Italian Artisan Dining at Macellaio, Battersea:
The restaurants and bars of Northcote Road used to be my stomping ground. In days gone by, before there was really much of a food scene in London you could find a few decent wine bars along the road connecting Clapham Junction with the Common – and I’d often meet friends for a drink or a bite to eat there. Macellaio is a newcomer though, the fourth offering from a small group of Italian restaurants in London specialising in dry aged Fassano beef from Piedmont. The meat is aged in cellars over six to nine weeks and then in the shop, which also acts as a butcher by day – the idea is that the slow aging creates a deep colour, intense flavour and exceptionally tender meat.
One of their other branches specialise in fish from Sicily, the tuna that I learnt about when I visited Marzamemi and another in ‘Pissa’ from Genoa – an ancient recipe that dates back to the fifteenth century and uses a base that is allowed to rise for between 60 and 90 hours to create a crispier and more digestible crust than its Neopolitan cousin. Here though, in the eclectic dining room, the menu is strongly carnivorous and with the butcher’s counter to the front of the dining room, it’s probably not somewhere to take your vegetarian roommate.
But, if you fancy some excellent Italian meats, a comprehensive wine list with over 300 Italian wines on offer and perfectly aged steak in relaxed and convivial surroundings, then Macellaio is a great place to have on the radar.
We made the mistake of forgetting about Italian hospitality and ordered burrata (highly recommended by our waitress and flown in twice a week from Puglia) and a Taglieri Misto. But, before that arrived, we set about the serious job of picking a wine. We tried three and in the end opted for a 100% Malbec Tuscan IGT red – Maremma Vie Cave 2013 from Aldobrandesca Antinori. It’s a lovely deep and intense ruby red wine with rich fruity autumn fruit notes.
And, while we were busy wine tasting a small platter appeared that I initially thought was the Taglieri Misto. Actually just an amuse bouche, I’d forgotten how easy it is to over-order Italian food!
The meat platter was all I’d hoped for and more. I’ve had lardo before and baulked at what is essentially fat, from the back of a pig, cured with salt, herbs and spices for anything from six months to two years.
Served here with few chopped walnuts and a little oil it was delicious and the only reason I didn’t eat the entire serving was some caution about the need to eat two more courses and try the burrata.
That proved to be a wise decision – the burrata was delicious, fresh and was as good as the stuff I ate in Puglia where we toured a number of Masseria and ate at the farmhouse table!
Sadly there was no fillet steak on the night we visited – so, to ensure we had a mixture of dishes, my companion Roma, from Roaming Required ordered a SERIOUS T-bone steak (730g) while I opted for pigeon braised in red wine with pear. If you do pick a steak, the staff will bring it over to you before it is cooked so that you can check it’s what you were looking for.
It’s also worth noting that the steak is cooked and then sliced, so if like me, you like meat cooked on the bone but don’t like having to cut it up yourself at the table, you don’t need to worry. Macellaio does that bit for you and then serve the meat rather dramatically on a hot cast iron trivet covered with a big silver dome. It was utterly delicious and beautifully cooked, medium rare, as recommended by the chef, although we both agreed there was enough for two to share, particularly if you had already enjoyed a starter!
My pigeon was a good contrast, cooked sous vide to ensure it was beautifully tender but not over dry, then finished with a rich red wine sauce and half a pear. Rustic roast potatoes with a scattering of herbs were a perfect accompaniment, along with a shared portion of green beans.
Dessert for me was a rather delicious plateful of latte dolce fritto – literally sweet fried milk, which is made by creating a sweet custard, allowing it to set, dipping the mix in egg and breadcrumbs and then deep frying it. A crisp outer shell with a melting creamy centre – with two fillings of chocolate and fruit jam made for a lovely concoction, not unlike a creamier, lighter version of churros. I will look out for them on the menu in the future.
My companion opted for homemade tiramisu – a light and perfectly balanced dish that she adored.
Coffee, limoncello and amaretto rounded off the evening perfectly and I rolled back down the hill to Clapham Junction. Now I just need to find an excuse to try the other branches. I’ve got a feeling I could walk to Bankside from where I live so, perhaps that’s good enough:)
Want to try for yourself? Why not pin this post for later
124 Northcote Rd, London SW11 6QU
Disclosure: We dined as guests of Macellaio