La Pergola – Is this what the *** Michelin is all about?

A stunning view, posh interior, excellent food, fine service – a fantastic experience.

Sounds of horse shoes on cobblestones, a murmur of Italian business men dressed in black and brown suits, gesticulating when talking loud on the phone, Dutch, German, Chinese, American voices and even Danish, the splashing water from the fountains I pass by on my way round the ancient and amazing eternal city of beloved Rome, full of history and atmosphere. This is Rome. I am back. Wide and narrow houses polished in orange, pink, white, yellow, light blue or rose colours, the front decorated with the eyes to the world, windows with brown shutters to cover, the Piazza della Rotonda, my very favourite spot in this capital, resting my tired and worn out feet for a little while, steeling a moment to sit an enjoy a cold and refreshing soda, the sun shining from a clear and azure blue sky, a few white puffy clouds drifting and changing the picture, and, above all, the stunning view of the magnificent Pantheon.


How much I had looked forward to this event. Months. Reading reviews (Gastroville)but finding it very hard to imagine what it would be like. My very first three Michelin stars experience. I booked the table at La Pergola, at the roof garden of the Cavalieri Hilton hotel, back in February. They were not used to such early bookings and requested that I would confirm the reservation one month prior and two days before the big night. Circumstances would that I had to move my booking one day and when doing that I specifically asked for a window table, but as the restaurant was already quite booked and therefore could not honour my request. They also told me that they did reserve me a window table when I first booked. To my surprise, I eventually did get window table and was thrilled about that.

In the taxi on my way to La Pergola sitting with an ear-to-ear frog’s smile on my happy face and brimful excited, I saw the most beautiful sun set, an orange-yellow golden painted sky, a combination of mist, city smog, jets’ vapour tails and a volatile cloudiness smearing out the bright colours, in the front black silhouettes of the pine trees. A magnificent view and start of a great evening. I mentioned the beauty of the sunset to the football match listening driver (Inter was playing against Roma) who not too enthusiastically concurred with me and added: You’re romantic, huh? I suppose, I am.

The View from the terrasse of La Pergola

The cocktail waiter was great. Had the other staffs been just like him I would have been in heaven. What was so fantastic about him was that he was communicative to a very large extend. I arrived early before my three friends and decided to have a drink at the top floor balcony. Yes, the panorama from up there is really amazing; this evening even rewarded me with the most stunning almost but not completely full moon. The waiter recommended me a cocktail. I’m no cocktail fan. However, he managed to talk me into trying one because this place creates cocktails like no other places, according to my waiting friend. OK, let’s give it a shot, I thought. What I eventually found myself enjoying was an orange-pink champagne cocktail of ingredients I don’t recall but with pinot noir champagne and a decorative cocktail stick darting a twisted slice of green lime and a blue-white heartsease flower. Bitterness and champagne – exactly like I had requested.

Tuna Spoons

Sorry to say that there are no photos of mine from this evening. I forgot to bring my battery charger at home and although I spent half of my Saturday trying to get one, I didn’t succeed. My thanks to Steve for the lovely view and appetizers’ images I’m spicy-ing this review with.

The Menu:

Raw tuna on amaranth grain with dehydrated pea purée
Cylinder of scampi with olive oil powder and tapioca vinaigrette
Artichoke ravioli with red shrimps and grey-mullet roe
Crispy red mullet with autumn herbs
Amberjack cooked in garlic-flavoured olive oil
on cannelloni beans with salt cod snow
Duck liver escalope with toasted hazelnut purée
with Amaretto puff and fig marmalade

Pigeon breast with corn powder and black potatoes
A fine selection of cheese from the trolley
Grand dessert

The dishes were all very good, sharp I would say, absolutely distinct and polished. The first three and the foie gras with the nicely matching hazelnuts were the ones that appealed most to me, the dessert too, of course. The amuse bouches were fantastic, the intense and bitter-flavoured grey-mullet roes were brilliant with the pasta dish, and I adored the sweet taste of the langoustines balanced with the restrained acidic juice of the tapioca. The red mullet was wrapped in a thin paste of some kind and fried; this was the crispy-ness, and it resembled a spring roll in look as in taste. Very good and kindly also given to my friend, who had chosen to go a la carte with only three courses. It’s astounding what frost can do to food, experiencing the white frozen cod with a lovely and full flavour was another highlight. The pigeon was the least interesting dish, but that may have only been because of the amount of gastronomical impressions. An overdose. I was close to risking a suffering from food hangover the next day.

