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.
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.
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.
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.
My roasted courgettes filled with prawns and a refreshing bottle of Peroni beer went down very well.
Next on the list, in the heart of Soho was “Mele e Pere” which translates to “Apples and Pears”.
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.
Continuing our trail I was allured by an electric polenta maker I saw in the window of “La Polenteria” , our next stop.
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!
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.
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!
And the experience gets even better if good looking guys pose for you!
Finally, feeling my belly almost bursting.. we walked to “Caffe’ Caldesi” on Marylebone Lane. Our last stop.
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.
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!