Southern Italian delights at Il Sud

Today we’re heading to Il Sud, just north of Oxford Street. It’s in Fitzrovia – a London borough that’s buzzing with fabulous places to eat. This new opening is the brainchild of three guys who hail from Southern Italy and are showcasing the dishes of this foodie region. So much splendid produce to work with, and a menu to salivate over.

While we contemplated our tasty options we tucked into a plate of beautifully fresh focaccia, topped with rosemary and spicy tomato relish and dipped into pungent olive oil.

Il Sud: Focaccia

The freshest of tasty focaccia

What’s on the menu

Il Sud offers a selection of classic Southern Italian fare with a lovely line-up of starters, a choice of pasta and risotto dishes and meaty and fishy mains.

I’m a huge burrata fan and the creaminess of this cheesy ball was perfectly complemented with heritage tomatoes, capers, olives and anchovies. Maybe one of the best combinations ever. The sort of dish that transports you straight to the sunshine of southern Italy (in your mind anyway).

Il Sud: Burrata

Creamy burrata perfectly matched

Seafood is obviously also a big part of coastal Italy’s food and one of the classic ways to serve it is simply deep fried like this frittura di calamari e gamberi. Fresh calamari and prawns in a light batter with a tasty mayo dipping sauce.

Il Sud: seafood

Luscious, crispy seafood

The homemade pappardelle was served with a rich and melt-in-the-mouth wild boar ragu and a sprinkling of tangy parmesan.

Il Sud: wild boar ragu

The richest of wild boar ragu

I loved the look of all the starters so decided to order one as my main. Certainly a good decision. The seared scallops were served with pea sauce, crispy red onion and red pepper veloute. A pretty-as-a-picture dish that, most importantly, tasted as great as it looked.

Il Sud: scallops

Tender scallops and fabulous flavours

Today’s price point

And finally…

Our lunch for two cost £46.

Starters range from £7 to £12.50 and pastas start at £14.

Il Sud is at 21 Berners Street, Fitzrovia

Delightful Italian fare at Osteria Tarantino

Today we’re heading for the villagey feel of Cape Town’s De Waterkant. It’s a colourful world of cottages and cobbled streets that’s also home to myriad cafes, bars and restaurants. Plenty to see here, just make sure your footwear is comfy – you’re going to have slopes to deal with.

Our lunchtime destination was Osteria Tarantino towards the top of the hill. Though we did stop halfway up for a refreshing g&t on the verandah of The Grey Hotel – I do love a verandah, even the word conjures up happy images for me. There’s also a chilled rooftop bar which we had to check out. Thumbs up all round. Time for lunch.

Osteria Tarantino is a family-owned little eatery where you’re welcomed with open arms. The menus are chalked on blackboards and the owner Enrico Tarantino (and yes surely he’s related to Quentin!) explains all the available dishes with passion. Making it really hard to choose one, they all sound irresistible. So while we tried to settle on our mains we ordered some Tuscan cigars to keep us going.

What’s on the menu

The sweetest of Parma ham is wrapped around soft, creamy stracciatella cheese and peppery rocket. These are little parcels of heaven with the perfect mix of flavours and textures.

Tarantino: starter

All the pasta is freshly made on-site. The signature dish is called 4Ps. Porcini, parmigiana and pancetta make up the main ingredients of a delightful tomato-based veal mince sauce that is served with pappardelle ribbons. This is the generous pan which is a portion for two.

Tarantino: 4P pasta

The amazing pan of 4 Ps

Tarantino:4P pasta

Luscious ribbons and delicious sauce

My indulgent dish was the magical-sounding fiocchetti pasta. Little hand-made flower-shaped parcels filled with sweet gorgonzola and served with a creamy porcini sauce, topped generously with parmesan. Soft and satisfyingly creamy, this is a cheese lover’s dream.

Tarantino: Fioccheti

Beautifully rich and cheesy fioccheti

Tarantino: Fioretti

A closer view of the delicate flowers

This is food cooked with love and passion. Pasta dishes can’t be more perfectly made or more satisfying to eat. I’m telling you – it’s a fact. My little flowery parcels were certainly some of the best pasta I’ve ever tasted.

We then couldn’t resist ordering a tiramisu to share (who can resist a tiramisu?) which was beautifully moist with great coffee flavours and a touch of liquor. All made by the lovely Michele who is Enrico’s stepson and looked after us so well on our lunchtime visit.

Tarantino: tiramisu

Perfect flavours of coffee and booze

Tarantino: blackboard

One of the beautifully chalked blackboards

Tarantino: balsamic

Lovely wine and balsamic

What a lunch! We left with hugs from Michele and John (yes we had officially become part of the Tarantino family) and promises to be back soon. Now there’s a promise I’m going to keep.

Tarantino: friends

Candice makes friends with the family – the lovely Michele

Today’s price point

We paid R1,100 (around £65 at today’s exchange rate) for lunch for three people.

