As for us: we thought it better to eat first and shop later. Shopping hungrily would surely spell disaster for our already precarious finances.
It seemed prudent, therefore, to make our way to Giovanni’s at the Arundel Shops first — its well-known and plentiful offerings would undoubtedly silence the elephantine rumblings of our stomachs.
As we approached Giovanni’s, it became immediately clear that we had chosen a very busy — one could almost say stormy — lunch-time.
The waiters present were running around trying to stay ahead of the demands of their many guests. We stood and observed the mêlée for a little while, but soon we were spotted by Noah, one of the waiters, and —worthy of his name.
He led us out of stormy weather into calmer waters in the form of one of the two empty tables on Giovanni’s pleasant and airy veranda, allowing us to sit in a most welcome cooling breeze.
We enquired about fresh fruit juice and ordered a pineapple and an orange juice.
Noah left us with the menu and our stomachs positively jumped in anticipation of so much goodness.
There were starters such as crumbed mushrooms, marinated spare ribs, and various salads; it also displayed a variety of pastas, open and toasted sandwiches, Tramezini and pizza; and then there were also the more substantial meat dishes as well as elegant fish dishes — a true cornucopia.
Perhaps some titles on the menu were a little ambitious — “Tapas” as a heading for what after all were fairly classical and mainly non-Spanish starters might be stretching the guest’s credulity a bit.
But in general, the menu provided ample choice for anyone who would want to have a good lunch by making a pleasing selection of tasty, modern and scrumptious looking food.
We asked Noah how he was managing the “smug”, and he explained kindly and calmly that they were a few staff short today.
This shortage had of course had some reverberations in terms of speed, general cleanliness of the premises, etc. But let us say no more of this, only to stress that the staff managed admirably.
Food well-presented and well-served, with panache
For starters, we really were that hungry — we first of all ordered a refreshing looking rocket salad with orange vinaigrette and nuts.
Alas this was unavailable. So we then chose fish goujons as well as a Salade Niçoise.
For mains, our grumbling bellies proposed lamb chops, but these were apparently unavailable. So we settled for Smoked Salmon Tramezini and Gnocchi alla Gorgonzola (the menu described these somewhat awkwardly as gnocchi ala blue cheese).
We continued to enjoy our freshly squeezed fruit juices — although they were both somewhat watery — while waiting for our starters to arrive.
They soon did and the fish goujons were simply delicious, coated with crispy crumbs and enlivened by the fresh lemon juice we squeezed over them and the tangy sauce tartar we dipped them into.
The Salade Niçoise had tuna, tomato, egg, and lettuce, but no anchovies or the promised green beans. However, it tasted very good and was a pleasant light summer-field foil to the deep-fried seascape represented by the fish goujons.
The Gnocchi had been cooked excellently — not overdone and watery as they so easily can be – and were served in a lovely lightly “blue-cheesed” and creamy sauce. The Smoked Salmon Tramezini just melted in the mouth.
Having already gobbled up the sizable, delicious and most-welcome starters, we toiled manfully at making our generous main courses disappear just as easily, in no small measure assisted in this by their excellent quality.
However, eventually even our very hollow stomachs were now well-sated, and we regretfully had to forego some of the attractive looking cakes that were on display in the veranda’s vitrine.
Instead, we asked Noah to explain the coffees to us. I had a lovely espresso, made with special Corsini coffee. It was deliciously dark, strong and aromatic, a great end to a copious and delicious lunch, the stormy parts of which Noah had navigated us through so expertly.
After lunch we found the Chef having an out-of–the-kitchen moment and we chatted to him for a minute or two to thank him for his professional ministrations to our desperate stomachs.
In the end we agreed that in view of the excellent chef whom Giovanni’s boasts, and the fact that he produces truly quality food that is well-presented and served with panache, any complaints would simply represent the proverbial storm in a tea (or is it coffee?) cup.
Deluxe Coffee Shop
Expect to Spend US$10 – US$20 per head
A temporary inconvenience
A quick visit to the ladies loo revealed no loo paper. Loo paper was soon provided, but the loo’s view directly into the rather chaotic kitchen was somewhat disturbing.
Meanwhile, back on the veranda again — we continued our blissful meal in the cool breeze.
Once the empty plates from our greatly enjoyed starters were removed, Noah brought us an impressive looking bowl of Gnocchi, served with (extra) bread and a small salad on the side, as well as the very light, fluffy and beautifully prepared Smoked Salmon Tramezini, served with crisps.