The Mori Venice Bar is the kind of place you seek out when you want to feel cosseted while enjoying a long, relaxed and relaxing meal in a calm atmosphere. The service, although sometimes a bit slower than warranted by the number of waiters, is the most discreet and unobtrusive I have encountered in a long time. The restaurant’s handsome, clubby decor (designed by the ubiquitous Philippe Starck), is all brown leather, crystal chandeliers and mirrors, with touches of Murano glass and masks on the lampshades to remind you that you have been transported to Venice. One cozy table is tucked into a photo-lined alcove for extra privacy. The restaurant has a welcome old-fashioned bourgeois feel without looking tired as such places can.
I went there for lunch last week with Paris Update’s former restaurant critic, Richard Hesse, who likes it so much that he has made it something of his headquarters on his regular visits to Paris (as you may remember, he decamped to the other side of the English Channel last year).
Since it is located next to the Palais Brongniart, the former home of the Paris Bourse, the restaurant offers its business-y clientele a lunchtime menu whose price is pegged to the previous day’s CAC 40, but only when it drops. On the day we were there, it was €39.50 (did I mention that you will pay handsomely for the advantages mentioned above?).
As we always did when he lived in Paris, Richard and I shared each dish 50-50 to make sure we got a good taste of everything. We started with ubriaco, the “drunken” cow’s-milk cheese from Treviso that is soaked in wine at the end of the aging process. It was served with a sliced pear and an arugula salad. I loved the perfectly dressed salad but found the cheese and pear duo on the bland side. The other starter was a nice plate of tapas-like Venetian fish-based antipasti, including a creamy fish terrine on toast and squid with potatoes.
The main courses were deceptively simple. The homemade cavatelli, cooked al dente, of course, had a sauce that seemed strange and rather uninteresting at first but quickly grew on me: cubes of excellent smoked tuna and a creamy sauce with just the right hint of lemon. Delicious. The other main course was maialino (suckling pig) with a sweet-and-sour sauce and mashed potatoes. Elegant comfort food. As Richard pointed out, Italians are obsessive about the high quality of ingredients, even in the humblest cafeteria, and this high-end Venetian eatery is no exception.
The no-choice dessert that came with the menu was a fruit salad with strawberry sorbet that was pure condensed strawberry-ness. Very good and sensible, I’m sure, but I was longing for something a little more sinful, which duly came with our coffee: a little plate of sweet tidbits.
The real sin followed when Richard ordered two lunchtime grappas without even asking the price – what a guy! This was the smoothest grappa I have ever tasted, and I am sure he paid dearly for it and for the lovely glass of Amarone wine he ordered with the meal. He can invite me back to the Mori Venice Bar any time he likes.