Review: Tartufo in Chelsea:
Location, Location, Location! – an invitation to review Tartufo at No.11 Cadogan Gardens, perfectly situated for Ladies who (like to) Lunch, was one not to ignore. The restaurant is hidden within a boutique hotel, No.11 Cadogan Gardens, just a stone’s throw from Sloane Square. So, very easy to reach even if it IS pouring with rain and like me you get lost trying to negotiate the eccentric street numbering (for reference, Google Maps unexpectedly gets this one completely right).
Walk in to the hotel and you’ll feel as if you are stepping back in time – heavy brocades, panelled walls, library shelves filled with leather bound books and classic elegance.
But, downstairs, the secret restaurant is at once classic and light, with pristine linens and simple table settings. There are two dining rooms seating around fifty in total, with the second room able to open out in more clement weather to provide al-fresco dining.
Our invitation was to review the newly launched set lunch menu at Tartufo, which I initially thought was rather expensive. Then I read the small print and discovered that pretty much everything is included in the the price (£30 for two course and £35 for three). For that there is a choice of three dishes at each stage, petit fours and coffee and remarkably, half a bottle from a short selection of good quality Italian wines . Which makes it excellent value, although this is perhaps not a neighbourhood where that matters too much.
And refreshingly, the set menu doesn’t scrimp on ingredients. There are no supplements and enough variety to suit even the pickiest eater. We chose starters of heritage tomatoes with watermelon and red pepper soup – a beautiful concasse of fresh tomatoes served with a dramatic, refreshing chilled soup.
And warm peach and grilled scallops with radicchio leaves and wild rocket and a crustacean dressing – which arrived with tender caramelised scallops and a rich lobster flavoured sauce.
The kitchen was keen that we tasted every dish so, in true Italian fashion we were then sent a small ‘Primo’ each so that we could sample the spelt, confit tomatoes and basil with purple artichoke and a parmesan crisp, a perfect comfort dish for a wet English summer and the visually stunning and immaculately prepared summer truffle ravioli with swiss chard and what the menu describes as ‘truffle dressing’.
I asked our delightful host, restaurant manager Antonio Giacalone whether the menu at Tartufo was intended to be Italian. ‘Modern European with predominantly Italian and French influences’ he replied. We learnt that the restaurant is backed by Gauthier and most of the staff have worked there or at Gauthier’s original michelin star restaurant in London, Roussillon.
The kitchen is headed up by Manuel Oliveri, from Gauthier, with fresh dishes dominated by seasonal vegetables. Service was impeccably discrete and well informed. Throughout the meal the wines were perfectly matched for us by Antonio, but I will leave my dining companion to cover more about that when he reviews for By-Invitation.
My main course was parsley and garlic marinated atlantic cod with classic ratatouille and olive aromatic jus. The cod was flaky, fresh and well balanced with a ratatouille light enough in garlic that I could still have kissed a prince after eating the lot, and complemented by a very delicate black olive jus.
I’m not a great fan of pork belly so I only tasted a tiny bit of my companion’s crunchy pork belly with rosti potatoes and glazed chantenay carrots. The meat was wonderfully tender and succulent and according to my friend, the crackling was fine and crispy, the lightest he’d ever encountered. Clever cooking indeed to make what can be a heavy winter dish into something perfectly suitable for a summer lunch menu.
For dessert my poached peaches with prosecco and peach sorbet were delightful, while I had pudding envy over my companion’s fresh raspberries with marscapone and strawberry jus (I have an allergy to strawberries).
Coffee came with light, meltingly crumbling and delicately flavoured petit fours, a perfect end to an excellent lunch.
The set menu offers fine dining at at entirely reasonable price. Light enough to be a perfect summer indulgence, I just need to think of an excuse to return now!
No. 11 Cadogan Gardens,
London, SW3 2RJ