Cocktail Snacks

They were not kidding. The grand dessert is enormous. Before the first sweet dish they even presented a pre-dessert of white apple sorbet in a brown soup, which I’ve forgotten what was. With it we also got a silver shrine for two to share containing 12 drawers with two petit fours in each one. I started regretting wearing the tight black dress. We got nine different and small desserts served in three flights. I recall a soufflé, gratinated raspberries, a cocoa shot, almonds’ gelatine, a pineapple cake, crème brûlée I believe, and the winner: a cocktail glass of a lovely coffee ice-cream reminding me of Milan where a six years old Trine went down to the bar all by herself and asked for un gelato, one of the few words I knew in Italian, the brown plastic coffee cup with the delicious beige coloured ice-cream.

A water menu. Okay, I admit that I do find it a bit ridicules, but that’s probably because I’m not refined enough and used to this entire cornucopia of it. When I read the menu offered water from the mountains of Denmark I could not help myself laughing. Quietly. Ironically, Denmark is flat as a pan cake. The highest point is 171 meters. I usually don’t say anything about prices on this blog but I have to state the fact that I do find it ridicules to offer a 155 € water bottle. I don’t even remember where the water came from and I wonder who would ever order it.

We had two bottles of wine a 2003, Martinelli, Sagrantino di Montefalco, Umbria, Italy and 1999, Terre degli Svevi, Aglianico del Vulture Re Manfredi, Basilicata, Italy.

One thing that didn’t work out very well. We ran out of wine by the fourth or fifth course and asked for the wine book again. But this didn’t stop the kitchen from rolling out the next courses; dishes kept coming in like bowling balls popping up from the ball return rail. It seemed that the stone-faced wine waiter didn’t coordinate with the cooks.

Amuse Bouche

About the wine. I chose the Sagrantino and I didn’t find as nice as I would have expected. It comprised a nice dryness but not enough fruit and body, unfortunately. I liked the Aglianico much better: rocks and restrained fruit, a full body, even cheaper. Why is it that my wine-lover friend is always outdoing me on wine knowledge? The expert on Italian wines was supposed to be me!

When Mr. Heinz Beck greeted us at our table I thanked him for a delicious meal and asked him to sign one of his cook books for me to bring home to Copenhagen to be a hearty recollection of my fancy night. Unfortunately, they were out of English versions and had forgot that I had said an Italian one would work for me as well. I was thus very pleased when the manager, I think he was, most kindly offered me to leave my email address for contacting me when the book would be in stock again by December. They are going to send me a copy with Mr. Beck’s signature in it, being a nice Christmas present for myself, hopefully. I really liked the hospitality at La Pergola, they have rules but it didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. Especially I appreciated the service from the sweet hostess and from the bartender like I mentioned earlier.

Piment Appetizer

After the coffee I had to order a grappa just to extend my first three stars night. The waiter brought me a 1999, Berta Grappa di Moscato. I usually find Muscat grappa too perfumed, but I was very keen on this one, actually.

When we were leaving the restaurant, each of us got a card listing the wine and exactly the courses we each had had – all the nine courses and the three a la carte dishes plus the kind extra red mullet plate for my friend who didn’t choose the set menu.

To be honest I loved the luxurious exclusiveness of it: the escort to the loo each time I went, the gold-plated cutlery, the little stool next to me for my bag elevating it for easy access, naturally the food of very high-quality products everything perfect, the fact that they changed the table decoration, smoother lightning, and brilliantly gave us all new serviettes before the dessert dishes arrived. The gentlemen all wearing jackets not allowed to cool themselves taking it of during the dinner. Yes, they do provide a jacket for you if you had forgotten one yourself. With this entire extravaganza I couldn’t help myself thinking about the Roman Holiday. I was Hepburn-ish a princess for one evening, lavishly coddled, wonderfully rapt and didn’t want the whole thing to end.

I really feel privileged about this experience and feel that it was worth it, it’s highly recommendable, and I would love to go back to visit La Pergola if I ever get the chance. Having said that, I imagine though that going back to Rome would be for the history, the archaeology and the sentiment of the city. Not for gourmet dining.

La Pergola’s view and the greeting moon in the horizon repeatedly in the sky, when I the next evening sat on the plane back to Copenhagen writing this, I delightfully lived through this fabulous night once more.

One thing is certain. This is not my last three Michelin stars experience!

Saturday 29 September, 2007

28 Responses to “La Pergola – Is this what the *** Michelin is all about?”

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  • Ciao Melandro!

    Mille grazie 😉

  • Congratulations! A Blog really interesting. Best regards.

  • Hi Thomas

    Many happy congratulations and the best of luck to you and your family!

    That’s very good news! 😀


  • Hi Trine,

    For once – I had no idea what I was drinking. The bottle was a gift, from a friend.

    2005 Albert Sounit “Montagny Les Chaniots” – very nice. Citrus, Lilly flowers, good vibrant acidity and fresh.

    And the day has arrived ;-).

