Rossopomodoro

Rossopomodoro is a chain of restaurants serving Neapolitan cuisine and pizzas. A global operation, Rossopomodoro had its origins in Naples and is a well-recognised brand name in Italy. It has seven branches throughout the UK and in a string of other countries throughout the world.

At the invitation of Rossopomodoro I ventured to both the branches in Wandsworth and Covent Garden. My visit to the Wandsworth branch coincided with ‘RossoMusica’, a singing competition sponsored by Ferrarelle where London-based Italian singers perform and compete for the chance to win the prize of RossoMusica champion. The last of the heats was last week, and the final will be held on Thursday, 26 September 2013. For £10, RossoMusica promises you not only get some good music, one drink and a buffet of pastas and salads, but a night of frivolity as well.

The Wandsworth branch is split over two floors. It is a spacious area with a modern industrial look, and the floor to ceiling glass windows on the ground floor allow in oodles of natural light. On the first floor there is a fabulous terrace area that is perfect for al fresco dining.

The Covent Garden branch by contrast is a little bit more compact and less spacious than the one in Wandworth. Being in Covent Garden, its more hustle and bustle. There is a rather hectic feel to it, but it is also more conveniently placed for the attractions of the West End. There are also some tables outside which allow for a spot of people watching.

Rossopomodoro stays true to its Neapolitan heritage by impressively importing all its ingredients from Naples including items such as the flour used in its pizza bases. The fresh buffalo mozzarella (£15.45) that we ordered came in that day and was delicious, especially with a drizzling of olive oil and fresh basil. Accompanying the mozzarella was some bruschetta with a yummy cherry tomato topping that was fresh, ripe and sweet in that superb Italian way. However, the bread was less appealing as it was a tad bland.

Buffalo mozzarella with bruschetta

Buffalo mozzarella with bruschetta

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Novikov

Jay Rayner slated Novikov Mayfair. His review was so harsh it hurt. Ouch! So I had reservations about going to Novikov. But curiosity got the better of me because like Rayner says in his review, Novikov is always full. So surely something about this place makes it a magnet for the crowds? Anyway, there was only one way to find out.

The restaurant is owned by Arkady Novikov, a Russian millionaire restaurateur with more than 50 restaurants throughout Russia. Novikov is his flagship London restaurant, in fact his first outside Russia. It is located on Berkeley Street in Mayfair, across the road from that pretentious celebrity haunt, Nobu Berkeley. Novikov is split between two restaurants, one serving pan-Asian food, and the other serving Italian food. There is also a lounge area in the basement for those just wanting drinks, plus a smallish bar area that graces the entrance to the venue.

We elected to have Italian and the space dedicated to it is double in size to that of the pan-Asian area. Clearly Italian was deemed to be the more popular choice. The pan-Asian restaurant is what you see through the windows from the street and it is rather slick looking. In contrast, the décor of the Italian restaurant, which is tucked away in back away from public view, was a little cheesy. That said, as the space filled up and the atmosphere got busier, we seemed to notice the cheesiness less. This just goes to show that ambience has a lot to do with the feel of a place.

We had the Cornish crab salad with “San Marzano” tomatoes (£19.50) that proved fresh and tasty but which contained a little too much residual shell. This meant you had to spend more time picking bits out of your mouth than you really ought to have had to.

Crab salad

Crab salad

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Cotidie

Cotidie on Marylebone High Street is the first London restaurant for Chef Bruno Barbieri, an Italian chef who most recently held two Michelin stars at the Villa del Quar in Verona, and before that, two stars at Il Trigabolo in Argenta. In total he has laid claim to seven Michelin stars. Furthermore, regular stints as a judge on the Italian Masterchef has ensured that he is one of the most recognisable chefs in Italy. So it came as some surprise to the Italian public that Barbiere would leave Italy and venture out to London. The opening night of Cotidie was reputedly packed with Italian journalists.

The word cotidie means ‘everyday’ in Latin. But if such a terminology suggests something casual, rest assured there is nothing casual about Cotidie. The décor is decidedly refined with soft hues and a leather-banquette look. The staff are smartly dressed and the cutlery is very expensive.

The menu reads of a man who knows his stuff, and for someone of his pedigree, the pricing was fairly reasonable. For our amuse bouche, we were presented with an aubergine roll with rocket and Parma ham which was delicious. The aubergine was soft, and the rocket was fresh with bite. There was a hint of parmesan running through the roll, and the garnish of cherry tomatoes was lovely and sweet.

Aubergine roll

Aubergine roll

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Cassis Bistro

Cassis

Cassis

Note: Since this blog post, Chefs Massimiliano Blasone and Marco Calenzo have both left Cassis Bistro.

You may recall that I went to Apsleys last year, an Italian one star Michelin restaurant in the Lanesborough Hotel on Hyde Park Corner. Executive and sous chefs Massimiliano Blasone and Marco Calenzo have since left Apsleys and now head up the kitchen at Cassis Bistro in South Kensington, therefore adding a star quality to the existing bistro menu. The restaurant is lovely, exuding a feeling of comfort and warmth with the use of earthy tones. There are also some high-end pieces of art on show, including original pieces by Matisse.

