Restaurant Review: Il Giardino, Rome

Tempus heads to the Eternal City for a Roman holiday, and meal, to remember

Rome, the eternal city. On a dry day in August, the streets are eerily quiet. The locals have escaped for the month, in their annual exodus to holiday homes and welcome sea breezes. The tourists – a mix of Italian accents and international voices – have the city to themselves and throng the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and Colosseum in modest volumes. For those wanting to walk the historic streets, where centuries collide on every other corner, this famously unpopular month is arguably a good time to visit.  

Heading up the Spanish Steps we admire the view before turning along Via Sistina; where the tourists fall away and it’s just us, and the gentle burn in our legs as we continue our climb towards lunch. 

Situated on a hilltop alongside the Borghese Gardens, Hotel Eden is an international legend, an historic gem. One of the first hotel’s in the city, the hallways have been thronged by celebrity royalty (not to mention actual royalty) since its opening in 1889, with names from Princess Olga of Russia to Ernest Hemingway and Sigmund Freud among the stars to grace its storied suites. 

Escaping the dry heat and dust of the city streets, we enter the cool calm oasis of Eden’s lobby. An ode to understated, sophisticated grandeur, a gentle fragrance (and blissful air conditioning) embraces us as we’re greeted with warm smiles. Ushered into the waiting lift, we’re whisked skyward, emerging, blinking, into the sunlit Il Giardino. Someone (I suspect me) utters an audible ‘woah’. 

Located on the sixth floor of Hotel Eden, itself perched atop a hill, it’s no overstatement to say the sprawling views of Rome unfolding beneath us are spectacular. 

As we’re warmly greeted and ushered to our table, we can hardly tear our eyes away from the stunning vista stretched out below. Seated, it takes a few moments to take in the restaurant itself, with contemporary curved wooden furniture and an abundance of light, giving a chic yet relaxed atmosphere.

With glasses of sparkling Ca del’Bosco deftly poured, plump olives and moreish spiced nuts grace the table while we peruse the menu. Orders taken – our host kindly slowing his rapid-fire Italian to something suitable for my rusty language skills – we happily chatter away.

The restaurant claims to offer “classic Italian food with our own innovative twist”, and a glance shows a menu which reflects this, but barely scratches the surface of what’s to follow. Carpaccio comes sliced so finely as to be entirely transparent, while the accompanying burrata is indescribably fresh and light – the comparison to the burrata bought at home that of night and day. Enormous grilled prawns jostle for attention against earthy pine nuts and fresh and mouthwatering watermelon, while Mediterranean hake comes adorned with a generous vegetable-stuffed courgette flower; zesty and fragrant. Stuffed to the brim we decline dessert yet, somehow, find ourselves swayed by the promise of tiramisu, which proves quintessentially Italian; airy yet intense.

Rome is teeming with authentic cuisine, from excellent gelato, to an abundance of hearty pasta and wood-fired pizza. However, for something truly special, you’ll find Il Giardino hard to beat. From a charming front of house team offering unobtrusive, friendly, attentive service you’d expect from such an institution (and Dorchester Collection property), to sensational cuisine cleverly elevating exemplary, seasonal Italian produce while allowing it to shine.

And of course, those views. Whether enjoying an early evening aperitivo at the bar, a light lunch, or dinner date as the lights of Rome flicker on, they capture your attention. If you’re not careful, despite Il Giardino’s excellence in all aspects, they may monopolise the experience…

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