Vun restaurant, Milan

Hotel restaurants can often get away with being rather mediocre, serving overpriced and uninteresting food and yet filling the dining room every night. However once in a while you come across a hotel restaurant really worth seeking out, whether you’re staying in the accommodation or not. The Park Hyatt in Milan is an example of this, a beautiful hotel in the heart of the city with a truly special Michelin-starred restaurant onsite. Just steps away from the magnificent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and close to the Duomo, this is one of the best located luxury hotels in Milan.

The very approachable A5 sized English menu is clear and easy to navigate, which can be a real blessing for non-linguists. Vun offers you a choice of two dishes and dessert with coffee for a reasonable €52, or dishes can be ordered individually, as you wish. The staff were very accommodating of our request to share our meat course and helped us decide, pointing out the chef’s most spectacular recipes.

After toasting our arrival in Milan with a glass of Prosecco, we began our meal of reinvented Italian classics. We tried a selection from the main menu and can now recommend with confidence the four top dishes you must try.

To start, the most ethereal, spherical and peculiar caprese salad I have ever seen. Less of a salad, more of a sculptural work of art. It is almost too magical to touch or eat. A contrast of sweet and salty components, the main feature is a startlingly bright white ball: thick mozzarella foam encased in a fragile outer shell. Once broken the gooey cheesey interior contrasted well with the bed of sweet tomato.

I always find it a challenge choosing from an array of tempting pasta dishes but I’d heard that the “Fettucia” was unmissable. I have to agree. The thick strands of homemade pasta from Gragnano is cooked in a simple creamy sauce made with egg yolk and aged Parmesan cheese, flavoured with the distinctive and refined taste of summer truffles. It looked as spectacular as it tasted, topped with fine truffle shavings.

For main course we opted for Black Pork with cherries, smoked eggplant and cocoa Crüe. It was a rich and romantic dish, an intensely flavoured cherry-infused piece of meat. The smoked eggplant and cocoa added depth and balanced out the caramelised meat. It was an unusual range of flavours which I was initially sceptical about, but it worked miraculously well.

For dessert we chose two to share, our favourite was the light and succulent Peaches with white chocolate, Evo and Jasmine tea. Carefully arranged on a huge plate, there were so many different elements to admire. Peach and white chocolate is a popular pairing and here, with a hint of Jasmine tea, the flavours were wonderful. We easily polished it off, the finale of our four course feast.

Vun is proof that you don’t have to travel far for a fine meal in Milan – it is an asset to the hotel, a real bonus for guests staying here.

More information here: www.ristorante-vun.it

Joia, Milan

The Michelin star is the highest accolade and recognition of culinary excellence and expertise. Michelin meals are usually rich, meaty and indulgent. At Joia I experienced something utterly different and refreshingly unique.

Head Chef and owner Pietro Leemann is on a mission to create and share his love of nature and fresh, vibrant, natural foods. With Joia, he presents a fine menu of vegetarian creations exploring fruit and vegetables from an inquisitive and innovative perspective. Amazingly he can easily cater for gluten-free and vegan diners too. The food is the opposite of my previous Michelin experience – light, fresh, balanced and (best of all) beautifully bright.

After a brief introduction to the calm and collected Pietro, we agreed to his selecting the dishes, an array of his most popular and promising recipes. The meal was untraditional in its fluency – instead of courses, small dishes were presented to us in succession.

Blueberry risotto was bizarre yet oddly tasty… a bowl of blue rice with bell peppers, sword beans and eggplant; the eggplant and peppers giving weight to the dish while the blueberries offered colour and sweetness. ‘For Gavinda’ was arty and interesting, a pasta pile of buckwheat layered with zucchini doubloons was prettily presented with two sauces on the side; peas with lemon zest and potatoes with Lombard curry was a great combination of flavours and textures but it was a shame that it came lukewarm rather than hot.

‘Beneath a colourful blanket’ was a magical and experimental dish. A soft, foamy, thick soup covers a bed of vegetables… with each spoonful you discover a new flavour or new ingredient. Aside from the fun factor, this recipe is wonderfully balanced and seasoned perfectly. Cheeses are available for those who wish but we went straight to desserts.

Both puddings required persistence; they certainly aren’t your average fine-dining sweets. ‘Five Minutes’ is a terrine of chocolate and raspberries, raw-food water-based chocolate mousse, coconut truffle melon and lemon balm en brochette, a strong and particular palette of tastes. Aspects were delicious though I couldn’t help thinking it could do with a dollop of thick cream! ‘To your health!’ is the ultimate fruit feast, a sugar-free cake with a plum and almond base, figs and cashew pastry, with peach and rosemary sorbet… it was an explosion of colour and vitality, and was certainly the healthiest dessert I have ever tried.

This unusual and rare restaurant is bold and brave in its concept and immaculate in its execution. Pietro Leemann makes Michelin star dining accessible to all and encourages healthy and informed eating along the way. In a country so fond of its carbohydrates and long heavy meals, Joia is paving the way for a new kind of Italian fine dining.

More information here: www.joia.it