If you fancy something a little of the beaten track. I have just the place for you.
Tucked outside of Fesano, in the picaresque hills of the Italian countryside is the Masseria Torre Coccaro guesthouse. Originally built for defence purposes, to defend the Malta Chevaliers from Saracen invasions, it serves today as an inviting home away from home. With simple guest rooms, pool and spa facilities and one hell of a restaurant to boot. It is certainly more than one could hope to find in any usual hotel.
For the final day of our Puglian adventure we spent the morning being polished and pampered, watered and fed here, before heading home, a few glasses of red wine more merry and a few pounds more festive than when we arrived.
The spa is nestled below ground in a rustic cove of carved out rock. Complete with treatment rooms, steam room and an indoor pool, it is a great place to duck out of the sweltering mid summer sun, or in our case, the rather relentless drizzle.
The number of treatments on offer is vast and varied including one day packages, Ayurvedic massages, anti-cellulite algae wraps and, a rather intriguing sounding, green science anti ageing facial treatment. I can’t for the life of me think what that might entail, but I wasn’t tempted enough to find out. I played it safe with an ache removing, circulation stimulating, full body massage. I didn’t realise how much it was needed until I was confronted with the rather offensive sound of crunching crisps as she worked over my shoulders. Note to self… try not to carry heavy bags, (they are a shoulder killer), at least not as often, or maybe find an unassuming and obliging man to off load them onto. Just a thought
Given the unassuming, laid back air of the place, I was surprised and delighted by the finesse and sophistication of the food. The artfully composed, simple, yet exciting 8 courses of dishes, to fuel us post-spa, were all not only delicious, but beautifully composed and seriously photogenic. I got rather snap happy. A few didn’t make the cut, but these were a few of the dishes, nibbles and treats on offer.
Crudités of fennel and carrot with a balsamic and anchovy dipping sauce. Fried anchovies with a tomatoey creamy sauce, flecked with paprika. Baby burrata cheese rolled in pistachios, served with light wafers of parma ham and radicchio. The latter was my favourite. A little drizzle of the crudité dip on top and it was heavenly.
For anyone unfamiliar with burrata, it is an unpasturised mozzarella.Texturally it is similar, but as opposed to being a soft cheese all the way through, it is filled with a rich cream, which oozes all over the plate once the outside is busted open. This dish was a triumph of texture. Crunchy roasted pistachios, the soft cheese, the fresh leaves, all combined with the salty ham equalling magic in the mouth. Nothing more than 3 ingredients, composed in a thoughtful way. Possibly the easiest thing to put together, but yet so impressive. Exactly what I like to celebrate in my own kitchen.
Sea bass ceviche with creamy passionfruit sauce was a bit of a wild card. It was a little overly sweet and lacking in (much needed) lime, but creative and interesting none the less. I couldn’t fault them for trying. The next course was cheese croquettes with a romanesco sauce and caper berries. Finally followed by a lobster and fig risotto with parma ham chips. The latter again being the best of the bunch with a good amount of lemon zest and parmesan, to achieve that perfect balance of creaminess, saltiness and freshness.
Pudding (didn’t make the cut for a photo) were little choux pastry buns, filled with lemon cream. Being wheat based, I gave them a miss and went instead for a shot of what tasted like super strength espresso to round off the meal. I don’t know what it was I drank, but I was buzzing all the way back to London and not just on the energy of good food and fine wine.
For more information and details on spa treatments, you can find Massoria Torre Coccero here.
Just a little tip but if you can take a few days away in low season, it is worth it. Rooms are half price and you can have the place practically to yourself. Minus a few chefs and masseuses, of course.