Mennula, Fitzrovia, London
A nice hot golden brown arancini, almonds and green olives marinated with a bit of orange peel serve a little bites while reading the menu.
Several varieties of bread, with varied texture, all well-baked and fresh tasting.
Cured venison (seared on the surface) has a lean and subtle taste, politely presenting its beefiness, a sustained flavour with an occasional soft snarl of the wild. Cubes of nutty pecorino complement it well (bringing up images of a good cheeseburger), along with the leaves of spinach (the rougher aspects of the grassy flavour glossed over by the olive oil) and slices or artichoke.
A risotto of pecorino, broad beans and summer truffle is covered in a nutty profusion of little truffle curls. The flavour is well toned and earthy (enhanced by black truffle oil?) and fairly deep, without going over into the room filling intensity of the winter version. The flavours play well together, different aspects of nuttiness in the cheese and the broad beans come together easily with the truffle flavour. The rice grains have a bluntly dense interior, finishing each bite with the faintest possible squeak. A dryish, moderately rich Vermentino (a Sardinian white) with a solid mineral backbone pairs perfectly, modestly amplifying the truffle flavour.
Sfinci, very light (egg white?) donuts are filled with a tangy cream (ricotta?), evenly flavoured with woodsy cinnamon, and sweetened with drizzled honey. The puffy clouds of fried dough still retain a shade of warmth (made to order with a 15min waiting time) and are topped with sesame. They not sweet by themselves, and rely on the judicious amount of honey and the accompanying almond ice cream to provide sweetness.
Lastly limoncello with a very sweet fragrance, with almonds in two types of biscuits, a pair of cantucci, and a chewy marzipanish cookie.
Good rustic and well tuned cooking.
I absolutely hate the GR programmes but did watch last night to see Mennula. I can't imagine why those chefs put themselves at GR's mercy other than to get some publicity. That said, I liked what Mennula offered and will try to get there one of these days. It gets a good review in The Good Food Guide, as does Casamia.
I don't know. I was watching on the computer, and the screen froze towards the end of the programme. I didn't have time to sit and fiddle with it. Maybe howler knows if he watched it. My choice would have been Mennula. The Casamia people didn't seem quite as professional and their food is very experimental... but interesting.