See http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/698606 - obligatory chowhound reading
Got to try a couple of places with greedygirl and I was stunned at how good it was -- even after some high expectations from reading the above thread.
One might dismiss the thickly sliced cured meats on the antipasti plate; afterall, most nice places slice them thinly and elegantly. But the thick cut prosciutto was meaty and sweet, ruby rather than rose, and delivered a serious amount of flavour. Great mortadella, ripping wonderfully on the teeth. Dense waxy salame, again the meaty flavour amplified by the thick cut. The underlying stuff was great, and perhaps how he cut it didn't matter as much. I think I might have had one or two things better at Viva Verdi, but it's quite a toss-up; it certainly found the cured meats at Bellantoni more flavoursome than the equivalent at Murano.
But the star was probably the mozzarella, with wobbly delicate strings of curd on the surface, and less than a centimeter beneath, a soft milky core. I don't think I've had better in fancy Italian places in Mayfair.
Other bites of cheeses that were also good - a chalky pecorino, some simple chilli pepper-laced cheese (probably my least favourite), and something nutty and hard (wasn't exactly sure if it was parmiggiano - memory not great, but hoping greedygirl will chime in).
Nice intense sun dried tomatoes. Nutty leaves of rocket. And bright summery blackberries that made a lovely fruity counterpoint to the cheese and cured meats. A great olive oil with a very clean and balanced acidity.
The baked macaroni was outstanding, good bite to the pasta, a perfect sunny tomato sauce that just coats the pasta and binds it with the cheese, and insinuating between all that, the evocative vegetal sweet of cabbage and a thin bitter vein behind it. Rare to see cabbage making that kind of statement, but it was truly eloquent.
A cool, pleasant crayfish salad, lightly glossed with oil, flavoured with complex layers of herbs that were fresh light but sustained -- tarragon and dill seemed most obvious, but also the occasional pink peppercorn and probably other things
The monkfish cheeks had a texture somewhere between string mozzarella and tender chicken breast -- immense numbers of moist minute fibres, microscopic squishing with the faintest possible sponginess. Again more fresh herbs that add the flavours of turf to surf, and beneath that a bounty of delightful peas that gentle pop and broad beans with more substantial resistance. Just a gentle but extremely savoury borth of some sort that serves as a sauce. (If only the broth in Murano's halibut dish was as balanced as this.)
Dessert was a dense, sticky and chewy slab of very good chocolate, a concentrated ganache. Paired perfectly with soft cooked cherries. We longed for a dab of cream, but it was already very substantial.
Excellent use of flavoursome seasonal ingredients, well edited minimalist cooking. People that love the iconic Chez Panisse will love this.
In both places, remarkable prices, a fraction of one would pay at lesser places in neighbourhoods with more expensive real estate. Probably about half of what one would pay at a passable gastropub anywhere. ~£30 for all of the above, more than enough to feed 2 people for dinner.
Brixton Village is a serious food destination, and the fact that it's extremely inexpensive is incidental. It may not stay that way for long; anyone who's serious about food should be scoping out Brixton Village now.
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