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

Covent Garden’s latest lovely addition: Cora Pearl

Today we’re heading for Henrietta Street just off the Covent Garden Piazza to newly-opened Cora Pearl. It’s the second restaurant from the team behind Kitty Fisher’s in Mayfair (which I’ve never been to…should remedy that asap, especially as it’s in Shepherd Market, which I love!).

Both restaurants are named after famed courtesans (basically prostitutes, with wealthy or upper-class clients). Kitty Fisher was one of the world’s first celebrities who was famous simply for being famous. She swanned around London in the 1700s, getting painted multiple times by famous artist Joshua Reynolds.

Cora Pearl did pretty much the same in the 1800s. The story goes that having got bored living with her grandmother in Covent Garden she roamed the streets unchaperoned (horrors of horrors) and one day accepted the advances of an older man (more horror!) allowing him to take her to a drinking den and ply her with cakes and alcohol. He took her virginity and left her with £5, more money than she’d ever seen in her life. It’s thought she was 20 at the time and clearly switched on – as she quickly looked at her options and decided to focus on becoming the kept woman of several dedicated lovers – all with the financial means to keep her in luxury.

Cora’s namesake (I am the only one who instantly thinks of Downton Abbey when I hear the name Cora) is in a historic Covent Garden townhouse – how I’d love to live in one – with huge windows with light streaming through onto the stylish velvet green banquettes. The vintage mirrors and lights add to the sparkling ambience and the feel of opulence.

The food is a delicious mix of English and French cuisine with a touch of Italian thrown in for good measure.

What’s on the menu

There are a range of small plates which all looked so tempting we decided to share a selection. The Bloody Mary mackerel was nothing short of spectacular, so fresh it felt like it was just out of the sea and topped with crunchy onion and a spicy bloody mary jelly.

Cora Pearl: Bloody Mary Mackerel

The freshest of mackerel with a spicy topping

I’m rather partial to a good charcuterie plate – a tasty selection of ham and salami served with crunchy pickles of onion, gherkin and radish.

Cora Pearl: Charcuterie

Savoury charcuterie and crunchy pickles

Today’s magical dish was the pasta. Cow’s curd agnolotti, peas and summer truffles. Beautiful pillows of soft creaminess with a sublime sauce and that hint of the extravagance of truffles. And it looks so beautiful, too.

Cora Pearl: pasta

Heavenly pillows of truffley pasta

I’m also rather partial to a Caesar salad and this was a really clever take on it. Quail Caesar! (get it!?) had the same ingredients as a classic Caesar with the substitution of quail instead of chicken. Served hot with a delicious gravy-like sauce and a pile of little gem topped with parmesan and croutons on the side. Tasty and cleverly conceived of.

Cora Pearl: Caesar salad

An unusual and tasty take on Caesar salad

And then there’s the chips. These are ginormous constructions of heaven – crisp and golden on the outside and wonderfully soft inside making each mouthful magical. The king of chips worth a visit to Cora Pearl for on their own!

Cora Pearl: Chips

Giant chips to dream about

Having said that it’s all rather splendid. And just the sort of establishment I can imagine Cora would expect one of her gentlemen to take her to. And what a jolly good time they would have had, too.

Today’s price point

And finally, here’s the bottom line.

We paid £41 for our five dishes.

White wine starts from £29 a bottle and red from £27.

Cora Pearl is at 30 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, just off the Piazza.

Tapas time at Sabor in buzzy Heddon Street

Today it’s time for a taste of Spain in lovely Heddon Street. Sabor is the brainchild of Nieves Barragan Mohacho  and Jose Etura who hail from Bilbao, and Valladolid in Castile in central Spain. And it means flavour in Spanish – what a great name for a restaurant.

There are three areas at Sabor, the Counter and Bar on the ground floor and El Asador on the first floor.  The website describes the restaurant as “Taking a journey from the tapas bars of Andalusia through to the asadors of Castile and the seafood restaurants of Galicia”. Now that sounds like the sort of journey I want to embark on.

Made even better by the fact that it’s on one of my favourite London streets, just off Regent Street, a little restaurantland haven steps away from the hustle and bustle of London Town.

What’s on the menu

There really is a fabulous choice of Spanish-ness at Sabor. One of the day’s specials were these amazing, soft and creamy goat’s cheese croquettas. They really should come with a warning, they’re so good, I think I could eat a hundred of them!

Sabor: croquetas

The creamiest and crispiest of croquettas

The tasty stuffed baby squid was crisp and served with a beautiful garlic mayo.

Sabor: baby squid

Stuffed baby squid with silky garlic mayo

I do like a bit of quail but they can be rather an effort to eat for relatively little reward. Not today! These babies were beautifully crisp and flavoursome with a surprising amount of succulent flesh. And just perfect served with one of my favorite of Spanish sauces – Romesco and a head of crisp, refreshing chicory.

Sabor: quail

Crispy, succulent quail with delicious romesco sauce

They do love their pork in Spain which also means they really know how to cook it. Today’s Presa Iberia 5 Jotas with mojo verde was beautifully tender, again backed with those namesake flavours and served with a wonderfully rich gravy and herby accompaniment. Mojo verde is this wonderful green sauce (obviously!) made from fresh coriander, garlic, olive oil and cumin – so yummy with this pork dish – though I could actually imagine it going with plenty more dishes. A good thing to keep handy in your fridge to boost any meal, I’m thinking.

Sabor: Pork

Iberian pork in a league of its own

This is the beautifully illustrated menu at The Counter. Upstairs in El Asador they seem to specialise in suckling pig – one of my Spanish favourites.

Sabor: menu

The menu of deliciousness at The Counter

And here’s the beautiful counter. A place where I want to spend more time enjoying some more deliciously authentic Spanish dishes. Vuelvo enseguida.

Sabor: The Counter

The beautiful Spanish counter

Sabor is at 35-37 Heddon Street, just off Regent Street.