On a recent trip to coastal, seafood-centric Puglia, one of my top finds was, rather surprisingly, the vegetarian restaurant at the lovely, limestone Masseria Le Carrube, a new boutique hotel set among endless olive groves near the charming towns of Ostuni and trullo-filled Alberobello. Owned by the family-run San Domenico Hotels – of more luxuriousBorgo Egnazia and Masseria Cimino fame – Le Carrube (first picture) is a toned-down, whitewashed oasis with an abundance of local colour – and delicious food prepared by neighbourhood nonnas.
Our group of six stayed in one of the inn’s large suites of rooms (doubles from €180, example in second picture), which share the same Zen aesthetic that I enjoyed at Borgo Egnazia just down the road. The design is all natural materials in neutral hues, with peaceful grapevine-strewn patios setting the stage for a late-afternoon Aperol spritz and poolside lounging. In the dining room, the original stone mill of this 17th-century building takes centre stage, and the space is quite magical by night, its vaulted ceilings illuminated by candlelight.
As with most meals in Puglia, baskets of circular tarallibiscuits whet the appetite – dipped in San Domenico’s own olive oil (this brilliant green variety is outstanding; tins can be bought at the front desk). Primi consisted of pasta dishes such as carob-flourtagliatelle with seasonal vegetables, and laganari with Apulian green beans. Among us we sampled spelt with asparagus and carrots, a dense cauliflower risotto, and red wild rice with shavings of Parmesan, which, for me, was the stellar standout. Sides of chickpeas with ginger and a bitter rocket salad rounded out the meal, while a glass of the Negroamaro Cabernet by Masseria Li Veli (€42) paired beautifully with the chef’s fresh flavour combinations.
After dessert of subtly sweet pear cake with Chantilly cream, or cinnamon-infused ricotta cheese with orange crêpes, even the committed carnivores among us left happily sated. But what really makes Masseria Le Carrube so special is the people working there: Valentina, Valeria and Palma are happy to help with everything and anything, and the whole experience feels authentically, rustically Puglian. Please tell them that I sent you…