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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Briciole ristorante gastronomia (London): great new Italian

 (Added October 2012: some more recent comments are here)
This is what you could be doing on a lazy week-end morning: read your papers while nibbling some fine mortadella just sliced off the Berkel (or go the whole hog and stuff a nice rosetta with it).

Those who read us regularly know how much we care about Italian cuisine, and how frightened we are by the horrors and even more by the mediocrity (more insidious because less obvious) of so many so-called Italian restaurants in London. Well, we'd like to welcome a lovely new place that we suspect will make many food lovers and wine lovers happy.

Briciole is five minutes walk from the Edgeware road tube station, in Homer street, in the space previously occupied by the Honey Pot pub. The people behind the enterprise are Maurizio Morelli and Umberto Tosi, respectively Chef patron and manager (in the photo) at Latium.

The concept here is very different from that of Latium: a gastronomy/cappuccino area in the front, a rustic, warm, spacious, bright restaurant area at the back. The food is simple Italian trattoria style: straightforwardly cooked dishes, in which great produce and care in execution combine to deliver the authentic pleasure of Italian cusine.

For the bread, they imported not the bread but a specialist breadmaker (a human, we mean) from Italy, and the results are apparent. His focaccia is light as air and superb, all breads in fact have great lightness and springiness, and flavour. On a first visit he was still struggling with the different temperature, water, and humidity conditions so that the most sensititive type of bread, the 'rosette', still did not come out with the typical 'void' inside. On a seond visit, it looked like he'd sorted it out!

We tried many dishes, maybe TOO many...of which here's a selection.

Vitello tonnato

We know that some Brits find this disgusting but if you tolerate it, be advised this is a very fine example, the veal melting in the mouth, the sauce copious, creamy and intense but not overwhelming, the capers adding that extra dimension, a fine demonstration of that balance which is, in spite of what some people believe, the hallmark of Italian cuisine. (£5)

Tagliatelle with artichokes

Tagliatelle, like most pasta, is made at Latium and cooked similarly here. Since at Latium you eat one of the best pastas in London...and here it costs £8, draw your own conclusion...

Salsiccia with sprouting broccoli

A true Italian salsiccia (£8), aromatised with fennel, hearty and gentle, dangerous because we could eat too much of it. Notice the cooking and the browning and compare, please, with the sorry, careless version at Sardo . See why even simple dishes can differ in execution?

Polpette (meatballs) al sugo di pizzaiola

Accompanied by generous and excellent tomato sauce, we are not sure exactly what mix they put it in, certainly some pork and some cheese. Wonderful.(£5). On another visit we tried the same polpette in a splendid chicken broth. But as we like our veggies, more sprouting broccoli "ripassati" (i.e. sauteed in the pan with chilli and garlic - yes, the rosetta is empty as it should be!)


To conclude,
Tiramisu and Cannolo

 also were as they should be and would pass grandma's test with flying colours.

We also tried a goat prosciutto which was both lean and melting in the mouth, and some beignets with chantilly cream, and a ricotta tortino, and... we just could not stop, it's that type of place - on diet for a week after that meal.

The service is sweet, and the prices kind, very kind: both primi and mains between £5 and £8, desserts just over £3, espresso £1.60.

A special mention is deserved by the wines. The wine prices, ohmygod, are simply eye-popping so low they are, completely out of line with London markups. If you like wine and Italian wine in particular, just go, really, as the list (still under construction) is very interesting and you'll find bottles you've probably never seen before, in a price range from £15 to over £150, if you really want your Sassicaia (and if there's a place where you don't feel ripped off having a Sassicaia, this is it). 

 For us this experience was almost moving, as we found true Italian flavours combined with the professionalism of an experienced team who's worked in the UK for decades, the end result being (sad to say, but true) that we ate and felt better than in 90% of Italian trattorie.  Go try it for yourselves, if you don't like it, wine is on us!


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