    My wife gave birth to a little baby girl last Tuesday – we will call her Maise. My oldest daughter (3 years) is called Mille.

    And what to drink? – Well I wish I could tell you that we sipped Cristal Rosé all night long, but when such a big thing happens there are other factors which are more important than wine.

    But don’t worry – I will find the time to celebrate it properly in term of wine and food someday.



  • Hi Thomas

    Which one? (Jealousy, I have to wait until Saturday…)

    Celebrating something? Or perhaps it’s still too soon for that. Wonder what you’d pick for such an occasion… ?



  • Hi Trine,

    Most welcome ;-).

    I am drinking a white burgundy right now from the same glass. It’s a great glass.

    Henriette told me about your visit ;-).



  • Dear Thomas & Allan

    I bought the glasses, which are named Barbaresco at their website, from Era Ora yesterday and I inaugurated them with a rather simple but very pleasant 2005 Chablis.

    My goodness. What an amazing experience. The glass drew out all the facets of the wine and presented them on a silver, no a gold plate. What I enjoyed most was the way that the wine’s scents tickled my sense of smell while the the liquid tilted into my mouth. A wonderful experience.

    Henriette and I discussed what it does to a wine’s taste/bouquet that the flower is so deep. Neither of us knew, do you?

    Disadvantage: Can never drink good wines from other not suitable glasses, I’m afraid. 🙂


  • Meursault is so far my favourite very closely followed by Puligny-Montrachet. Well – remember I’m only a novice.

    I have found that I’m sometimes a tiny bit impatient and become a little disappointed when I open the bottle and immediately taste the wine. Give it some time, and don’t judge it only by what is tasted within the first five to fifteen minutes.

    Uuummm the smoke and the minerals. They are just wonderful! Believe me. 😀

  • Hmm I’ve never tried a “good” white burgundy, only red ones. Worth a try I guess. The great restaurants in CPH certainly have opened my eyes to a lot of whites!

  • Hey guys!

    Thanks a bunch for all your excellent tips on wine glasses.

    The Willsberger glasses, Allan, sound like the perfect wish for a Christmas present. 😀

    More than any other wine I have lost my heart to white Burgundies. Last week I got myself a 2005 Jean Noël Gagnard, Chassagne Montrachet, Les Chaumes (have never tasted CM before), but have decided to keep it for a little while as per the shop’s recommendation. I have my eyes on a 1997 one that perhaps is more mature and drinkable now.

    Anyway, because you say so Thomas, I’ll dash down to Era Ora as soon as possible (but not tomorrow 😉 )and get one (two? maybe) of the Spiegelau Adina “Burgundy” glasses, which you recommend. I have to try and get what you mean.

    And I’ll remember the cool thing you say about the vintage champagne in a Burgundy glass when I’ll have a taste of the 1998 Dom Perignon which is enjoying itself in my cellar. One day.


  • Hi Allan,

    He he

    Could be 😉

    I have bought many glasses there – but no more…my wife will leave me if I buy any more glasses….


    Btw – I vill visit Era Ora tomorrow for lunch – business…zzzzz…but always nice to have some good food.

  • Fun that you mention that Thomas because when I was at Era Ora and bought the glasses Henriette told me she’d just mentioned that to a customer who also bought the glasses.
    That wouldn’t happen to be you? 🙂

  • I also have the Willsberger glasses – they are fantastic, but more expensive.

    But use them with caution.

    Their design is a bit extreme and if you use them with a modernist Barolo producer you will loose some of the intensity the use of new oak gives. With more traditional producers, where you will get the more Burgundy style and dust and smoke – then the glass comes to life.

    The Adina glass is also about 125,- cheaper.


    If you want to try something wild – then pour Champagne into this glass. It’s important that it’s good Champagne – preferably vintage. You will get the wildest bouquet, but of course you will loose some of the bubble flow in the glasses and the mousse will feel a bit funny in the mouth…but do try it just for the nose.


  • Get this glass Trine:

    They sell it at Era Ora, it’s a Burgundy glass according to Spiegelau, but Era Ora use it as a Barolo glass. I have them and they’re astonishing (and great).

  • Hi Trine

    There are many good glasses for Burgundy.

    The wildest one is Riedel Sommelier – also called the “Aquarium”. It can hold over 1L if your fill it to the top ;-). Many wines get lost in it, but for the classic and big wines – there is no comparison. You can also use this glass for Piemonte / Barolo, but be careful about the more modern producers – they tend to do better in more regular shaped glasses.
    However it’s only useful with red wines.

    My recommendation to you would have to be Spiegelau Adina “Burgundy”


    1) Its light and elegant
    2) Handmade
    3) Great functionality – both for red and especially white Burgundy.
    4) Also a great glass for dessert wines.
    5) Fair priced / 165,- pr. Glass.


