Excitement surrounded the arrival of Italo-Argentinian superchef Paulo Airaudo to style the F&B operations of Florence’s latest luxury hotel, La Gemma. The dining experience fortunately lives up to the hype on the first floor of the glam surroundings off piazza della Repubblica. Luca’s by Paulo Airaudo, named after one of the Cecchi family hotelier co-owners, is a brooding den of green panelled walls, herringbone parquet flooring and on-trend palm papered ceilings.
Refined white linens and flawless Riedel stemware accentuate the elevated situation as the gaze is firmly focused on the open-view kitchen, where a team of four performs the graceful chef waltz. Sitting side by side on a plush green couch at an original oval table, the contemporary vibe removes us from Florence, despite illuminated shop signs and the occasional light shining in the windows of neighbouring palazzi.
Hot pork dashi tinged with scallops and seaweed is poured into heavy ceramic cups from a cast-iron teapot in an international introduction that warms the soul, resets the taste buds and transports diners to Japan. It’s a prelude that can be expected from a chef consultant like Airaudo, whose CV reads like a fully stamped passport: Switzerland, England, Columbia and Hong Kong, as well as his most renowned enterprise, the two-Michelin-star Amelia in San Sebastián, Spain.
Resembling a rose, the amberjack sashimi and raw daikon garnished with a plum and chili condiment and served in a super concentrated tomato water will tempt food lovers back. Refreshing and healthy, the creation is as beautiful as it is delicious. The pumpkin and lobster risotto is equally beguiling, with the piquancy of the ‘nduja domineering over the sweet crustacean, earthy squash and the saltiness of the lobster roe. Sipping at grassy glassfuls of Ansonica from the Maremma, the wine is the idyllic complement to the sumptuous main course of monkfish. Stylish in total white, the pan-fried firmness of the fish is glammed up by a sour cream sauce that pops with trout roe.
Our voyage into Chef Airaudo’s culinary world comes to a close with the subtle elegance of a goat cheese and plum flan in a thrilling summation of northern Spain and South East Asia, alongside feather-like honey and oat wafers, bordering on the religious.
A night at Luca’s takes you places without ever leaving Florence, or even the newly opened rooms and apartments on the four floors above the restaurant. A quiet stay is guaranteed after a midnight stroll through the bustling city centre and a nightcap at the mirrored bar. La Gemma scores high for its unexpected extras too. Yes, there’s the design-driven Faber coffee machine, a bedside Marshall radio and an adorable leather Do Not Disturb sign, but above all on drawing back the heavy drapes, guests can awaken to the holy grail: a Duomo view.
Luca’s by Paulo Airaudo
Via dei Cavalieri 2C, Florence
A four-course tasting menu costs 115 euro, excluding drinks.
Reservations +39 055 0105200 / email@example.com
This review was written based on a dining experience and overnight stay offered to The Florentine.