Saturday, September 30, 2006

In search of the mushroom man

His signature is everywhere. There are the cookery books and the food stores and of course the Neal Street restaurant. Yes, Carluccio’s.

A dinner with a work colleague from Australia is the perfect excuse to investigate the man behind the mushroom. Well sort of. With over twenty Carluccio’s in London, it’s hardly surprising that he’s not there. If he is anywhere, it is likely to be at his restaurant rather than this Italian eatery/ cafe in South Kensington opposite the tube station.

Carluccio’s is safe Italian eating – a gesture towards regional cuisine gentrified to the tastes of London. With its modern stylising and adjoining food store, Carluccio’s is yet another example of food branding. It’s the lifestyle, not the food that you are eating.

Dinner begins well with a fresh and delightful Antipasto di Verdue to share. The pesto has all the favour of a warm summer’s day. The peppers are perfectly chargrilled and the aubergine dip - smoky and enhanced by the inclusion of pine-nuts. It’s the quality rather than the selection that is standout. I select the Silvium (rosè) from Botromagno, Puglia and and “J” orders the Nero D’Avola from Mandrarossa, Siciliy that he describes as “intense and rich with subtle tannins”. I believe him – the wine is good; although again, safe.

Mains prove disappointing; although that said, the wild mushroom risotto is cooked to perfection and the mushrooms retain all their distinctiveness despite a heavy use of cream. The Penne Giardiniera that looked so promising when it was served to the table next to me proved bland. The pasta was cooked just so so and the sauce failed to emerge from an overuse of garlic. The courgette simply wilted in response to it over-powering cousin in this dish. The deep fried spinach balls would have been better on the anti-pasto palate. Disappointing.

To compensate another glass of red was ordered as was dessert: a Sicilian inspired cassata served with a pistachio cream. Very light and delicate in favouring, it was a delight.

Carluccio's is reliable and dependable but for something special, go elsewhere.

One Old Brompton Road, LondonSW7 3HZ
Tel. 020 7581 8101 Fax. 020 7581 2499

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A simple supper

There is nothing better or more satisfying than a perfect Saturday night supper. To be a true supper it has to be a simple affair. Quick to make and satisfying, leaving you with a feeling of contentment.

I knew what I wanted and found everything I needed at Borough Market. This is a foodie market - full of good quality, artisan produce with its stalls of cheeses, breads, cakes, meats and fish from across the UK, France, Spain and Italy. I wasn't alone in my quest for the perfect meal. Everyone seems to have a basket in hand in search of their own perfect Saturday night dinner.

Dinner proved a simple affair - mushrooms on toast. A classic easy dish if ever there was one. Oyster mushrooms sauteed in olive oil with garlic. Seasoned with fresh flat-leaf parsley, salt and pepper. Served on a crisp Swiss brown loaf.

Everything courtesy of Borough Market. What can I say: Delicious.