On our recent visit to Munich, Mr Manning and I found ourselves searching for somewhere for an early dinner before our flight home. Carb’d out by several days of currywurst and chips, pretzels, and general bready goodness, we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to have another plate of traditional German food, so decided to try another cuisine.
Just off the main square, Marienplatz, we stumbled upon La Valle. Fairly unassuming from the outside, and less picturesque than some of its rivals, it was a gamble, but we were drawn in by the great looking menu and the fact it already had a few people dining – quite unusual, given it was that no-man’s land time between lunch and dinner.
We were seated by a friendly waiter and in the time it took us to check out the menu, a flood of people seemed to have the same idea as us and pretty soon the restaurant was full. Always a good sign, I reckon, although it could have been that once people see a restaurant has a few people in it, they reckon it’s a good bet, and really everyone is just sitting with their fingers crossed. Who knows!
So, menu surveyed, we decided to share an antipasti platter for starter. Devoid of any flowery descriptions and elegant words, the menu definitely undersold this dish. From the brief summary, we were expecting a few bits of Parma ham, some octopus and some pickled veg. Instead we got a platter full of a party of flavours, not only exceptionally tasty and well balanced, but aesthetically rather pretty too.
Salty deeply-flavoured Parma ham, tender as tender can be octopus piled high atop a shell, an array of pickled vegetables like carrots and cauliflower, roasted courgette and aubergine, sundried tomatoes, simple cannellini beans, and thick, generous slices of creamy mozzarella. All drizzled in balsamic glaze and olive oil, and topped with fresh basil leaves and another green garnish. The piece de resistance were the pickled onions, pickled in balsamic vinegar, which Mr M declared were THE best pickled onions he’s ever tasted. Apparently any pickled in ordinary vinegar just aren’t going to cut the mustard after those.
Antipasti devoured, as well as a few slices of the ciabatta bread that we just couldn’t resist, we moved on to another glass of Italian red and eagerly awaited our main courses. We all know about Mr M’s love of steak, but he has another foodie favourite – pasta. So obviously he was in seventh heaven at this place. He opted for homemade tagliatelle with octopus.
The pasta was tender yet still al dente, just the way it should be, while the octopus was full of flavour with not a hint of rubberiness in sight. It was all coated in a sweet yet tangy tomato sauce, full of fresh tomatoes and herbs that accentuated the taste of the seafood. Again, some fresh basil added a bit more flavour and served as a simple garnish too. Cue a satisfied husband.
I had opted for one of the specials – gilt-head bream with prawns. The fish was light and flaked apart, the prawns fat and juicy and it was all cooked in a yummy herby butter. It came with simple accompaniments of wilted spinach and potatoes boiled with tarragon, and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic again. The dish was light, fresh and tasty – exactly what I had been looking for in contrast to some of the carb-heavy winter warmers I’d been filling my face with.
Throughout the meal, as busy as he was, the waiter was friendly and efficient. The wine was good, the ambience low-key and simple yet vibrant with the sounds of a busy restaurant. As tempted as we were to stay for dessert (I for one find it very hard to resist a tiramisu when in an Italian restaurant) we had to leave to catch our flight, but left patting ourselves on the back for finding a little gem amid so much competition.
While I felt like a bit of philistine for eating Italian food in Germany – after all, I’m always banging on about having traditional cuisine while away – it was exactly what we needed and wanted at the time. So if you find yourself in our shoes after a few days of beer, schnitzels and pretzels, head to La Valle for a little taste of Italy.
Have you found an unexpected treat while away, some cuisine you didn’t expect to have in that particular country? Let me know your hidden gems and I’ll add them to my list.
We paid in full for our meal at La Valle.