This included one starter, three pasta dishes, one dessert and two bottles of wine.

Osteria Tarantino is at 125A Waterkant Street, De Waterkant, Cape Town.

Classically perfect pasta at Morgenster

I’m taking my job very seriously this month and trying to bring you news and lovely pictures from a range of Cape Winelands eateries. So today we’ve popped in for a casual mid-week lunch at 95 at Morgenster.

Morgenster is a thriving wine and olive farm which dates back to 1711. They are known for their Bourdeaux-style blends and their Italian Collection wines. All of which are fabulous. Plus they offer a  top range of olive oils.

The restaurant 95 at Morgenster is the baby of Italian chef Giorgio Nava, whose lovely original restaurant, 95 Keerom, is in  central Cape Town. The menu is inspired by the food of Milan and there’s a good selection of salads, antipasti, pasta and meat dishes.

Our taste buds got awakened by the sound of all the pasta dishes. My homemade ravioli of slow baked Karoo lamb shoulder was served with sage butter and parmesan. One of those pasta dishes that makes you want to sigh with delight with every mouthful. The richness and softness of the lamb, the flavoursome pasta pillows and that amazingly silken butter sauce. Truly a pasta dish to dream about.

Luscious ravioli in sage butter

You can’t beat a classic Italian dish perfectly done. The handmade tagliatelle came with a slow cooked beef ragu and fresh herbs. You can tell just by looking at this picture that it was a lovingly prepared ragu with great richness and depth.

Rich and tasty ragu with flavoursome fresh pasta

We actually got to Morgenster a bit early for lunch so settled on the restaurant’s lovely verandah overlooking the dam and mountains and enjoyed a pre-lunch coffee. Love the attention to detail here, with footprints in the foam.

Who left their footprints in the coffee?

You eat in dappled sunlight under a slatted roof (as you can see from the pictures of our lovely pasta dishes). And this is the expansive view of water, mountains and azure sky.

Food always tastes better with a view

Morgenster is at Vergelegen Avenue, off Lourensford Road on the outskirts of Somerset West.

Today’s price point

We paid R320 (about £19 at today’s exchange rate) for two delicious pasta dishes and a bottle of Merlot.

The taste of Venice in chic St James

Today we’re eating in London’s West End in swanky St James. The area was developed in the 17th century as a residential location for the British aristocracy. Now it’s home to fine clothing stores, chic art galleries, gentlemen’s clubs and beautiful terraces. And of course its share of top restaurants. It certainly exudes class and you can feel a general poshness in the air.

Veneta is the latest in the fantastic Salt Yard stable which includes one of my favourites – its sister in Soho – Ember Yard. The elegant eatery is in the shiny new St James Place area and its menu is inspired by classic Venetian dishes. It has a real feel of glamour and plushness, the kind of restaurant that lifts your spirits as you walk in the door. You can just feel good things happen here!

We started off with heavenly focaccia, topped with a dusting of crunchy salt and rosemary sprigs.

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Warmly soft and flavoursome focaccia

I’m a bit of an anchovy addict and these were tastily luscious, served simply with paper thin toast and butter. The perfect way to get the gastric juices going.

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An anchovy snack to delight

Autumn brings beetroot to many menus and this colourful seasonal salad was packed with flavour. Slivers of salt-baked carrots and beef were served with sheep’s ricotta, date puree and oregano.

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A colourful autumn display

From the small plates section we chose this kid goat ragu with fresh pappardelle. Seems like goat is popping up on menus all around London Town and I must say I’m loving it. This ragu was in a class of its own, beautifully rich and silken, coating the wonderful fresh pasta.

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Goat seems to be all the rage in London

A bowl of polenta with parmesan cream and topped with earthy girolles from the vegetable section made the perfect accompaniment to the richness of the pork.

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Creamy polenta and earthy mushrooms

Our meaty choice was the charcoal grilled pork ribeye. The tastiest piece of pork I’ve had in a while, with that irresistible charred flavour and courgettes on the side.

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Pork chop perfectly charred

And then it was dessert time. I’m not much of a one for pudding but Italian sweets are not for resisting. Their mini tiramisu tower was exquisite, I especially loved the coffee cream on the side.

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Finishing the traditional Italian way

Today’s price point

Our lunch came to £50 for two people.

We opted to eat tapas-style mainly from their small plate section. There are also large plates on offer.

Veneta is at 3 Norris Street, St James W1.

It’s open from 7am Monday to Friday and 9am Saturday and Sunday for all-day dining (including breakfast).

Christmas delights at Spaghetti House

It’s that time of year again – Christmas. Okay it’s only early November but the Christmas lights have been up in London for some time already and the shops are bulging with decorations, food and ideas to make it your best Christmas ever. All that sort of stuff.

For me the best part of Christmas is the chance to spend time with friends and family – and of course, the food. So I was delighted to get an early taster of Spaghetti House’s tasty Christmas offering. I do love this family-run group of London restaurants. You’re guaranteed top quality, authentic Italian dishes, it’s great value for money and there’s always a warm welcome.

