Café Valentino is an institution in the Beef and Lamb Excellence Awards. The restaurant has won the accolade for the past 23 years, with the only exception being in 2011 when the tragic earthquake claimed the original restaurant building.
When you walk in, you’re hit with the eclectic décor. The walls are adorned with a myriad of signed memorabilia – presumably from the great and the good who have performed in Christchurch over the years – as well as all 23 of the iconic gold Beef and Lamb Excellence Award plates.
The eclectic theme continues as you open the menu and are faced with a heap of hearty Italian dishes. You could go as far as say the only downside to Café Valentino is trying to decide which delicious dish you’re going to order – what a nice problem to have!
After a significant amount of time deliberating on what to order, we went with the following… Agnello Fumato pizza – mānuka smoked tomato and sweet paprika base, house smoked lamb fillet, caramelised onion, red peppers, spinach, feta. It was smokey, sweet and the lamb was beautifully tender. The collective of flavours perched on the pizza base all complimented each other contributing to one very happy customer.
Or how about Pappardelle Al Ragu Di Guanciale, a beef cheek ragu, slow braised with garlic, vegetables and red wine. Served with ribbon pasta. If dishes could have middle names, ‘Hearty’ would be perfect for this. The beef was beautifully tender falling apart with ease and the flavours accompanying the beef were robust. It was real food for the soul.
Whilst it wasn’t sampled on this visit, the lamb shanks was a dish that caught the eye when it was served up to the neighbouring tables. Cooked Mediterranean style, slow roasted with pearl barley, fennel, root vegetables, smoked paprika and tomato, with olive oil mash and Italian style mint sauce – this is top of the list for our next visit to Café Valentino.