Another week of lockdown 3.0 and we were still on the lookout for a new experience. Also the end of Italian week. We ended up with pizza! This place has a good score on Deliveroo and we hadn’t tried it for a while. We reviewed it some time ago (see here). The menu is certainly a little different to the run of the mill. As well as the margherita, napoli, marinara and funghi, they also had pistacchio, caramellata and salsiccia and porcini.
We chose a the salsiccia (tomato sauce, mozzarella fior di latte, Italian sausage, porcini mushrooms, grana padano, basil) and the pistacchio (mozzarella fior di latte, crema di pistacchio, mortadella, crushed pistachios, basil) – look carefully if you are vegetarian – the little symbols have a key at the bottom of the menu.
The pistacchio one was definitely nutty and the basil was a great smell and taste. I am not fond of mortadella, but it was good on the reheated portion the next day.
The salsiccia version was lovely – hot occasionally with a bite of of the Italian sausage and the rounded taste of the mushrooms.
You can see that they are not so particular about having them perfectly round, but I suppose it gives them more of a artisan look. Anyway, we enjoyed them both, but mostly on the following day. The reason was they were a little burnt on one side and we ate that one on the first day leaving the softer, less carbonised pieces to the next day. We know a pizza oven can be a little unpredictable but …. check the underside before tucking in.
The bill, without any drinks and before adding a tip, came to £29.71, good value when you have leftovers.
We are trying to improve our culinary creativity by concentrating on a specific country’s cuisine and doing our best with the ingredients provided in Brixton. We are following up our Maremma takeaway (see here) by going for Italian. The first offering in “Italian week” was designed by happen chance – you agree to all the substitutions in the online shopping and then discover that you now have not a standard sized haggis but the jumbo one. This fed us on Burns night, with some going to neighbours and family (no contact delivery nearby of course) but we still had some leftover so, after the haggis toastie, we invented “Left-over haggis with rigatoni”. Which was delicious with the added tomato and impossible to eat without a glass of red wine.
Our latest box from En Root (see here for details) contained aubergines this week and with the excellent Lidl parmesan we were able to produce “Melanzana Parmigiana” (Aubergine Parmesan) with some culture clashing patatas bravas and beans.
One of the favourites of the week was produced from the “Friends of Mine” Italian delicatessen in Coldharbour Lane. They sell large bags of coffee beans and an array of wine, cheese and pastries. We cought our Pasta di Semola di Grana Duro con vino Barolo – Pink pasta – and matched it with a mushroom cream sauce.
But towards the end of the week and in the current rainy weather you need something hearty and we did have a lot of leftover veg. So we made a sort of Italian vegetable soup – but not a classic minestrone. We used the stuff in the fridge plus home-made pesto and again some leftover rigatoni. Warming and delicious and surprisingly vegan, apart from the Parmesan of course.
For a special occasion – New Year’s Eve – we ordered the special menu from Maremma. We were already fans for both the eat-in and at home options – see here, here and here. The menu isn’t on offer all the time, but I am sure the dishes will reappear. The meal was definitely a special event, four courses, so not for everyday munchies. But Valentine’s day is approaching so perhaps that is the opportunity for a special romantic meal at home, but you will need to get in quick. Continue reading →
Given the current Covid restriction of Tier 2, we are still having takeaways and were really pleased that Franzina Trattoria in Coldharbour Lane had click and collect, and delivery options. Despite it being relatively close, we still ordered through Deliveroo (Uber Eats also available). See our earlier eat-in review here.
This is a Sicilian restaurant and the menu consists of Piattini (small plates – you can actually buy the sicilian plates on the website), salads, fresh made tagliatelle with sauces and doci – puds. The Delivery menu is a little different to the eat-in version, but had plenty of options. For starters we chose Crocche – fried vegetable balls and caponata Siciliana. The menu promised two crocche each of three types – “potato, lemon, mint and basil. Aubergine, caciocavallo cheese and mint. Zucchini, pecorino cheese and basil”. The Caponata Siciliana is described as sweet and sour aubergine salad with tomatoes, nocellara olives, capers, celery and onions.
We ended up with eight crocche but there were only two sorts and, to be honest, it wasn’t clear to us which ones. One was just a chip and the other was pretty anonymous. So, these were a little disappointing. But this was definitely a starter in two halves, as the Caponata was fabulous. We could have eaten this by the bucket full and will definitely order again. It really does need some bread and luckily we had some, but next time we will also order some proper Italian bread with this meal.
This was followed by two types of pasta – Conchiglie con Salsiccia (described as conchiglie with with wild fennel sausage in a peppery tomoato sauce with pecorino cheese). Google describes the pasta as seashells. We also ordered Orecchiette al Pesto Trapanese (with fresh datterino tomatoes, basil, mint, pistachios, almonds, chili and lemon zest, topped with salty ricotta cheese). This pasta is sort of like little ears.
