LOCANDA LOCATELLI: NOBODY KNOWS THE TRUFFLES I’VE SEEN
Life, ah Life. When I am in one of my more self pitying moods, I often think that is what other people have when I am at trade fairs. Bless, eh?
Still, after a few weeks of constant travel and nary a weekend at home, I decided to take a Friday off and treat myself to a "life day" a lay in ( all of 9am ) and a decent lunch.
I had two thoughts in mind, J Sheekey’s and Locanda Locatelli. I asked Amex to make the booking and the first one they came back with was London’s foremost Italian eatery.
I have not been to LL for years. I am, however, predisposed to like Giorgio Locatelli a great deal for two reasons.
The first comes from our first visit. HP had, I am sure you will not be surprised, booked a table for its opening week and we enjoyed a very agreeable supper ( mine noticeably better than his ) I particularly enjoyed a dish of Buccleuch beef which was still a year away from its ubiquity on London menus and mentioned how great it was to the waiter at the end of our meal. At the end of service, GL exploded from the kitchen brandishing a brochure and spent a good 15 minutes with us explaining why he thought this was the best beef in the world. His passion was tangible and genuine and showed he gave a damn when many chefs truly don’t.
The second, comes from a meal at Reffetorio in Blackfriars where I had a perfectly passable meal with a friend about two years ago. Locatelli, who consulted with the restaurant on its menu, was seated in a booth with his family and his young daughter ( who I believe is unfortunately allergic to everything in Christendom ) was scampering around as young kids do. My friend spent a few moments playing with her and she then ran back to the bosom of her family. We thought nothing of it until the end of our meal when we found that our sizable drinks bill had been dealt with. Part of me suspects it was PR and he knew nothing about it, but the other bit of me puts it down to a decent bloke doing a decent thing.
Anyway. I arrived at LL at noon and was settled quickly into a lovely table in a cosy corner.
A glass of Prosecco came with some of the best grissini I have tried and I was hard pressed not to finish of the whole lot.
Just as well as the bread, usually treated with disdain by this hater of carbs, was even better and I mopped up half a bottle of Sicilian olive oil with some exemplary aubergine bread.
It’s white truffle season but at first, I was unswayed by the waiter’s offer of specials and went for one of the most expensive starters, a plate of linguine with Cornish lobster for a mere £17.50. However, my first taste was so good, I just gave in and allowed myself the pleasure of a “ who cares what the bill is” lunch. The sauce was light, the lobster fresh and clean and the pasta retained a perfect bite. I normally avoid pasta, but this reminded me of how good it can be.
I asked the waiter if I could slot in a truffle course. This time an almost perfect tagilatelle with a sauce of clarified butter and aged parmesan. Then the truffles were brought out in all their fungal splendour. £4.50 a gram, they were weighed before and after shaving. My waiter, shaved for a few moments, about 4grms when re-weighed and then said ‘ what the hell” and shaved a few more bits for me.
For those who have not tried white truffles, it is hard to describe how good it is. Like amazing sex after scoring the winning goal in a World Cup final while having the Heavyweight Championship belt placed around your waist. It is that good and this dish really was that good. In my top five dishes of the year. But, it is hard for any truffle dish to be bad.
Not so the first attempt at my main course. The Calf’s liver I asked for on the medium side of rare came well done. As soon as I mentioned it, the plate was cleared along with the Zucchine fritte I had ordered to accompany it. When it came back it was perfect, delicious and in big meaty chunks. The balsamic and raisin reduction offered little but it was an accomplished dish.
Normally, I think puddings are for girls, but they persuaded me to a selection of gelati, the best of which was a tangy liquorice. They came served on a bed of candied star fruit which was as pointless as a conversation with a £20 prostitute. Harmless enough but, in reality, just adding £7 to the bill.
As always with solo dining, wines by the glass underwhelmed. A Jacopo from Venezia was fine with the linguine and truffle dishes. Better, a Sassabruna from Tuscany was strong enough to work with the reduction of the main course. Best of all was a Passito from Pantellaria. A new one on me but perfect with ice cream.
That was it. I staggered out with a lighter heart and wallet ( by £130 inc very very good service ) but it was worth it and, for the time being at least, I feel just that little bit more human.
Oh, yes, That's a copy of Boxing News in one of the pictures. So, nobody try messin with me. Ok?