When our concierge at The Bernini Palace Hotel, proposed we try out a pretty special place for the evening of our wedding anniversary, I hadn’t quite envisaged I’d be dining in a beautifully restored former palace, housing the aptly named Locale Firenze.
Locale really is enviously cool but also simultaneously steeped in the old world charm of fashionable superfluity. Now, this is without a doubt, a place where the beautiful people of Florence hang out. It’s a place where anybody who is anybody is seen and goes to be seen. It’s a place you go to for a special occasion to sample copious amounts of indulgence, both in the culinary sense and optical sense. Don’t be fooled by the modestly deceptive exterior of Locale, for beyond that door awaits an alchemist’s laboratory, and a fusion of contemporary and traditional Tuscan culinary flavours, lodged in a unique and painstakingly reinstated structure of the former Concini Palace (which began life as part of the Palazzo delle Seggiole).
Entering Locale, you are mentally transported back to the Italian Renaissance era of the 15th century to the Medici court of the Grand Duke Cosimo I, but visually you are treated to a present-day chic interior designed by the very talented James Short.
The entrance and ground floor of the building depicts palace life from the 1500s as this area was a courtyard where carriages would drive up to the edge of a covered gallery.
The first feast upon entry are the beautifully luxurious Jardin d ’hiver, emulating the internal gardens from the Renaissance period. The gardens are ingeniously designed to crawl up the walls towards a skylight.
The main focal point of this garden area is the bar located centrally above the thermal glass skylight. It is constructed of black zinc and is said to rival the swanky Parisian drinking lounges of the latter end of the 1970’s.
There is buttery soft plush leather seating with tables surrounding the garden area giving you front row seats to the bar where you can watch the mixologists performing whilst preparing your drinks. This is definitely where the show is at and if like us you’re thinking lets have a quick drink before moving to your dinner table, think again…
We were drawn in for the long haul, especially after some intricate canapés were presented at the table. The service at the bar is quite personable and the bar tenders are pretty attentive, full of conversation and well-rehearsed in making a host of international cocktails. What I’m saying is whatever you’re tipple these guys and gals have you covered!. Incidentally if you’re wondering what we had, I had a Espresso Martini of course (turned out to be one of the best I’ve had in the world!) and Dr C had a Clover Club (gin (obviously!), raspberries, lemon juice and egg white – I’d call it a raspberry twist on a Pisco Sour!).
After noticing the time and looking at each other’s faces in amazement, Dr C and I realised the true meaning of the phrase ‘time flies when you’re having fun’!! It was time to move over to the dining portion of the restaurant and start our dinner.
Again the décor in this area is kept to a token of black and grey hues, which complements the originally restored walls and flooring. The dining spaces are filled with bistro-style seating surrounded by tall vertical shelving filled with alcoholic beverages, tastefully illuminated with LED lighting. The wall of the dining room adorns a 16th century stove featuring the Medici and Concini coat of arms. Lavish fabrics and techniques have been used to furnish the area including tapestries, damask velvet and perfectly formed bell-fashioned lights above the tables as well as original Murano glass chandeliers.
The menu has been designed by Locale’s chef Fabio Silla, who has sought to create dishes inspired by the Tuscan region with contemporary contrasts and techniques, with one such skill of adding foams as palette cleansers. Fabio was the sous-chef of Villa San Michele in Fiesole, apart of another one of my favourite brands, Belmond. The menu is constructed on a land and sea theme with many Carpaccio and fish dishes being the highlight of the contemporary but traditional menu.
Our waitress explained Locale opened its doors in 2015 when Fabio was only 28 years of age and deemed quite young to create such an innovative menu.
We had already had appetisers in the bar and we were then presented with more appetisers in the restaurant so we quickly moved straight on through to the main course, where I stayed nice and light with Ravioli and Dr C opted for a mushroom and snail risotto! All cooked quite deliciously may I add.
If I was to be totally honest, we were served various other dishes and palette cleansers but I’m afraid I think the Espresso Martini’s got to me at this stage – all I can following the mains are the desserts. Can you guess, which one was mine?
The meal was fittingly finished off with coffee, macarons and liqueor.
A HISTORICAL TOUR OF THE FORMER CONCINI PALACE
And just when we thought we were ending our indulget night, the Maître D steered us away to give us a tour of the restoration work, which had been completed on the property. Having a real love of Renaissance style and arts, this was going to literally be the cherry on the cake of the evening for me! And it was!
A stone staircase, originating in the middle ages, opposite the entrance and adjacent to the bar leading down to an almost vault-like tunnel, ambiently lit via uplighters leads you through a corridor, which opens up into rooms, which have been terrifically restored to their former glory.
The basement area dates back to the 1200s and it was on this that the 1500s dwellings were erected and denoted as quarters for the service staff. Features included 2 kitchens to accommodate the palace’s banqueting needs.
The dining rooms in the basement can be hired out for private dining experiences should you fancy a meal in ancient inspired medieval surroundings.
There’s no risk of running dry as the basement even has its green illuminated wine cellar
If you are in Florence and are celebrating a special occasion or want to book somewhere special for a night out with family or friends, this could be a fantastic option for you. Bear in mind that because the menu is very specifically constructed it could appear limiting but that would depend on personal palettes. Locale is also happy to tailor the dishes to allergen sufferers with prior notice to the restaurant.
Personally, my highlights were the magician-like shows of the bartenders, which satisfied both in taste as well as style and the historically immersed surroundings that have been stunningly recreated.
If you’re wondering what the getup is then, this is a place where you dress up. Gents don’t be too anxious to go suited and booted and ladies put your best party frock and heels on because you’ll blend in but strike out seamlessly!
I’m sure the question on your minds is would I return? Well, yes I would -because I would be keen to try more of the mixologists creations!
If you fancy trying this place out then I’m going to recommend you book a table, especially if you’re planning on dining.
Via delle Seggiole, 50122
Firenze, FL, Italy
Tel +39 055 906 7188
I’m curious, have you ever tried Locale and what did you think. All comments would be greatly appreciated as always below.
Until the next time…
PIN FOR LATER