The Orecchiette were crunchy and spicy and a warm chili and nutty delight. The Conchiglie was also wonderful with a peppery warmth. The pictures shows them as quite distinct and they arrived not too steamed, so not al dente which pleased me as I’m not keen on any pasta crunch. However, we did have a lot leftover and microwaved it the next day. It was still wonderful to taste, but unfortunately over-cooked and we actually had a hard job distinguishing them. So our advice for the best experience is to wolf it all down in one sitting.
Finally – again eyes bigger than stomach moment – we ordered one portion of Baba al Masala con Panna. It was sweet and sticky, and we were glad that we only ordered one. We could have done with more “panna” and a little bit more marsala. But there was no crumb left at the end of the meal.
What did we think – we liked much of it, but not all (mainly the vegetable balls). That may be our fault. The best traveled dishes were the cold ones, but the pasta certainly managed the distance from their kitchen to our door without moving too far beyound the ‘al dente’ stage.
We are now beginning to understand the science of delivered food. Chips are soggy, no matter how brief the trip from the restaurant, unless of course they are the thin, very crispy type. Many dishes that were taken out of the oven just in time, arrive just a little overdone. We will definitely order from Franzina again with a very large serving of Caponata. Cost of the meal for two (with enough pasta leftovers for a meal the following day, but no alcohol) was £42, including Deliveroo fees and a tip for the rider.
UPDATE: We are now reliably informed that microwaving pasta is not the best way of reheating it – on top of the stove and lightly fry or put it in the oven.
Domino’s didn’t do so well in our previous pizza challenge (see here) but subsequent comments suggested that it had been under-rated. Anyway, we were craving some on a Friday night and decided to give it another go. It had to be a delivery, as we are just emerging from quarantine and still taking things really carefully.
The menu is reduced but actually it makes it much easier to choose and there seem to be all the favourites. We chose a large (13.5) Veggie Supreme and a large (13.5 again!) American Hot. And here they are.
Even when we finished they didn’t look very different, as we only managed about a third of each. Delivery does bring out the “eyes much bigger than stomachs” in me. On the bright side we have lunch and breakfast for the next two days.
My Veggie was delicious and somehow despite the cheese I felt virtuous even while I was dipping the crust in the garlic sauce. The American hot was well received as well, with good pepperoni and enough chilli to make it interesting. Apologies for the poor quality picture though.
It was good and inexpensive as the deal is £10.99 for any large pizza so £21.98 for the two pizzas and whatever you decide to tip the delivery guy. There are lots more deals too and we definitely think a large is enough for two no matter how hungry you are.
This local Italian (Tuscan) restaurant opened not so long ago and we reviewed a visit here. It is difficult to book, probably because we saw it had a rave review in the TAP in-flight magazine, back in those heady days when air travel was acceptable. Now you don’t have to wait, as they do takeaways. But from here it gets complicated and we suggest you go to their website to check, in case it’s changed. Continue reading →
This is a new joint in town, near to Naughty Piglets and Hottananny in an area that seems to have had a peppered history of restaurants opening and closing. But this one seemed to be booming after just a couple of weeks of a soft launch. By booming we need to stress – book in advance. We went at lunchtime on Saturday and were lucky to find a perch. Maremma is on a corner, where the Montego Inn used to be, so has lots of light, but of course, there is only so much room for a bar and tables. They have squeezed in additional seating with bar style counter seats that are fine, as long as there are only two in the party. Downstairs offers more traditional style dining with tables and chairs. Bare tables and tops but linen napkins, so you know this place will be expensive.
The name Maremma is chosen after an unspoilt region of Tuscany and the restaurant offers regional and seasonal specialties, including fresh pasta. There are starters (vegetarian and meat options), primi (mainly pasta) and secundi (larger plates). We chose a starter and primi and were so stuffed we couldn’t even consider the desserts. Our starters were octopus and fava puree and beef battuta (like beef tartar). The octopus was nice and charred mostly, although the fat end was a little chewy, and the beef needed a little salt which came in a small pot.
Next we had the squid risotto and a regional specialty of a chickpea pancake with three different kinds of artichoke. The risotto was brilliant – with plenty of seafood and the addition of the lemon zest a particular joy. The chickpea pancake was “interesting” and most was eaten. The garlic chips were really tasty but the artichoke hearts came with some very hard leaves making it impossible to cut and most was left on the side (a complaint to the waitress produced no response from the kitchen, but it is early days). We added a bread selection – the foccacia was very good and a side dish of spinach.
Water came straight away and there was a choice of still or sparkling.We washed everything down with a carafe of Tuscan wine (375ml or half a bottle). There was a good choice at very reasonable cost. Our bill for two people came to £86.08 including service. They helpfully divide the bill to show what each guest should pay on the bill, which prevents the rush to the phone calculator. It was expensive for lunch but we would return for dinner. The food was good but we are not raving about it until we have tasted more.
