[dropcap]I[/dropcap] had the pleasure of going on a lovely Italian culinary adventure over the weekend, thanks to the London Restaurant Festival and Nuffnang! Following the Cicchetti trail with me were Federica of Whatever Gets You Through The Day and Alida from My Little Italian Kitchen. Setting off from Neal’s Yard, we waved goodbye to Jesse, Miho and Ai Pheng who were embarking on a Japanese Journey, and headed towards the first stop in our passport books- Augustus Harris. There were six restaurants to visit throughout the day, each offering a taster plate from their menu.
Augustus Harris is tucked away just behind the Royal Opera House on Catherine Street, and looks like something from a vintage dream. It just needed a red mini parked out the front! We were given an Aperol Spritz whilst they prepared our crostinis, and thanks to my Italian companion I learnt that an Aperol Spritz, especially in Northern Italy, is a regular aperitif.
My choice of three crostinis arrived- roasted wild mushroom with parsley butter, mackerel and pickled red onions, and gorgonzola with pear, grapes and honey on top of crispy ciabatta bread. They looked too pretty eat, but I tucked in and they were as yummy as they looked. My favourite of the three had to be the gorgonzola with pear, grapes and honey- me and my sweet tooth! All the flavours were perfectly paired and I wouldn’t have minded just spending the afternoon munching on these and chatting over my spritz. With our passports stamped, we set off towards the second stop of our trail- House of Peroni.
Whereas Augustus Harris was cosy and intimate, House of Peroni is a modern art installation that happens to serve food. On the top floor, diners share a winding white table over chilled bottles of Peroni, natch. My choice for this stop was the Zucchine ripiene di gamberi- or- roasted courgettes stuffed with minced prawns.
I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with courgettes- sometimes I find the texture too soft, but in this dish it was well cooked and the minced prawns a nice savoury balance. On the way back down, I had a little wander around the venue- finding bars and art installations dotted throughout this old townhouse.
Feeling a little full already, we took a leisurely stroll towards stop number 3: Mele E Pere in the heart of Soho. Alida and Federica told me that it means Apples and Pears. I like to think thats a bit of tongue in cheek, to translate a classic Cockney saying into an Italian trattoria!
Parking ourselves by the window to watch the Soho crowds pass by, comforting mini skillets of braised beef and porcini mushrooms swimming in a bath of polenta and gravy. Each of us let out an audible sigh- this was pure comfort in a little dish and just what we needed after an afternoon spent nibbling on little bites! Our bellies warmed up a little, our next stop was just around the corner on Old Compton Street- La Polenteria.
La Polenteria’s speciality is polenta- on display in their window is a mixer whirring away a new batch of polenta for hungry customers. We were presented with a platter of little bites; mushrooms in truffle oil, gorgonzola with walnut cream and parmesan, mixed vegetables with pesto, herb oil and sesame seed, smoked salmon with mascarpone, dill and Caprino cheese and finally speck with orange zest. They reminded me of little blini canapes and were simple and delicious. To send us on our way, we were kindly given little bags of Italian biscuits! (I ate them with a cup of tea later- so good!) By now, a cup of coffee and a pitstop were needed and this is exactly what we got on the next leg of our journey at Snowflake Gelato!
Originally on offer for this stop were Peroni sorbetto or Parmesan Gelato- but after sampling a taster, each of us weren’t that keen and were kindly allowed a scoop of our choice! I ordered a scoop of Biscotti and Pistachio, with a steaming cup of black coffee as I rested my weary feet. I have no words for the Biscotti flavour- it was divine, as was the pistachio. But the Biscotti…it spoke to me. Mmmm. Feeling a little more revitalised, we had one last pit stop!
Tucked away in Marylebone, Caffe Caldesi was the perfect way to end this delicious journey through London. A plate of Venetian doughnuts filled with a dreamy zabaglione custard dusted with icing sugar- it was the cherry on top of our trail! You can never go wrong with a doughnut…or custard for that matter!
If you would are interested in taking on the Cicchetti Trail, tickets for the remaining day this Saturday 25th are available here, for £58 each. That’s basically £10 per stop, with a drink AND tasting plate. You can take your time on the trail, and it’s a lovely way to spend the day, rambling around the city stopping in for delicious bites at six different restaurants. I’m so glad to have discovered each and every one of these places, and I plan on returning to the for extra crostini delights! And also…those doughnuts. Or the polenta bites…and gelato…well. I’m spoilt for choice!
^^my Press pass (passport?) was c/o Nuffnang- thanks guys!^^