Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Truffle-y good!

The other J and I found ourselves peckish and slightly footsore after a post-Cabaret mooch around Covent Garden outside Neal Street Restaurant and felt it would be rude not to pop in avail ourselves of their fine Italian fare. A quick glance at the menu made me come over all truffle-y and the only decision to be made was which of the delicious sounding truffle enhanced dishes should I choose. It was a tough call and this is a seriously fabulous seasonal menu but after some due consideration I plumped for:

Tagliolini al Tartufo Bianco
Hand-cut tagliolini served with butter and truffle sauce with shavings of whit
e truffle


Boned quails stuffed with black truffle and served with seasonal sautéed wild and cultivated mushrooms


Chestnut and chocolate semifreddo served with crème Anglaise

The fresh pasta with the white truffle was utterly divine. A trolley is wheeled up to the table and a pan of just cooked pasta is expertly tossed in the juices and then a perfumed lump is carefully shaved all over the pasta. And the smell is just so amazing, I always find it hard to describe, it’s heady, it’s evocative and somehow quite primal. And boy does it get the juices flowing! And it tastes even better. This was rather a decadent starter but I’ve been hankering after white truffles for a while and as it’s the truffle season, I just couldn’t resist. And if you’re going to indulge in some white truffles an expertly Italian-made dish would seem the way to go.

To continue the truffle theme, my main course were very tasty quails stuffed with truffles with some very Antonio Carluccio-esque wild mushrooms. The Carluccio fondness for mushrooms is very apparent here, as you enter the restaurant you are greeted with a giant stone mushroom (carved from some leftover stone from the House of Parliament apparently) filled with a plethora of wild mushrooms. The walls of the restaurant are lined with long sticks that Antonio has whittled/carved in moments of quiet contemplation. The quails were really good but after that stupendous starter everything else pales somewhat.

The other J had ZUPPA DI FAGIOLI CANNELLINI E FUNGHI Cannellini beans and wild mushroom soup followed by LINGUINE ALL`ASTICE Classic Lobster linguine. And the lobster was bought to the table with the similar theatre as the white truffled pasta.

We shared the very Christmassy light chestnut and chocolate semifreddo and then just in case I felt I hadn’t explored the truffle theme enough we were bought the most unctuous chocolate truffles. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm!

As we were getting our coats I commented to the other J about the drawing of three middle aged trouser less men in the ladies’ toilets and pondered if the men’s toilets had an equivalent picture. The maitre d’hotel overheard me and said that the men’s toilets had no such picture, in fact no pictures at all and explained that the picture in question was a David Hockney that had been presented to Antonio Carluccio. Hockney had drawn and sold the picture to raise funds for a court case back in the 80’s when the three pictured men were accused of publishing a lewd magazine. In fact the maitre d’ was so lovely, I wish I’d taken his name, he didn’t just clarify the trouser free men but told us all about the décor as well and laughed when I told him I'd seen his boss at the Blueprint Cafe Cookbook club and he'd told a joke in a slightly impenetrable Italian accent and we'd all struggled to understand the punchline. It turned out to be rather rude!

I left very happy and in a haze of aromatic white truffle; it really is pungent stuff. This meal was truffle-y good and deserves three truffled forks. Excellent real Italian food as it should be.

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