Italian

italian-restaurants

I’ve known about Riccardo’s restaurant since it opened and have visited it quite a few times over the years. But it was only relatively recently I’d learned that Riccardo’s wasn’t just any delicious Italian restaurant in London.

Quite the institution in Chelsea, Riccardo’s terrace dining is part of the local landscape. If you’ve walked along the Fulham Road from South Kensington, there isn’t any doubt that you would have at least glanced at it.

Riccardo'sSo what is this special something I’ve recently discovered about Riccardo’s? If you are coeliac, vegan or if if you have special dietary requirements you’ll appreciate this. On the menu, you can find wheat free and vegan dishes which will not compromise your taste buds. That’s right, I woke up the following morning after an indulgent Italian meal not feeling bloated.

Last week I was invited to Riccardo’s latest Fashion Supper Club along with a few other bloggers and the evening started in the best possible way: An espresso martini to kick start the evening deliciously.

Riccardo'sSoon after, an array of starter dishes arrived for us to try. They included this gorgeous artichoke and prosciutto dish with truffle oil drizzled over it. The surprise of the truffle oil was a feast for my tastebuds and the evening was already getting better.

Riccardo'sThere were also crudités with warm anchovy and garlic dip …

Riccardo's… as well as this gorgeous aubergine dish, which was my favourite. There was also wheat free and yeast free bread to try too.

AubergineFor my main, I ordered the pasta and venison ragu dish which lived up to the hype around the table. The meat was tender and the whole dish was a true delight. I know, I know, this dish doesn’t shout vegan or wheat free but you can order spelt spaghetti or penne; corn maccheroncini, which is gluten free, and kamut fusilli.

Riccardo'sAdmittedly there was also a lot of food envy when I looked at what everyone else had ordered, from the meatballs to the fish and prawns. It looked like everyone had ordered well.

Riccardo'sAs night started to fall and after we’d finished our mains we were again given a chance to try most of the dishes from the dessert menu and it really is difficult to say which one I preferred. They were all very good. The tiramisu was melt in your mouth dreamy. I’ve never tasted tiramisu like Riccardo’s. This gluten free (below) chocolate dessert was also amazing. So rich and moist, you don’t have to be coeliac to enjoy it. There were other desserts, which we tried including pineapple and one that I remember having surprising bursts of almond. And there was of course the cheese.

Riccardo's

I had such a fantastic summer’s evening locally and the food and drinks were a real treat. Thank you Riccardo’s for a great evening and thank you for the OH’s cadeau, which he really appreciated. Next time, I’ll bring the Little Man along too which I can’t wait to do.
Riccardo's

Riccardo’s 126 Fulham Road, Chelsea, SW3 6HU. Riccardo’s also home delivers: 020 7370 6656

With all the beautiful weather we’ve been having (overnight thunderstorms aside), I thought I’d share with you one of my favourite al fresco places to eat.

Manicomio, not to be mistaken by Manicomio Poco which I also love, on Duke of York Square is a great spot for lunchtime in the sunshine.

Manicomio RestaurantI had lunch there recently, which I started with an obligatory glass of Prosecco.

Manicomio RestaurantWhilst the OH enjoyed his beer, he also delighted in his octopus starter.

Manicomio RestaurantAnd I ordered the yellow fin tuna crudo, which was a real treat.

Manicomio RestaurantFor our mains, the OH had Grilled Brixham monkfish ossobucco which he relished and which I had a little taste of and thought was a particularly good choice!

Manicomio RestaurantSaying that, I really didn’t have any food envy because my lobster tubetti with tomato, basil, chilli and garlic was also on another level. Just gorgeous!

Manicomio RestaurantBut our lunch wasn’t just about the food, the wine was superb. I’ve always had quite a nonchalant interest in rosé wine, great for summer but I’d never discovered any with much substance. Until now, that is. The Sancerre rosé which I tried at Manicomio had depth and flavour, it’s made me fall in love with rosés for the first time.

Manicomio RestaurantSo overall we had yet another successful lunch at Manicomio and I’m looking forward to going back!

Manicomio Chelsea, 85 Duke of York Square, London, SW3 4LY

On Sunday I went to Harrods for lunch with Sunny in London. Our precise destination was the Marchesi Café, which is a pop-up restaurant that is part of Pradasphere: the Prada exhibition on the fourth floor. Marchesi Café at HarrodsThe Marchesi Café in Milan is part-owned by Prada, so it makes sense that the whole Prada experience is completed by either a lunch or an afternoon tea when going to visit the exquisite exhibition.

