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Rome’s world famous Doney Cafe gets an elegant overhaul, with a fresh new menu

Part of the 5 star Westin Excelsior hotel, The Doney is steeped in history, made famous by the La Dolce Vita series from the 60’s, and adored by celebrities and VIPs alike who made Via Veneto their exclusive hangout, once flooded with paparazzi. But those days are gone, and with a refurbished look and new menu, is the Doney able to stand out on it own merit? The Executive Explorer pays a visit.

The Doney is somewhat of a hidden gem, possibly because by day it’s a breakfast bar, a lunch buffet, and a cafe for the hotel, but by night things change, thanks to the superb A La Carte menu and wine list. At the helm is Executive Chef James Foglieni, who is a master of Mediterranean cuisine and presents a creative menu using the best seasonal and local ingredients.

Set in the magnificent historical building, the decor complements the 150 year old building’s architecture with a modern interior design by Artestudio & Baxter. The service is warm and friendly, and has a more relaxed feeling for less formal dining, but with high-end food and wine. The venue is bright, with white floor to ceiling marble, large mirrors and chandeliers that complement the glass front which looks out onto the street allowing sunlight to billow in through the day.

Along with the interior, the menu has been completely revised, with a large selection of traditional Italian food and Mediterranean flavours, the main draw for guests is the seafood selection.

For starters, the stand out dish is the ‘grilled wild octopus’, a fresh and superbly tasty selection of perfectly grilled tentacles served with cannellini beans, cream, potatoes and rich delicate bottarga. Paired with the traditional buffalo mozzarella starter, these plates make for a delicious and light introduction to the quality of the menu. For the mains we opted for the daily specials which included the classic Carbonara, and freshly caught red fin tuna which was lightly seasoned and flame grilled, leaving the outside crispy and deliciously charred, and the centre delicately pink, which flaked away with the fork.

The stand out dishes on the main menu are the ‘Homemade Tonnarelli Pasta’ with Roman DOP Pecorino cheese and pepper – a very simple but rich and flavoursome dish, fresh with surprising depth. Also the ‘Red Snapper With Pink Shrip’ deserves a special mention, served with an interesting raspberry marinade alongside a fennel and Lipari capers salad. The fish is succulent and melts in the mouth.

The wine selection is wide and varied, focussing on local vineyards and traditional Italian classics, including a youthful and fresh Prosecco, and a full bodied cherry-full Chianti which can be masterfully paired with and dish. The desserts are all freshly made and include the Italian staple tiramisu, which is served with light and crunchy meringue.

Aside from the central location, the excellent service, incredible food and fresh menu, the biggest surprise from the Doney is the price. The final bill represents extremely good value for money.

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