There’s one thing I’ve learnt since I started blogging. Just Say Yes. It sounds simple, obvious even, but sometimes it’s easier said than done.
I network a lot as part of my career, which I’m totally comfortable and fine with, in fact, I absolutely love it! But when it comes to being invited to review a place or event on your own, I will admit, it was initially very nerve-wracking! I have now mastered that fear and learnt to love it, which has taught me the very important art of just saying yes and being spontaneous when opportunities come along.
Which is exactly what I did on this occasion. I happened to be walking home one day, when I bumped into a friend of mine who was going to review some dishes at a local restaurant and very kindly asked if I’d like to join and do the same. I’ll admit I did hesitate, but only for a second, before I remembered to say ‘YES’. And boy, am I glad I did!
La Cantina restaurant is a delectable establishment just next to West Park on Pierson Road in St Helier. Proudly presided over by the super talented and ambitious Marcus Calvani, the restaurant has been family run since 1992.
Everything is made from scratch, including the daily fresh pasta, and uses a mixture of locally caught seafood, Jersey reared meats, foraged herbs and a handpicked selection of Italian imports each week.
One of the outstanding things to note about the Calvani Group, is that they are exceptionally proud to use ‘Genuine Jersey‘ produce in their restaurants, a fantastic input to our economy and one which guarantees you are getting top quality produce.
We were lucky enough to be tasting the popular Genuine Jersey dishes on our visit, yum! I have eaten at La Cantina before, but shamefully, I have been drawn in by the general consensus that it is standard Italian restaurant and have always just ordered a traditional Pizza, bypassing the other, more adventurous dishes. Well, ladies and gentleman, I was about to be proven absolutely wrong in my previous decisions!
Introducing, the Carpaccio of Woodland’s Farm Jersey Beef, house-made pickled Jersey vegetables, colin roche watercress and onion ‘ketchup’. Basically translated as, succulent beef, accompanied by the freshest produce with tangy flavours that marry together beautifully. Oh, and THAT KETCHUP! Just wow.
You can’t beat local ingredients and homemade accompaniments, and this dish absolutely showcases the best of all Jersey has to offer, as well as the super talents of La Cantinas Chef. I have eaten in Michelin Star restaurants that could learn a thing or two from this compilation, simply divine.
I’m not going to lie, I was dreading the second course! If you’ve read my blog for a while, you will know that I’m not a huge seafood fan. I’m fine with certain dishes, but not particularly adventurous. I’m also not one for controversy; however, in the interest of taste testing and following my new ‘say yes’ ethos, I dived straight in.
The next course was, Genuine Jersey Local Smooth Hound Shark Ravioli, fresh chancre crab, crab bisque and wild fennel. I nervously tried the bisque first, which surprisingly sucked me in straight away, it was very tasty! Feeling slightly braver, I then plucked up the courage to try the ravioli. I needn’t have been worried, it was succulent, soft and slightly reminiscent in texture as that of any meaty fish. It was also expertly cooked, as we had come to expect from the first course!
When this dish appeared I started thinking how incredibly lucky we are, to have such an array of fresh produce, fish and meats on an island of only 9×5 miles, its incredible when you think of the variety we have. Don’t worry, I quickly remembered I was there to eat and soon snapped out of my day-dream!
The delicious dish you see above, is Hand Dived Jersey Scallops & Brookland’s Farm Rare-Breed Pork Belly, spring peas, asparagus, broad beans, three oaks vineries tomatoes & Jersey creme fraiche. Another stunning creation, both visually and gastronomically.
There were so many fresh summer flavours on this dish, it could have been the middle of winter outside and you wouldn’t have known. In the cosy, traditional Italian surroundings of the restaurant and with the uplifting summer scents and food pairings, we were in a world of our own!
Finally, we were treated to a sumptuous Jersey Cream and Basil Panna Cotta Soup, local strawberries and fresh basil. This is a dish I would never order from a menu, given that I’m not a huge sweet fan (cheese and biscuits any day!) and also, Panna Cotta just never seems to appeal to me as tasty.
Yet again, I was proved wrong. We would probably have eaten 3 or 4 of these if given the chance! Very tasty, light and totally refreshing. I certainly won’t be put off ordering a Panna Cotta in future! Did I mention it was really pretty too? As with all of the evenings dishes, amazingly presented and very enticing.
I feel like I learnt another valuable lesson during my tasting experience at La Cantina. Firstly, be adventurous. I thought I wouldn’t like the ravioli course at all, but I was completely wrong, which I guess also comes from judging it before I’d even seen / tasted it!
So now I suppose I will have to make sure I ‘say yes’ to all opportunities, don’t judge a book by it’s cover and make sure I’m not scared to be adventurous every once in a while … I think the rest of the year may be quite busy living by these rules somehow!
All I can do for now though, is absolutely urge you to go and try out La Cantina ASAP! Not for the pizza or whatever you may perceive as traditional Italian dishes, but for the same mind blowing experience and education I had during my tasting evening, trying dishes I never expected to.
Please let me know what you think if you go along? I can’t wait to visit again and try out the homemade liquors they are also able to make with family recipes, who knows, maybe I’ll even be able to go along and make my own Limoncello with them someday, fingers crossed!