We really want to like Canova Hall. The idea of having a local brasserie style place for casual dining, or just a morning cup of coffee, has a lot of appeal. But they do make it difficult, leaving on one side issues of gentrification, as it’s simply not as good as it ought to be.
We’ve been a number of times – see here, here and even here for a bacon sandwich. But our reaction has generallly been lukewarm at best. But hope springs eternal, so it seemed the right place to take a stranger to Brixton for a working lunch. See our earlier reviews for a more detailed description, but there’s plenty of space, despite its clear popularity for as a place to work over a cup of coffee. Based on this visit it looks like that they operate a fairly relaxed policy on how long they tolerate the time spent over a single coffee.
There’s no doubt that it did suit our purpose on this occasion. There’s plenty of room when we went around 1:00 pm; not too noisy, there’s a reasonable choice of popular dishes focussing on pizzas and pasta; and there’s no attempt to rush you out the door. We weren’t in a hurry, so the relaxed service we’ve found on previous visits was not a problem.
We both went for pasta, choosing the truffle tagliatelle (Gorgonzola, walnuts, mushrooms, truffle oil, pink peppercorns, salsa di noci and thyme) and the spicy ragu tagliatelle (Sicilian sausage & ‘nduja ragu, ricotta and parmesan). The spicy ragu was eaten enthusiastically, down to the last scrap. The truffle, as on a previous occasion, was a bit harder going as, while it’s tasty, it’s on the dry side, so some was left.
As it was a work meeting we avoided alcohol but enjoyed their strawberry and mint sodas, although deprecating the continued use of plastic straws.
So, it served our purpose at a cost of £39.37, including 12.5% service. Not very expensive but more than I want to spend for a regular lunch. Nevertheless, I’m sure we will be back, as it does offer the right space and the environment that isn’t really available elsewhere in Brixton. I just find it less than it could be. And, by the way, if you do want a bacon sandwich I can recommend the reopened Cafe Max, one of the first returnees in the newly renovated arches in Brixton Station Road.
Open everyday from 12.30 pm to 11 pm: except Tuesday 6-11 pm
This is a new restaurant that has relocated from Brixton Pop. It is now a real restaurant, but in a venue that has not had a good run of restaurants. They have all been pretty good (Calcutta Street, The Phoenix, etc.) but all have found it taxing and have moved on or closed. This new incarnation has just opened and we wish them well. The new decor is stripped back but happily it is light and airy. We were so pleased not to be turning on our camera torches to read the menu. This is a Sicilian style trattoria serving small plates and homemade pasta to eat in or take away. It’s the sort of restaurant where you would find Montalbano chatting to the waitress and discussing all the ingredients of an arancini. Continue reading →
Tues-Thurs: 12 noon to 12 midnight
Fri-Sat: 12 noon to 2am
Sun: 12 noon to 11pm
We usually give a new restaurant a few visits before reviewing, but this place caught our eye on a cold Friday night. They were in their “soft launch” phase – the whole kit and caboodle will be open tomorrow (Tuesday 16th October), when it will have a longer menu including desserts. It is part of the same chain as Canova Hall (link, link and link), which is just across the road. This is a restaurant and bar also but takes a slightly different approach to decor. Gone are the cosy banquettes and the French Bistro feel, but what is left is the same industrial style, with lots of room for standing and drinking. Downstairs (and yet to be explored) is a cocktail bar with its own Gin distillery.
But we visited for the food, although by way of a cocktail and glass of wine. Food on the menu was hearty, and with large proportions it will certainly line your stomach for the Friday night revelries and probably divert any potential hangover. Menus online seem to be more extensive, with some sharing plates.
The foreshortened menu consisted of spaghetti and meatballs (beef, spicy pork and ricotta), a vegan dish and some fried items including potatoes, squash, peas, parmesan fries and focaccia. We settled for spicy pork and ricotta meatballs, and although we thought about ordering a side dish, we were glad we hadn’t when we saw the size of the plates of pasta.
The spicy pork was spicy but not overpowering with some chili in the tomato sauce too. We missed the promised gremolata but liked the taste of the sicilian sausage.
The ricotta meatballs were much softer than the beef but equally tasty. We missed the gremolata again and wondered what the ricotta salata was (advertised on the menu). We did have cheese and they didn’t offer any extra Parmesan. But I don’t think either of us minded.
We washed all this down with water and a glass of Primitivo and a Professore cocktail (Del Professore Madame gin, Kamm & Sons aperitif, Campari) – so a sort of Negroni with a large ice cube and we were glad to see the absence of a straw. A clever engineering touch was the shaved orange peel jammed into the side of the ice cube thus successfully preventing it from freezing your top lip during drinking. We would like to congratulate the barman (or woman) who invented this – patent it now.
We paid £42 including the drinks which were almost half the bill. We have another booking for Friday to try some of the other specialties on offer.