Cassis is part of the Marlon Abela Restaurant Corporation (MARC) which also owns a number of Michelin restaurants in both the UK and the US, including The Greenhouse and Umu, and the starred Italian A Voce in New York City. With Massimiliano and Marco on board, the idea is to launch an A Voce restaurant here in London sometime next year with the hope of it obtaining a star. Cassis is therefore the springboard for that project.

I recently dined at Cassis at the invitation of the restaurant. My meal was a specially created tasting menu that included some of the dishes from the à la carte menu. Davide Buongiorno, previously the Head Sommelier at Apsleys, has also made the move to Cassis and he expertly paired wines for us to go with our meal.

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Murano by Angela Hartnett – Lunch Menu

Many people will know Murano by Angela Hartnett from when it use to be part of the Gordon Ramsay family. But in 2010 Hartnett and Ramsay decided to part ways. Other than the change in ownership, little else seems to have changed. The restaurant is still Italian and it still holds a one Michelin star. Angela Hartnett might be the front woman for Murano, but it is really Diego Cardoso who is it’s head chef. I tried the set lunch menu at Murano about three and a half years ago and thought it to be great value. The portion sizes of each of the courses were pretty generous, and before we even began our meal we were plied with a plentiful platter of hams. All this for an incredible price of £25 for three courses.

Consequently I have always wanted to visit Murano for lunch again, and that I did recently. Conceptually, little has changed about the restaurant, not even the interior, but the set lunch menu portions have shrunk somewhat. The coppa di parma and salami platter we got at the beginning of the meal was much smaller than that dished up during my previous visit and we had to share this between four. Nevertheless the platter was very tasty.

Ham and salami platter

Ham and salami platter

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Obika South Kensington

Obikà is a concept mozzarella bar and restaurant that champions a variety of mozzarella di bufala hand picked from Italian producers accredited with a Protected Designation of Origin status. Obikà offers three different varieties of mozzarella, all of which are imported from Italy three times a week – classica, affumicata (naturally smoked) and burrata (deliciously creamy). Beyond the mozzarella, the menu at Obikà also includes cured meats, antipasti, pastas, pizzas and main courses.

Obikà has a number of restaurants in various locations around the world with two restaurants in the UK. One is located in Canary Wharf, and the second is the recently opened branch in South Kensington which I visited on its preview launch evening last week.

I wasn’t entirely enamoured by the design of the Obikà website, but don’t let this fool you as it did me for I soon realised that it did not entirely recreate the elegant and contemporary appeal of the restaurant. The décor was created by Italian architects Labics and fashioned on a style inspired by the sushi bars in Japan. The result is something funky and sleek with floor-to-ceiling windows that created a good sense of light and space.

The preview evening allowed us to try a range of dishes from the à la carte menu in the guise of a tasting menu, albeit with smaller portions. The prices indicated below are those listed on the à la carte menu. First up was a taste teaser of a shot of chilled organic tomato soup (£9.50). With a hint of aromatic basil running through it, this soup was decidedly delicious and fresh.

Tomato soup

Tomato soup

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Dalla Terra

Dalla Terra, a lovely Italian wine bar in St Martin’s Courtyard in Covent Garden, set up shop about three months ago. Its focus is to offer a wide variety of quality (and predominantly Italian) wines – some 180 bottles and 30 by the glass – and a simple but delicious food menu in a welcoming setting. For the heart of Covent Garden, wine prices were reasonable with a Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve champagne costing only £10.

Chef Araldo De Vitis, who previously worked at St John Bar and Restaurant, has come up with a small menu of delicious tasting dishes to match the wines. The menu was well thought out and included simple delights such as a selection of bruschetta that featured cherry tomato with rocket and oregano which offered freshness and bite, and spreadable “Ventricina di Campotosto” salami with broad beans and pecorino which was rustic and hearty (£3.80).

Tomato bruschetta

Tomato bruschetta

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Mele e Pere

Mele e Pere, the recently opened Italian trattoria on Brewer Street, means “apples and pears”, which goes a long way in explaining the fanciful collection of glass apples and pears in the restaurant’s eye-catching front window. But the window is slightly deceptive as to reach the restaurant one must head downstairs to the basement. Despite this, Mele e Pere has made good use of the basement space as the dining room feels reasonably spacious. It is quirkily decorated, and the lovely contrasting tiles and wooden floors have given the trattoria a relaxed modern feel.

I booked Mele e Pere on a TopTable offer of three courses and a glass of wine dinner special for only £17.50. I usually have some reservations about most TopTable dining offers, after all you get what you pay for. But the man fronting Mele e Pere is Andrea Mantovani, who was previously the head chef at Arbutus, the one-Michelin starred restaurant on Frith Street. His pedigree helped to deal away any hesitation I might have had.

A generous starter of green bean salad with a cottage cheese dressing was delightful. The dressing was rich and creamy and oozed with garlic-y goodness. The beans were well cooked with a bite to them, and the use of crunchy croutons and nutty parmesan shavings added flavour and lots of lovely textural contrasts.

Green bean salad

Green bean salad

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