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.
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.
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.
Brixton Station road is slowly becoming another food court. There’s a stall or two most days but there’s the widest choice during the day on Fridays and Saturdays. You can never tell what will be there as they move around. So when we were out shopping and fancied something different we came upon this pitch towards the Brixton Road end with an Italian offering.
The website describes what is served as “Friulian Street Food” with the strapline is “For the love of polenta and frico”. The chef is Italian from Friuli, which is in the north east where polenta is the staple. Italian food is usually heavy with cheese or with meat with lots of soft pasta or all on a pizza, so it is a revelation that you can have vegetarian, vegan and gluten free – sometimes in the same dish. The polenta comes in slices which is then grilled with toppings of mushrooms and individual fried aubergines in a batter. Polenta can sometimes seem boring but this was soft and moreish, even when heated up. We were offered some mint sauce and that did make it all the more interesting.
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.
I’ve just eaten one of the best meals I’ve had in Brixton. And I cooked it myself – sort of. “Sort of” because I cooked it under the guidance of chef Dario Bellantoni, at one of the courses he runs at his restaurant in Brixton Village. His aim is to help you to create the pleasures of Italian home cooking by teaching you how to make and roll by hand pasta dishes, to use seasoning, to cook sauces and to improve food presentation.
Dario comes from Liguria in northern Italy, so this is his style of cooking; simple with the accent on flavour. He told me that much of his approach to cooking was handed down by his grandmother; so now it’s been passed onto me.
One thing he emphasises is the integrity of the ingredients that he uses. Some come direct from his own sources in Italy but he also buys locally, such as the fish from Brixton Market. It’s also noteworthy, from the point of view of the amateur cook, that everything he does can be done at home. I was amazed to find that all his cooking is done in a space smaller than that of most home kitchens, with just a domestic oven and a four ring hob.
The course lasted around three hours but in that time we prepared four dishes, totally from scratch.