choice.
Lastly Fiona selected the chestnuts parfait with persimmons coulis. It was presented like fudgey nut bars with a thick fruit sauce that was similar to that of a plum or date.
As our meal came to an end, we quickly popped our heads into the kitchen to meet Fabio. He was an incredibly warm yet modest man that despite the language barrier welcomed us into his space, showing us where he creates his beautiful dishes.
Stepping out of Al Camin, I was hungry for more. The passion and thought that had gone into each dish, and not just its flavour, was outstanding. I could fully understand why it was a Michelin recommended restaurant and loved by locals for its fine traditional dishes. If this is Italian mountain cooking then Mama I’m home.
Our meal at Al Camin was complimentary but as always all views are my own, even when I’m given bowls of perfect pasta.