Here I am again writing about another gourmand weekend in London visiting WJT!
Pizza and Swan Lake on Saturday
After arriving very late on Friday night, I had a “light breakfast” on Saturday morning with yoguhrt and buttered crumpets and got ready to hit the Royal Opera House.
On the way to the opera, we stopped by at “Pepe“, an Italian street food shop in Covent Garden. Even though I’m normally quite sceptical about Italian food abroad, I have to admit that I had hardly ever had such good “pizza to go” in Italy as then one I had at Pepe. As we entered, an Italian waiter welcomed us with a “buongiorno!” – always a good start! We had two slices with different toppings: ham and brie and one with spicy sausage and mushroom. I have already talked about pizza: here you can read everything about all the different types. This one was quite thin, the dough was very crunchy and tasty. Both toppings were pretty unusual for Italian pizzas, yet equally delicious!
The ROH offered Swan Lake with the enchanting Marianela Nùñez. She was breathtaking and, even if it was not the first time I saw this ballet, her dancing was so touching that she made me cry all along the end of the fourth act.
After the ballet, we went for dinner at Arbutus – a post on this will follow.
Sunday was London Restaurant Festival!
We had tickets for the “Graze Soho”, meaning that we could try any of the 8 restaurants included in the deal, having a special dish accompanied by a complimentary glass of wine. We tried four.
1 – The first restaurant we went to was Polpo.
It’s a Venetian bàcaro (traditional wine bar). WJT and I had been to Venice last winter and tried a few bàcari – the atmosphere at Polpo was exactly as in Venice! We had a pizzetta bianca: it was not at all like normal pizza, and the consistency of the dough was more similar to a piadina. It was garnished with cheese (I am sure it had some parmesan, but I am not sure about what else), thyme and red onion – which balanced the fat of the cheese with a lighter, slightly fruity hint. The wine was a glass of very light prosecco: a good classic match!
2 – The second restaurant we tried was the Wright Brothers.
It’s an oyster house. We had a crab cocktail served with a glass of Pineau des Charentes (a sweet wine fortified with Cognac eau-de-vie from Western France). The crab was extremely fresh and it probably had just been taken out from the animal. The wine matching seemed unconventional, although I would not say that it was completely wrong.
We also had a dessert: meringue floating island accompanied by a glass of prosecco (which was richer than at Polpo). The meringue was very soft and it melted with the caramel and the very high-quality hazelnut, about which I was genuinely impressed!
3 – The third restaurant was a Spanish tapas restaurant: Copita.
I have only recently discovered Spanish food and I would say that it is my favourite cuisite outside Italy. The dishes of the day were:
Venison, chestnut and wild mushrooms terrine, truffled mash pared with Monte Cristo Crianza. The mash was delicious – the truffle really added an interesting note to such a classic dish such as a terrine.
Saffron rice, smoked mackerel and duck egg yolk pared with Napoleon Amontillado sherry. I had never eaten duck eggs, and I was surprised by much richer they are than hen’s eggs. This was probably my favourite dish of the day: the sweetness of the raisin was perfectly balanced by the saltiness of the smoked fish. The richness of the poached yolk tied all the ingredients together. In a word, perfect!
Since I’m not the only great fan of Spanish cuisine, we decided to have an extra dish which is also WJT’s favourite Spanish food! Morcilla (black pudding). Unlike the fresh black pudding more typical around Burgos, the one we had was cured and made exclusively of Pata Negra pork (Spain’s most prized pork). I liked it much more than fresh morcilla. The taste reminded of nuts (due to the pigs’ acorn diet) but the texture was very creamy, much more than any Italian salame I have ever had.
4 – Last stop of the tour: Cay Tre.
In this Vietnamese restaurant, we had some spring rolls with shrimps and a delicious thick sauce.
We loved the rolls, but what impressed us the most, was the second dish: “betel lalot”, or wrapped pork dumplings with smashed peanut. We did not manage to understand what the leaf was, but Google suggests me that it is a leaf of a vine belonging to the Piperaceae family, known in Asia for its medicinal properties. This leaf wrapping the meat ball was deep fried, the meat was very savoury – it was such a tasty dish!
After this restaurant, I unfortunately had to rash to the airport to catch my flight back to Milan, so I could not try any more restaurants! But I guess this is a good excuse to do it again next year!
WJT took a picture of me in the bus, heading to the train station –find me in the crowd!