Let’s see if I can remember the courses. First there were tapas plates of fried fish in sweet leeks, monkifish in a rich caper and tomato sauce, octopus in balsamic vinaigrette and a delicious pickled fish with peaches. Then artichoke and courgette ravioli in a cream sauce followed by prawns over thick spaghetti a light chilli and tomato sauce. Close on the tail came traditional Sardinian pasta with a squid ink sauce, peas and parmasean. Then a whole plate of huge, coral pink, garlic prawns in their shells. Finally a whole Dorado fish, perfectly steamed with waxy lemon /parsley potatoes with a side of lightly fried calamari.
All of this was a surprise. We had booked the table* solely on the recommendation of Yotam Ottolenghi, the food writer for the Guardian. There was no menu and no price. All we knew was that there were no chips. On that basis and it took little persuasion we decided it was best the kids didn’t go. So it was just me and my friend Paula who sat being served plate after plate of exquisite food. The dishes just kept coming, each one unique and delightful. I was in heaven and savouring every mouthful. At the end of the meal, sipping limonchello’s we took guesses at how much this gastronomic feast would cost, between €60 and €100 per person perhaps? The bill? €40 each. I hadn’t had a dessert and we had ordered a second earthenware jug of wine but it didn’t matter what we had or didn’t have, there was a set price. I like this, it’s clear, straightforward yet absolutely abundant but without the gluttony, greed and waste I’ve witnessed at all you can eat buffets.
Boy oh boy, were we full though, even thinking of it makes my stomach hurt. The stomach/spleen are responsible for the thinking mind. The mind that replays the past or imagines future scenarios, over and over again. It can worry and whir, stirring things up so our body becomes stressed and sleep becomes difficult. That night my stomach had to work double time to digest all the food and flavour combinations. So to match this I had frantic and fraught dreams of loosing the kids, stealing cherry covered velvet cushions, not finding my hotel room and always an underlying tension of being on the run. I’m sure they all have different psychological explanations but by the morning my stomach and I were exhausted. I needed a day of simple and small dishes to rest my stomach and my exhausted mind, beaten senseless by the neurotic thoughts.
So I recommend, if like me your sleep is broken or restless, change up your diet to simple grains like brown rice and millet. Eat sweet root vegetables and drink plenty of hot water or fennel tea to calm the stomach. Don’t eat before you go to bed and of course try to eat less. For me, here in the sun it will be a morning of hot water, figs and fruit, freshly picked from the trees I’m sitting under. Would I eat it all again …… absolutely, but just not tonight.
*Mabrouk, Alghero, Sardinia