London’s Cicchetti trail: A tour of culinary delight

Years ago when I decided to embark on the English adventure I was well aware of the reputation of British cuisine: bland, boring, tasteless and if that was not enough, the food on the Albion land was described as inedible.

My friends used to take the mickey out of me, inviting me over for dinner before leaving for that last longing slice of prosciutto and melt-in-your-mouth good chunk of fresh local cheese but most of all for a proper, decently made espresso.. It all felt like a death sentence.

Of course they could not have been more wrong. Food in the UK especially during the last 15 years has changed a great deal. You can travel around the country and find fabulous places to eat and London, the heart of the country’s culinary delight, has become the nation’s top foodie destination. These days British people’s taste buds have developed to a higher standard with people wanting and expecting decently made meals when eating out, they simply cannot be fooled around with food anymore.

This year I was delighted to be invited to take part in the Cicchetti Trail which is part of the  London Restaurant Festival (which runs from the 8th to the 27th of October) celebrating the diversity of cuisine offered by the capital’s eateries. This year six of the best Italian restaurants in the capital are serving “Cicchetti” or small snacks as an opportunity to showcase their culinary skills. I met with fellow bloggers Federica of Whatevergetsyouthroughtheday and Angela of The Hackward Blog and we were given a “passport” which would allow us entry into the restaurants. Ai Pheng of The Trishaw,  Miho of Wandertowonder and Jesse of Hecticophilia were off on the Japanese trail.

First on the list was: “Augustus Harris” situated on Catherine Street.

 

Augustus Harris

We were welcomed with a refreshing ” Aperol Spritz”, one of those classic Italian aperitifs made with Aperol liquor, Prosecco and soda water. Low in alcohol content and very refreshing this is one of the best aperitifs you can possibly have.

Aperol Spritz

A scrumptious selection of crostini on the side made me feel right at home: fresh mushrooms, pesto with mozzarella, gorgonzola with pear, grapes and honey were truly divine and with the waiters being so friendly I would definitely consider coming back here again.

bruschettine

We got carried away chatting. I found out that Federica comes just half an hour away from my home town in Italy. Life takes you by surprise sometimes, a pleasant surprise.

Next one on the list was “The House of Peroni”, a very trendy, modern place with retro-inspired creativity. An elegant townhouse spread over four floors superbly transformed into a celebration of Italian style and culture. It combines Italian art, design and fashion with many bars and a restaurant all with an emphasis on Roman life. With many references to the Roman empire on the walls, the restaurant has a dominance of white colour with splashes of blue everywhere.

All roads lead to Rome

My roasted courgettes filled with prawns and a refreshing bottle of Peroni beer went down very well.

The House of Peroni

Next on the list, in the heart of Soho was “Mele e Pere” which translates to “Apples and Pears”.

Mele e Pere restaurant

I loved the decorations: as soon as I stepped in all I did was gaze at the many multicoloured Murano glass apples and pears which give a splash of colour to the restaurant and the wooded chair and tables make the whole place feel warm and cosy. I had a very tasty beef dish served with soft polenta and porcini mushrooms.

Mele e Pere

Continuing our trail I was allured by an electric polenta maker I saw in the window of “La Polenteria” , our next stop.

La Polenteria

The pot was actually making polenta. That is something I am very familiar with as my mum has one just the same. As I entered the restaurant I couldn’t stop staring at it!

polenta making

La Polenteria serves a wide range of polenta-based dishes and desserts; with its wooden floors, sparse lights, healthy, rustic and simple food makes the whole dining experience very pleasant and calm indeed. I had five “Polentini” or polenta bites with different toppings: mixed mushrooms with dressed truffle oil was my favourite! I loved this place.

La polenteria restaurant

Then when my tastebuds were urgently demanding a sweet note, we headed to Snowflake Gelato.

As I regularly spend large part of my summers in Italy and have countless gelatos there I felt well placed to give a good judgement to their ice cream. This was of good quality, creamy, with distinct flavours and without any or those fake bright colours some gelatos have. Their Parmesan flavour was intriguing although it was not one of my favourites.

I had an espresso as well which I playfully poured onto the ice cream to make an “affogato”. I felt greedy, so greedy and so happy. The more food I had in front of me the more I felt I could manage even more!

Ice cream in coppetta

And the experience gets even better if good looking guys pose for you!

ice cream

Finally, feeling my belly almost bursting.. we walked to “Caffe’ Caldesi”  on Marylebone Lane. Our last stop.

Caffe' Caldesi

The restaurant looked modern, informal and elegant. I landed in heaven when my teeth sank into their Venetian doughnut stuffed with zabaglione custard. I have no words to describe this, it was simply delicious.

Restaurant Caffe Caldesi

Our tour ended here. What a day! I could barely walk as I was so full but the experience of being able to visit so many lovely places made it all worthwhile!

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10 Responses to London’s Cicchetti trail: A tour of culinary delight

  1. Angie@Angie's Recipes

    What a delicious tour! I love to taste those polentini.
    Have a wonderful day, Alida!
    Angie

  2. gloria

    Love this tour cara! all look stunning!!
    I love polenta!
    xo

  3. la cucina di Molly

    Che bella esperienza, visitare tutti quei posti e assaporare tutte quelle delizie! Grazie della condivisione! Un abbraccio!

  4. Dottie Sauchelli Balin

    Dear Alida,
    Just catching up, was very busy, had my carpets cleaned in my house yesterday, and I was so tired, so I am catching up with all the blog posts. WOW!!! This one I am glad I didn’t miss…First that must have been an honor and a thrill to be chosen to go on the Cicchetti Trail. It must have been fun to go along with the other bloggers as well. I can’t believe that you went to all of those restaurants and kept eating! I would love that. Each one that you went to and described the decor and the food just incredible to hear. It was like I was right there with you. I loved the one that you said meant apples and pears. What a colorful place that must have been. Like the Polenta place as well. Each dish you chose on the menu was better than the last. The Snowflake Gelato looked I I could have spent the day there, loved that name. But you saved the best for the last, “Caffe’ Caldesi” is by far I think my favorite. That dessert you had was unbelievable! It looks so decadent on the plate, but delicious, especially the custard inside oozing out of the Venetian doughnut! What an experience that must have been! Thank you for sharing your restaurant journey with us. I love when you write these posts..very interesting and your words are so eloquent. Have a wonderful day!
    Dottie 🙂

    • Alida

      I know, the Venetian doughnuts were incredible. So many calories but too good to give it a miss! I would go back and do the same again 🙂

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  6. Louise

    I can’t even imagine eating all those goodies in one day Alida. How in the world did you do it??? It sure sounds like you had a lot of tasty bites and beverages. I’ve heard so many good things about the English path to superb food. Looks like one more to add to the list!

    Thank you so much for sharing, Alida…

    • Alida

      Ah..! You know the more you eat the more you want, the more you would carry on feasting!

  7. Ciao Chow Linda

    Ok, I want to return to London now, just to do this tour of Italian goodies. Everything looks,delicious, but that polenteria really enchants me.

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