    In Denmark you can only buy it from Era Ora.


  • Then, La Pergola definitely seems lower priced.

    Thomas, you mentioned the glasses. I would like some (not extremely expensive) glasses for Burgundy wines. My simple Spiegelau ones are more keen on Italian wines 😉 What would you recommend?

  • 259€ thats fine! I don’t remember how much I paid in Enoteca Pinchiorri, but i remember it was very expensive. Each dish (starters and main courses) costed around 100 € …..

  • Luxeat,

    When i visited La Pergola in April this year – we paid 740€ for two Persons. My wife is currently pregnant, so I drank two bottles of wine all by myself 😉

    I had chose Champagne for all the starters – Jacques Selosse “Extra Brut” and for the rest – 2001 Le Macchiole “Paleo” – both stunning, but not cheap bottles, but still very fair priced. Btw – the wine list or books (two, one for Italy and one for International) was out of this world amazing.

    For me that is not expensive.

    Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence is very expensive, from what I have heard, but I have never tried it.


  • Money talks 😉

    Luxeat, do you remember how much you paid at Enoteca Pinchiorri?

    I paid 259€ at La Pergola for my nine courses (a cocktail, coffee+, water) and my fourth of the two wine bottles. I don’t consider that expensive either.

    Neither did I think that about my lunch yesterday at noma which was 115€.

    Thomas, thanks for your notes on the mackerel, the soup, the heavenly heavenly ox tail and the surprising goat cheese dessert. Said to Lau that your descriptions made my choice.
    … and the glasses. This hobby is going to ruin me… 😀

  • Hi Trine,

    All glasses used at La Pergola are from Riedel most expensive line “Sommeliers”. These glasses are fantastic and you never see them in Danish restaurants.

    Most of the glasses are from DKK 250 – 400,- per glass.



  • Agata e Romeo was another place i wanted to go, but was not able to get reservation… By the way, i heard that La Pargola is very expensive even by Michelin restaurants standards. Is it true? (Or maybe i am mixing with Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence…)

  • Thomas,
    I was surprised at the international extend of Beck’s pots. I had expected a more Italian touch. Although, I’m not sure how I would imagine that.
    I didn’t at all think about the glasses, so they must have done it right – drawing all the attention towards the content of them.

    Many thanks for your comment. An interesting thing to be interpreted.
    I guess my review reached it’s purpose – describing my experience for people to judge for themselves whether this is a place for him/her, or not.

    What a coincident! And what a missed opportunity (almost). I was really considering La Rosetta but ended up with Checchino dal 1887 (no *), which turned out to be a nicer experience than the Agata e Romeo one.
    Looking forward to reading your posts 😀

    Good to see you again here, thanks. You (and Julot) are right, the food didn’t move me.
    In my book La Pergola is definitely no way near (my) noma. Perhaps they should swap the stars there… 😉

    – thanks everyone!

  • Hi Trine – thanks for taking the time and trouble to post. Always good for those of us who haven’t been to these places to be able to live vicariously through your experiences.

    I’m intrigued by what Julot wrote above – and generally agree. A great restaurant experience doesn’t just fill my stomach – it provides me with some emotional connection as well or wider enjoyment too. But then I guess I have been spoilt in the past 🙂

    Keep up the good work!

  • Hi Trine,

    its incredible! I just came back from Rome today and now i see your post about La Pergola! I can see your experience In La Pergola was wonderful.Too bad, i didn’t get a table there over this weekend, as we decided to go to Rome just one day before leaving…
    Apart of all the the hearty trattorias food , i did go to few gastronomic restaurants. As Vivendo( good,but quite ordinary); La Rosetta ( great seafood)and Mirabelle (Very romantic,with the breathtaking view of all the city and live music. I was feeling like in the times of La Dolce Vita :)) .

    Anyway,thanks for the post! My Roman holidays extented at least a little 🙂

  • It is striking that you almost do not talk about the food — its personality (if it has any), the emotions it fosters (if any). This is a great demonstration that restaurants are only partly about food. Personally, you cut me any will to go and I’d much rather save that money for places whoses excitement relies more on artistry and less on luxury.

  • Hi Trine,

    Glad you liked La Pergola.

    La Pergola is certainly a place where you just want to sit forever and enjoy the scenery from the breathtaking view to the majestic feel and atmosphere from the restaurant.

    The service was top notch – so were the wine glass and the whole feel of the experience. The dessert was out of this world and I do remember the little silver shrine, with all the little secrets inside – fantastic.

    For me the food was too international – which is natural when it’s a restaurant at the top of a first class Hotel. But it’s like tasting a great wine – but it’s simply too polished and international and you can’t tell if it’s from Europe or overseas.

    Having said that – I could easily return to La Pergola, just to sit there with my wife and enjoy life.



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