Lately, I’m asking myself, who are the judges that are rating and awarding Michelin stars, and what were they thinking? I am becoming disillusioned by restaurants that sound good in theory, but there are too many flaws to be deemed with this special honour.
I was disappointed at my latest one-star Michelin restaurant, Berton Al Lago in the modern il Sereno hotel on Lago de Como.
Executive chef is the famed Andrea Berton. He is executive chef at quite a few restaurants, and we have actually dined at Berton in Milan that was definitely worthy of an award, but under the helm of chef de cuisine Raffaele Lenzi, I found the food here to be mediocre at best. Now, to be fair we went for lunch. Dinner is more elaborate with four different tasting menus as well as a la carte options. But, when you are a Michelin star chef at a high-end hotel, where you serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, you better have high standards. I find the same thing happens when a chef like Daniel Boloud spreads himself so thin, the quality of the service, and the food, make it difficult to maintain a high standard. I feel the same thing has happened here.
The restaurant itself is visually very appealing. Designed by Patricia Urquiola, using natural stone, copper, and wood nut tables. The space is elegant, refined, and serene but not stuffy. The new environment melds with the ancient. Arched picture windows encircle the restaurant and look out onto the magnificent lake and mountain vistas.
You can access the property by boat or car. There is plenty of staff, from the greeters who meet you at the car drop-off to the servers in the restaurant. All are colour coordinated in either green aprons and matching masks or blued and grey vested staff. All wear navy boating shoes.
But is it Michelin star service? No. Drop a napkin, you are picking it up yourself. When they finally got around to wiping the wet table, they basically just spread the water all around the table. They did refold my napkin when I got up (not replace it) and a purse bench was provided.
You can dine inside or outside weather depending.
There were three menus at lunch. The regular menu, the “special “menu, and a burger menu. Personally, I’m not coming to Italy to order a burger, so I disregarded that one. They say the chef draws his inspiration from his dedication to healthy eating. I must have missed something because I didn’t find his menu to look particularly healthy aside from a couple of salads and fish. There were six pasta options on his regular menu and another on his special menu. Veal Milanese, steak, and veal round out the proteins along with a couple of fish choices.
Whoever bakes his breads does an excellent job, some of the best I’ve had in Italy. They have a small producer of olive oil across the lake that makes it exclusively for them, and it was of excellent quality.
The salmon tartare with guacamole and corn was okay, nothing outstanding. The saffron risotto, with a Genovese ragout and mushroom powder was nice, but the garganelli con ragu alla bolognese was so al dente you could have broken a tooth on it, and it was over salted. We had to send it back.
Both of the cocktails we ordered were weak. One was an Aperol spritz, and quite frankly, I can make a better one. The other cocktail called an Americano was similar to a Negroni, except not as good. I switched to a Provençal rosé, and that was much better.
Would I go back? No. But I was curious to see the property and I thought it was very chic. The staff was still courteous and attentive. But, the food left me disenchanted.