The Hotel Raphaël is part of the Relais & Chateau group and is situated close to one of my favourite areas of Rome, the Piazza Navona. Not only is this hotel beautifully decorated and known as one of the most charming places to stay in the area, it also hosts a collection of art and even a collection of Picasso ceramics.
The Hotel Raphaël is not simply a luxurious place to stay though, it houses one of Rome’s leading vegetarian restaurants, and it is here that Mr Green V and I were invited to dine.
Before we get started, I just want to say, that our evening at the Ristorante Mater Terrae was the highlight of my year. Regular readers will know of my affinity with Rome, so to be able to work with a hotel and restaurant in my favourite city that prides itself on offering exquisite vegan and vegetarian food, really was a dream come true – grazie mille Hotel Raphaël!
The Mater Terrae restaurant is on the 6th floor of the hotel, completely vegetarian and with an impressive variety of vegan dishes, and all the ingredients are organic, with a lot of the menu gluten-free too. Sometimes I find that when dining at exclusively vegetarian places, the menus are sadly still very dairy/eggs/honey heavy, with only a couple of vegan options, and the feeling that they are only there as an afterthought.
The menu at Mater Terrae has been designed by famous Italian chef Pietro Leeman, whose own restaurant in Milan, Joia, is Michelin-star and 100% vegetarian (we also had the pleasure of dining there too, but that’s for another day!).
When we arrived at the restaurant, on the Terrazza Bramante, we were shown to our table, which honestly just took my breath away. We were seated in pride of position, on our own round table, with the backdrop of Roman ruins and dusky rooftops as the sun was beginning to set. It was also rather nice to be seated a little further away from the other guests, so we could chat at our usual level.
In winter time, the top terrace is shut, so I recommend you go in spring or summer. It’s such a beautiful location, and you can actually see St Peter’s Basilica and the Pantheon as you dine.
We were welcomed by sommelier and chef de rang, Gianmarco Boscolo Camilletto who looked after us all evening. He was from the north of Italy, and it was really interesting to hear some of his story, especially as he trained at the Joia Academy in Milan, so he really was well versed in vegan and vegetarian haute cuisine.
We opted for two tasting menus, naturally, I chose the vegan one, and Mr Green V picked the vegetarian. Before we began with the food, it was time for some Prosecco to toast the evening, a perfect way to start the experience!
For every course, we had a different wine, that was paired with the food we would be enjoying. Not only did this allow the delicate flavours of the food and wine to really be tasted on our palates, it also gave us chance to explore a wider range of wines that we usually experience. Typically, Mr Green V and I usually stick with French wine, because we know what we like and obviously living in Belgium, there’s plenty of the French vino available.
Have you noticed how most wine bottles suggest what food the wine suits best? It’s usually focused on meats, poultry, fish, cheese etc, so this was a fantastic opportunity to learn about what types of vegan food the selection of wine, Champagne and prosecco should accompany.
Our tasting menus offered a selection of courses from the main restaurant menu, and I recommend this approach wholeheartedly. There is so much choice, and by going for the tasting option, you’ll try a variety of different flavours and textures that will heighten the experience.
Here’s some of the vegan tasting menu:
Not only did everything taste exquisite, but the presentation was on point for every serving. We had an introduction to each course, and it was wonderful to gain further insight into what we were eating, and why.
Some of the vegan options available included:
Hummus with spinach and sweet and sour peppers, with tender buckwheat blinis
Baby carrots, mushroom and marjoram terrine, with spouts and eggless mayonnaise
Mixed salad with crudites, Datterino tomatoes, strawberries, toasted seeds, avocado sauce and herb-flavoured citronette
Rich cannellini bean pureed soup with roasted spring vegetables and Sicilian citrus-scented extra virgin olive oil
Slightly spicey Sentatore Cappelli spaghetti with fresh baby tomatoes and basil sauce
Captivating saffron risotto with green asparagus and artichoke and a slightly smoked carrot mousse
Soft pea tarte served with spinach and apple salad, roasted Shitake mushrooms and slightly spiced almond cheese
Light tempura of asparagus, green beans, lentil falafel, traditional croquette, breaded seitan and sweet and sour sauce
Cashew and hazelnut Bavarese, with strawberries, fresh fruit and mango sorbet
It’s no secret that I adore Italy, and I’m madly in love with Rome, but it really is true – Roman hospitality is on another level to what I experience in the UK or Belgium, in fact, a great many countries can learn a lot from Italy and the Italian approach to service and manners.
Our dinner was sublime, a true experience on every level. I particularly enjoyed how we didn’t feel rushed to finish, and even though we spent some time after we had eaten taking photographs and simply just admiring the view, we didn’t feel under pressure to leave.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Rome and you only eat in one place, please do head to the Hotel Raphaël. I promise you will have a fantastic time with delicious food, excellent service and the most wondrous Roman backdrop as you dine Al Fresco.
Book your table here.