Located along which would normally be the Georgian Restaurant, the Marchesi Café evokes a sense of being on the continent. Marchesi Café at HarrodsWith shelves of sweets lined up along the wall, there is a timeless beauty to the space.

Marchesi Café at Harrods

To start off lunch, I enjoyed a Champagne cocktail …

Marchesi Café at Harrods

… whilst Sunny enjoyed a Kir Royale.

Marchesi Café at Harrods

And of course, because it was a Sunday afternoon water was also being sipped at the table.

Marchesi Café at Harrods

For starter, I had a fennel with anchovies and orange salad. There were some capers in there too. And I really enjoyed this salad, which was light as well as delicately tasty.Marchesi Café at Harrods

Sunny tried the mozzarella and tomato salad, which looked really good. It’s been a while since I’ve had mozzarella and I bet it was a delicious choice. To find out, you’ll have to see what Sunny says about her experienceMarchesi Café at Harrods

For our main … and I’m just throwing in this photo because I loved how the mains arrived … Marchesi Café at Harrods

I had one of the veal dishes which came with mashed potatoes and peas.

This dish was light and seemed simple but as with all good Italian cuisine, the simplicity allows for the quality of the ingredients to shine through.

One of my favourite dishes ever is a drizzle of truffle oil, shavings of pecorino cheese and pasta. Simple and very tasty.

So yes indeed, simplicity is key with good Italian dishes.
Marchesi Café at HarrodsFor my side, I had an artichoke with parmesan cheese …

Marchesi Café at Harrods… whilst Sunny had a risotto with saffron for her main and …

Marchesi Café at Harrods

… a mixed salad on the side.Marchesi Café at Harrods

For our second cocktails, we both had a Spritz: Prosecco and aperol, which I absolutely loved. I could have easily had a second.Marchesi Café at Harrods

But to go with dessert … a selection of pastries (filled with jam, rice pudding and apple) …Marchesi Café at Harrods… as well as truly delectable creme caramel …

Marchesi Café at Harrods… we had a glass of Champagne each. But of course!

Marchesi Café at Harrods

With great company, wonderful surroundings and a carefully thought out menu, the afternoon was pure delight.

It was the perfect preamble to a fashionable treat: Pradasphere, which will be the subject of my next post.
Marchesi Café at Harrods

Marchesi Café, 4th floor, Harrods.

You may remember my recent visit to No. 11 Cadogan Gardens hotel

Tartufo

And its very pretty dining room …

TartufoAs well as the wonderful private dining al fresco space.

TartufoWell last weekend I returned to the hotel but this time to visit its restaurant Tartufo, for some Sunday lunch.

Given how off the beaten track this restaurant is: not only is it not visible from the street as it sits cosily downstairs in the hotel, but the hotel itself is not on a main road. Yet, all the tables were taken on a bank holiday weekend when most locals are usually out of town. This was indeed a good sign before we had even sat down.

The Tartufo Sundays set menu: £45 for five courses and a constant flow of wine, offered an array of choices for all palates.

Tartufo

As we sipped our white wine and entertained baby boy in his high chair, I looked around to see who else was in the room: couples, another family and girlfriends catching up. This was certainly a mixed crowd and everyone looked very comfortable as they took their time with each of their courses. There was a very relaxed atmosphere. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon.

Tartufo

After the bread arrived …

Tartufo

We were brought a selection of antipasto misto, which included cuts of cured meats …

Tartufo

… arancini with parmesan …

Tartufo

… and crostini with aubergine & thyme, Taggiasche olives, rosemary and cheese pan fritto.

Tartufo

For our primi, the OH chose the risotto di Primavera, which included asparagus, broad beans and peas risotto with parmesan crisp and veal jus …

Tartufo

… whilst I had the Raviolo ‘Pancetta & Uovo’, which was ‘bacon & eggs’ ravioli with fresh ricotta, egg yolk, pancetta and brown butter and sage. Both were very tasty and I really enjoyed trying the OH’s dish.

