THE notion of agriturismo is becoming some kind of euro-pop all purpose marketing slogan that dots the Sardinian landscape, a necessary antidote to the ravages of seaside tourism perhaps, but bundles up ideas of dinner, of bed and breakfast, of charging a lot of money to foreigners, of swimming pools, more tursimo than agri really. A proper agriturismo, a real one, obviously, needs time to develop.
I am not fully clear whether Sa Conca Ruia is a six bedroom hotel with a view, an event space or a farm specializing in old grains but what is plain is that the co-owner Martina is an unusual talent in the kitchen. Unlike other places that follow the ristorante tipica mantra as if by rote, she is a cook who brings a radiant narrative to her menu.
If you follow the map on their web site you will manage to get up the unmade road and reach the blue gates of their farm perched above the resort town of Orosei and be met by dogs and cats, roosters calling, even a wild boar and be enfolded in a building whose story is still being told.
Martina puts everything in front of you and what you eat is down to you. The price is 30 euros including their own red wine (no white). It is not quite the 18 course extravaganza of legend, but it is cleverly constructed and prepared with unusual acumen.
She opens with an invitation by way of a platter of meats, that seem tipica – the smoked ham, the olives, the wedge of hard cheese, a smear of goat’s cheese…and the freshly baked bread…but these are then paired off with silky skinned peppers and courgette salad with olive oil, rocket and pecorino. Your first impression is of the meats from the farm but as things unfold the protein becomes less and less important and you are travelling down the byways of Sardinian cooking.
And then this is followed by a gnocchi style dough (though in fact made from ancient grains from the farm) wrapping fresh ricotta and a flash of mint.
By way of a main course came an unadorned braise of best end of lamb with tomato which might have usefully cooked longer and slower. It was followed by a magical whipped, iced cream of hazelnuts. Many people mention her ice creams.
And then there are the dolce
which also reappear for breakfast…It is a singular place with a singular chef