FOOD • May 2018
Famous for his high-end Italian cooking, former River Café chef Theo Randall recommends the London restaurants you cannot miss for authentic Italian cuisine
I spent 17 years at The River Café (pictured above) and it’s an amazing place. I’ve seen so many restaurants inspired by its philosophy, changing the way they cook and design to focus on quality. The menu is written daily, so you eat to match the weather – it’s lovely in the summer outside under the trees. When I first started working there, I remember tasting the chargrilled squid with fresh chilli and rocket, which is so simple, but you can’t beat the wonderful flavours of lemon juice, olive oil and rocket. Another dish is the stinco di vitello, veal shin slow-cooked with wine, tomatoes, celery, carrot, onions and thyme for five hours. Try it with polenta or risotto for an incredibly filling but delicious main dish.
This is a brilliant restaurant – it does classic Italian with a twist, and I admire the way [chef patron] Jacob Kenedy puts the menu together, with dishes of various sizes from different regions. You could probably eat just from the side plates, they’re that good – try the deep-fried artichokes, olives and tiny mozzarella balls. I love eating at the bar, watching the chefs prepare the food. Kenedy also does an amazing salad with radish, celeriac, pomegranate and pecorino, everything thinly sliced and doused in quality olive oil. Follow this with the slow-roasted porchetta, cooked with fennel and bay leaves.
The food at Trullo is simple but fantastic, and the prices are unbelievably reasonable. They do a fantastic beef shin ragu with pappardelle, and I’ve really enjoyed the lamb with borlotti beans. It’s not ostentatious at all, but the quality is there – especially the pasta – which is why its offshoot Padella in London Bridge has done so well. They don’t shout about it, but the food is excellent.
From the Clove Club, Luca does delicious fries made with polenta, deep-fried, with parmesan piped through like churros. Start with a few of these. When I was last there, I had pan-fried scallops with Jerusalem artichokes and nduja. There’s also a lovely pasta dish that uses orrecchiete, which has an amazing chewy texture, combined with greens and smoked cod roe – it’s an unusual flavour, but delicious.
Of course, I must mention some of the lovely things at my restaurant. Among the starters there’s a delicious carne crudo made with finely chopped Hereford beef, dressed with amazing olive oil, marinated artichokes, black truffles and parmesan. If you love burrata, the restaurant has some of the freshest in London, sourced from a Pugliese lady based in Clapham who makes the cheese every day with milk from Surrey farms. For the main event, try the succulent roast turbot from our wood oven, with braised Sicilian peppers, but if you’re a pasta fan, go for our signature dish of fresh veal-stuffed cappelletti with a porcini-and-butter sauce.
Interview by Marisa Cannon
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