The set Christmas menu offers a choice of four starters, mains and desserts. So something to suit everyone. We watched the expert chefs led by Achille Travaglini prepare everything fresh in front of us. Achille was also happy to share some of his top tips with us, like the use of orange zest in his prawn cocktail to give it an extra zing, and a slice of orange to serve for colour.

Here’s a taster of what you can enjoy for your Christmas celebration.

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Spaghetti House’s take on cocktail di gamberetti

The involtini di melanzane al forno  is a generous portion of baked aubergines stuffed with basil and ricotta with Napoli sauce. Beautifully rich and satisfying, and extremely cheesy. A deliciously indulgent starter.

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Baked aubergine filled with indulgent ricotta

The sea bass fillet (branzino also scalogno) came with shallot dressing and balsamic drops, grain mustard mash and spinach. Sweet and perfectly pan-fried fish topped a pile of smooth, zesty mash.

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The sea bass is a delightful fishy option

Pasta lovers won’t be able to resist the tortellini al funghi and tartufo. Handmade pasta parcels are filled with mushrooms and black truffle and served with a creamy mushroom sauce, crispy sage and lemon zest.

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Little parcels of truffle, mushroom deliciousness

For red meat lovers there’s the medaglioni di manzo al vino rosso. Beef tenderloin medallions are served on a bed of aubergine puree with a red wine sauce and smoked sautéed potatoes.

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A substantial plate of tasty beef and potatoes

Italian desserts are my absolute favourites and I do love a good tiramisu. Made here with soaked espresso biscuits, mascarpone and amaretto liquor. Simply yum.

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Tiramisu is the king of Italian desserts

Winter fruit compote came with toasted traditional panettone – feather-light panettone soaks up the richness and syrupy-ness of the compote.

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Panettone and winter fruits to delight

There’s also an Italian version of crumble – the Bramley apple crumble is served with a  large dollop of vanilla ice cream.

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A pot of apple crumble topped with rich ice cream

Of course there are also traditional choices available like chicken liver pate to start, roast Norfolk turkey with all the trimmings for mains and a stunning Christmas pudding with brandy sauce.

The Christmas menu is available from 21 November to 21 December 24 2016.

Today’s price point

Spaghetti House’s Menu Natalizio (Christmas menu) is great value at £16.95 for two courses, £19.95 for three courses or £29.95 for three courses with half a litre of wine.

To find out more visit spaghettihouse.co.uk

Recipe: Goats’ cheese & beetroot fiorelli served with fresh spinach & chive pesto

I love beetroot and am always trying to eat more of it. A vegetable with many health benefits, beetroot was first cultivated by the Romans and belongs to the same family as chard and spinach. It’s know to help with intestinal problems, has a positive effect on blood pressure…and it’s delicious.

So I was delighted to discover Dell’Ugo’s goats’ cheese and beetroot fiorelli. This family business is the longest established fresh pasta company in the UK and offer a delicious range of products. It’s now run by Paul Ugo, the grandson of the founder, who says: “My family have been making pasta since 1929 when my grandfather Luigi arrived in London from Italy and founded the first fresh pasta company in the UK. In the 1960s my father Leo took over the business and in the 1990s I followed suit.” So they’ve had plenty of practice.

The fiorelli comes with recipe and serving suggestions on the packaging so today I decided to make their spinach and chive pesto – a fabulous sauce that would go with any pasta.

Recipes don’t come simpler than this. Whizz up the pesto, cook the pasta, mix and serve. And the combination of flavours is stunning. You have the creaminess of the goats cheese and the sweetness of the beetroot as the filling in the melt-in-the-mouth fiorelli. Then the pesto adds garlic, parmesan and chive flavours to the mix – along with a vibrant greenness. Delightful.

RECIPES SERVES TWO

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The perfectly pretty plate of food in shades of green and pink

250g Dell’Ugo goats’ cheese and beetroot fiorelli

50g baby spinach

Half a bunch of fresh chives

100ml olive oil

20g Parmesan

1 clove of garlic

20g toasted pine nuts

Heat a pan of boiling water and quickly dip the chives and spinach for a few seconds so they soften but are bright green. Remove from the water and cool slightly.

Add the spinach and chives to a blender with the Parmesan, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil and blend to a paste. You can read more about the many health benefits of spinach at www.cooking detective.com

Meanwhile heat a pan of water and once boiling cook the pasta for three minutes until tender. Drain the pasta in a colander.

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Beetroot pasta in all its pinkness

Return the pan to the heat and add the pesto. Warm the pesto through. Add the pasta back to the pan and toss so the pesto coats it well.

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Indulgently silken pesto

Divide the pasta between two bowls and serve.

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The Dell’Ugo range is available from Waitrose and online at Ocado. The goats’ cheese and beetroot fiorelli costs £3.49.

You can find out more about the company at dellugo.co.uk