Tartufo

For Secondi, the OH had the Agnello Arrosto ‘del Tartufo: herb roasted leg of lam with lamb jus …

Tartufo

… whilst I had a whole roasted sea bream with garlic fresh herbs and blood orange. This fish was exceptional and cooked to perfection. I could have it again right now, even though it is eight o’clock on a Sunday morning. The memory of eating this dish is a very pleasant one.

Tartufo

Our mains arrived with a selection of colourful vegetables, which made me feel like I was being very healthy indeed. I’ve heard that the more colour there is on your plate, the better. So this vibrant palette of a dish really hit the mark and balanced out the delicious indulgence that was yet to come. Tartufo

By now, baby boy was getting quite restless. He wanted to go exploring and so we asked if we could have the cheese with our desserts. The cheese board included a selection of soft and hard Italian cheeses, garnishes and artisan toast.

Tartufo

For dessert, the OH ordered the Butterscotch Budino, which was sea salt, caramel sauce and whipped cream which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Tartufo

And I had the Bombolini Leggeri with berry marmellata and lemon curd, which I absolutely loved. And yes, after sharing a couple of pieces, I finished the rest off, no problemo.

TartufoThroughout our meal, the very friendly and polite staff continued to fill our glasses with wine. And whilst I’m not sure which red wine we were served, all I can say it was amazing. I love a good wine that you want to take your time sipping. It’s not about volume but about the depth flavour.

But our overall experience at Tartuffo wasn’t quality over quantity. With five courses, you enjoy both: a hearty Italian meal that surprisingly felt light throughout. It was a great delight.

Disclosure: We were guests of the restaurant but this hasn’t skewed my favourable opinion of the food and service. You only have to go to Tartufo’s website to see all the other praise this hidden gem has received: www.tartufolondon.co.uk.

I’ll get straight to the point. Imagine a low-calorie four course menu created by a Michelin Star chef. Too good to be true? Well, imagine that the number of calories for the four courses totals no more than 800 (not including wine). Seriously.

Well that’s what I experienced last week at Hotel Xenia where I tasted Alberto Rossetti’s Cucina Evolution menu.

Mina ZaherIn case you haven’t heard about Cucina Evolution, its theories are based on a healthy eating concept whereby the menu is guaranteed to be calculated under 800 calories. This may seem a little extreme but when you think about how sedentary our lives have become compared to when it was decided that women needed 2,000 calories per day and men, 2,500 it completely makes sense.

So what was on this menu? Don’t think lettuce. In fact, there wasn’t any salad on the menu which not only surprised my tastebuds but introduced a combination of ingredients which I had never considered before – as you will see.

For starter, we had a mix of calamari spiked with mint, Maldon salted pistachios and edible flowers – all of which swam in a pea and cream soup. The calorie intake was equivalent to 40 grams of rice. But most importantly, the starter was delicious. I particularly enjoyed the blend of the pistachio and pea flavours.

Cucina EvolutionThe next course involved roasted prawns, sweet potatoes, pistachios and three sauces. This course was introduced as a healthy version of the prawn cocktail and its number of calories equated to two pots of yogurt.

Cucina EvolutionOur main course involved tagliolini with porcini mushrooms, icing salt cod and saffron – the equivalent of 130 grammes of mozerella.

Cucina EvolutionAnd for dessert we had a cream parfait with honey, peanuts, raspberries, parma violets flowers and pollen. There were also a couple of slices of parma ham added to this dish, which worked perfectly. I particularly enjoyed the saltiness of the ham alongside the creamy texture of the parfait. And this dessert was the equivalent of two apples. Can you believe it?

Cucina EvolutionEach of the dishes were matched with a selection of wine chosen by Luca Dusi from Passione Vino and each glass of wine worked wonderfully with each course …

Cucina Evolution… especially the sparkling dessert wine for the final dish.

Cucina EvolutionDuring the evening Alberto Rossetti provided a cooking demonstration with the founder of Cucina Evolution providing a running commentary, which I found fascinating. You can find out more about Hotel Xenia’s Cucina Evolution menu here.

Experiencing such a tasty menu for so little calories does make you realise that eating out doesn’t have to mean piling on the pounds. But given that Hotel Xenia’s restaurant is currently the only venue that serves the Cucina Evolution menu in the UK (there are many more in Italy), it’s obvious where one needs to go if you want to experience a tasty nutritional menu.

Disclaimer: I was a guest at Hotel Xenia’s event but as usual, my opinions are unbiased. 

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