telephone: 078 7294 5675
For information see http://www.bellantonis.co.uk/Welcome.html
After a Christmas break the chef proprietor Dario Bellantoni has returned. Easy to detect how the name of this Italian restaurant came about. But it is difficult to understand where some of the additional comments below their name come from but more in a minute. It is spread across two sides of an alleyway in Brixton Village with one side an open kitchen and a few tables and on the other a small dining room – in between the windswept alleyway with tables which is where we ended up – only daring to remove our gloves to eat. But in the summer — you guessed it — we ended up in the dining room as all the other tables were full. The dining room was empty for most of our meal which meant we could easily talk above the din of the busy Sunday lunch crowd.
Choosing is easy – the menu is blessedly short with seasonal dishes – antipasta, homemade vegetarian pasta dishes (I mean everything including the pasta) and some more substantial fish dishes and stews. On Sunday they have a deal for two or three courses but our meals were complicated so we stuck to the a la carte. We always order the antipasta between us and on our last visit branched out with two different sorts. Each is definitely plenty for two people. and we bartered for our favourite bits ….. dried tomato, rocket, chorizo, olives (which look the colour of pecans) and mozarella and burrata. Burrata is made from mozarella and cream and is a smooth texture and was served at the right temperature so it was creamy or, as Dario told us, buttery from the Italian “burrata” . It goes well with the bread and oil that comes with the whole antipasta dish.
On our first visit for mains we chose the lasagne with ricotta and spinach, spicy tomato and chorizo stew and monkfish in a saffron sauce. The lasagne was definitely enough but for a balanced meal I should have chosen a salad as well. The chorizo stew was stupendous – soft and slightly spicy with the tomatoes not too acidic. The only weak point was the monkfish, with a remarkably small portion of fish for what was described on the menu as a main course, hardly any vegetables and very little sauce that simply didn’t have enough flavour anyway. On our last visit we were a little disappointed. We know Dario wasn’t around but we got two pasta dishes on piping hot plates which had clearly been in the oven for quite a while so were a bit too crip on the top. The maccaroni sauce was disappointing as it was said to be made of a particular type of tomato but tasted straight fro a tin. Unusually (although not for a Sunday brunch) we also had Eggs Benedict. Here there was an italian flavour – no hollandaise and the bread was tomato bread. The bread was a success the substitute sauce definitely not. There is a reason why strong smelling cheeses such as parmesan and gorgonzola are put into a sauce and substituting a mild flavoured one just didn’t work. The eggs were also overdone. The one success of the meal was the roast lamb. It was succulent and very tasty so keep that up.
The choice of desserts is limited and on our first visit chose to end the meal with two tarts (one apple and cinnamon, one banana) although they were in fact pieces of pie rather than a tart. Both came accompanied by a dollop of mascarpone. The banana was our favourite.
We drank a bottle of the red Sardinian wine that was on the specials list. It was fruity and not to heavy and kept us warm until the main courses arrived. There were cheaper bottles and glasses on the menu – all as we remember Italian. There is also beer a strong favourite for a Sunday brunch and some delicious juices for the faint hearted (which a couple of us were)
The price for the whole of our meal was about £25.00 per person but we did have more wine and the expensive main dishes. You can eat for £15.00 including a bottle of beer and don’t have dessert. As a sideline this restaurant offers cooking classes for anyone who has now run out of ideas for birthday surprises (see our post on one such present). Our own piece of advice (apart from do try this restaurant) is to book early and get a seat inside during the winter months and for the summer ones in the alleyway.