Flipping the menu pages or strolling between the restaurant and the bistro. Ogling what imaginative and original dishes hotel chefs came up with (if you ever wanted to be a chef, hotel kitchen ranks like Oxford – providing the best education and the most challenges).
Don’t even think about an early lunch, because breakfast at Meliá Coral is so lush and abundant; you are not going to be able to do it noonish. Then again, after such a plentiful breakfast, it is never too early for a cocktail or a glass of bubbly on your vacation. A good book, a beautiful view from the Mimosa bar and of you go. Should you decide to have a few cocktails before lunch, limit your selection to the same spirit base, like whiskey, gin or vodka (a little secret the barmen shared with me over an espresso).
As a Hemingway fan and considering the sunny weather I chose a classic Mojito, but I have to admit that the Negronis brought to the table next to me look equally delicious. Barmen dropped a spoonful of brown sugar at the bottom of a tall glass, topped it with a quartered lime, then proceeded to crush it all up with a spoon. He then added white rum, ice and mint plucked from a bush growing right there at the bar, stirred it again and served with a splash of mineral water. Cheers!
With my appetite woken by the Mojito, even the few steps to the Taverna Mediteran seemed like an eternity. The smiling waiter read hunger of my face and supplied me with a menu in a flash. As I opened it I knew I would have trouble choosing: should I start with the Istrian prosciutto or mozzarella, soft goats cheese, seafood salad…found it! Tuna and monkfish Carpaccio. The waiter looked pleased with my choice while disappearing into the kitchen to relay my order. Now, a lovely Carpaccio needs a glass of wine to follow, or my day in Istria is a waste.
Malvasia is a local variety of white wine, but I had to choose between Coronico and Bomarchese. The flowery resin of Coronica I’ve tried already and liked it, so it will have to be Bomarchese. Checked with the waiter. He agreed with my choice and popped the cork to pour a glass of straw yellow wine. The first sip gave off the fragrance of white flowers which unfolded into the white vineyard peach, spice herbs and white pepper on my tongue. Nice. Oh, here comes the carpaccio, sliver-thin on a bed of lettuce. I’ll just add a few drops of lemon to “cook” the fish and a bit of pepper. Mmmm… melts in your mouth.
Before I forget, I best order the mains. Pasta plates look attractive, but if I finish a plate of truffle pasta, I’ll be done for the day. So…I’ll go for scallops – just a few mind you, grilled. If you’ve never had scampi (langoustines) the ones from Kvarner Bay are succulent and delicious, maybe even the best in the world. I have to resist them today and go for boškarin – a local white, grey long-horned cattle of specific flavour and highest quality meat. Yes, lamb cutlets look great, but my mind was set. Waiter asked if he should top up my glass, but I stopped him as boskarin deserves a full-bodied red and more than a glass.
So I ordered my tagliatta, and for the wine, I chose Teran, a local grape variety that changes from nippy youth to a velvet-gloved professor between the glasses. Who knew oxidation does such wonders? I went with Coronica Moreno on this particular occasion, but don’t worry; you can’t go wrong with any of the Terans on the Melia’s wine list. If you feel adventurous, go for borgonya, a local variety of Gamay otherwise known as Beaujolais.
Tagliatta was perfectly cooked, with a nice crunchy crust on the outside and full of juices and pink on the inside. I topped each mouthful of succulent, soft meat with a bit of salad. Pepper crunched between my teeth as I ate with my eyes closed, to focus on the flavours. Boškarin was magic. And the wine, smelling of cherries and dried plums, with a long peppery finish, and subtly rounded tannins could stand its ground against the famous Plavac (Zinfandel) from the south of Croatia. No wonder, if you know that Moreno Coronica handpicks the grapes for this bottle and makes the Grand Teran only when the sugars in the grape are perfect. The one I had was from 2011.
As I opened my eyes, waiter’s smile greeted me:
” I’ll tell the chef you’ve enjoyed it very much.”
“Please do. Ask if they’ll have a glass of wine with me, I can’t finish this bottle on my own”
“Oh, I’d love to, but no drinking while working is company policy.”
“Ah, well, save a glass for him for when his shift ends.”
The waiter laughed and nodded in agreement. Then he brought the dessert menu. I was just about to decline, due to lack of space in my stomach, but then again, it would mean missing pineapple in a saffron marinade served with a bit of vanilla ice cream. Pineapple is full of fibre, that should help me digest all this food.