There are some evenings that are just unforgettable.
I can't quite put my finger on exactly what it was that makes this particular day so special but in the weeks that followed, little moments from the evening would pop into my mind. Something as simple as our walk alongside the canal. Or when we stopped for a drink before dinner and watched the dog at the table next to us do his very best to get his nose in the middle of his owner's plate.
At the end of April, we headed to la Darsena di Milano, the newly restored section of the Navigli network. Once upon a time, Milan boasted many more canals than it does today. Some of them were designed and engineered by Leonardo Da Vinci and they helped transport the impressive pink marble that makes up the city's Duomo cathedral into the city centre. The Navigli canals were around for a long time but most of them were built over to create roads and car parks.
To the delight of many in the city, the Darsena (which means "the dock") has been uncovered at last. Whilst the day of its uncovering was a relatively grey and cool one with great clouds threatening rain on the horizon, the bridges and pathways were packed as if it were the height of summer.
I saw on Twitter the other day that they're considering opening up even more of the old Navigli in the centre of the city. It would be such a credit to the city for it to be restored to its former glory. Just around the corner from Michele's apartment, at the Carlsberg restaurant (a great place for easy Italian food by the way, it ticks all the boxes: checked table cloths, candles in wine bottles, pizza, pasta, cheap alcohol - hello!) you can see the remains of the old locks just outside.
It's so lovely to have a space like this in the centre of the city. Admittedly the mosquito population has thrived as a result but with a bit of repellent (I saw Autan advertising down by the waterside the other day, sneaky tactics) it's a wonderful place to go in the evening, especially with the bustling bar and restaurant scene along the main Navigli.
On this particular day, we didn't take advantage of the nearby locali.
Instead we walked out, away from the city centre and towards a restaurant that has been on my to do list for a very, very long time. Stopping off for a quick drink at Sacrestia (a bar that used to be a pharmacy that has a decidedly gothic feel about it - I almost expected my drink to be brought out in a skull!) we made our way out into the almost-countryside.
Erba Brusca boasts a restaurant that uses ingredients from their own kitchen garden just out the back. In the Summer, you can sit outside and eat the best the garden has to offer whilst relaxing right in the middle of it. During the cooler months, you can still enjoy the rural location in their inside-outside room.
And thank goodness it has a roof because it poured down halfway through the evening!
The menu at Erba Brusca changes with the seasons, as can be expected, so you'll never know quite what's going to be waiting for you until you get there!
We went for the tasting menu and were treated to a series of rather Instagrammable dishes (and I must admit that the photos on their Facebook page does their food a lot more justice than I did, in my semi-drunken blissed out state).
We started off with the prettiest dish I have ever seen in my life. Everything was pink, even the wine! Such an Elle Woods moment. Red mullet and radish salad:
As the storm rolled in, the room got a lot darker but we had the pretty little table arrangements to light our evening.
Next was a smooth chickpea "tofu" (I don't really know how else to explain it - it was like a puree that had been thickened to the point that you could cut it into shapes?) buried beneath salad and seeds.
Followed by an exquisite vegetable zuppa fredda
And then my favourite - a rich, salty, cheesy risotto topped with apricot puree. Urm, hello! Why is this not a staple on every menu everywhere? It was so damn good! (Also I apologise for the rather blatant use of filters from here on out but I was
Then came Michele's favourite which he has since been attempting to recreate at home; an onion tarte tatin. Deliciously sweet against the sharp cheese and salty, dressed spinach leaves.
Pre-dessert (God I love a place that gives you more than one pudding). Freshly whipped cream, dark chocolate shavings and bitter orange.
You may have noticed that the meal mostly consisted of vegetables; and the same can be said of the dessert!
Our panna cotta sat on a bed of garden vegetables (yes, those are peas underneath!) I don't know how they managed to cook them so that the final result was perfectly sweet without being overly sugary but they did. And even though I was stuffed to the point of no return by this point, I scraped the plate clean.
Erba Brusca is a real change from the restaurants of the city centre. Out beyond the hustle and bustle of Milan, with a view of the garden from which most of your food has come, it's an incredibly relaxing experience. You could almost believe that you were in the middle of nowhere.