Prior to 2008, at 206 Nanshan Road there used to be an Italian restaurant called Bernini. It opened during a different period in Hangzhou’s history, when the city’s population was not yet familiar with Italian coffees and European cuisine, when there was not even a Starbucks in the city. Since that time, the Hangzhou dining scene has become more mature and the owners feel that the timing is right for a comeback, so they have re-opened in the same historical building it occupied before.
The new Bernini Art Space includes a café, restaurant, bar, flower store and an art gallery spread over two levels. The sculptures and paintings on display will change periodically and are available for purchase.
The previous Bernini always had a good reputation for excellent Italian food. Bernini Art Space keeps this strength in the kitchen and broadens into a European menu with Spanish chef Carlos Estevez who comes with over ten years’ experience working in Michelin star restaurants.
At a tasting dinner, we were dazzled by an Avocado Crab appetizer with slices of soft ripe avocado over succulent crab meat sauced with a fennel puree and accented by a salted flour crisp fried in olive oil. Cubes of lemon gelatin sparkled as a refreshing palate cleanser. The flavours combined beautifully and the dish was very delicious.
Housemade Foie Gras with Red Berries was decorated with flower petals that not only looked very pretty but added a floral, almost bitter taste to counter the rich foie gras and sweet berries.
The crust of the Bernini Pizza (88RMB) was made with squid ink, giving a dramatic black colour and also a briny taste to go with the shrimp and squid toppings. The Salmon Pizza (98RMB) was another highlight with a generous amount of top quality smoked salmon, mounds of nutty arugula leaves and parmesan shavings.
Bernini has comeback with new vigour and sophistication. The average cost per person is 200RMB, which is quite reasonable for this level of fine dining. Outdoor spaces on the 2nd floor balcony and ground level patio will be lovely during the warmer seasons.