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Italian Food and Wine at Theo’s Simple Italian:
It was obvious I’d accept an invitation to Theo’s Simple Italian in Kensington. Apart from being just a stone’s throw from my old home in West Brompton, like many of my food-loving friends, I have my own list of favourite chefs: Nathan Outlaw, Ed Baines, Cherish Finden and now her successor Andrew Gravett for example. And of course, Theo Randall. We first met one chilly Saturday in October at the start of a London Restaurant Festival event. This one involved visiting 6 or 8 Italian restaurants for small plates – Cicchetti – and my first stop was at the Intercontinental Hotel where Theo runs a fine dining restaurant.
I was apprehensive, to say the least – the trail took me all across London and, sponsored by an Italian beer company, I wasn’t quite sure what I’d be offered to eat or drink. Theo himself came out to meet me and I was soon put at ease with a glass of prosecco and a cone of zucchini fries together with some cured meats. Definitely more than Cicchetti, it was one of the highlights of the tour for me.
Nothing much seemed to have changed when I arrived at Theo’s Simple Italian – the man himself was quick to come out to greet us. He remembered me and explained that he’d opened Theo’s Simple Italian about six months after I moved from Earls Court. I was just a tad gutted. But, delighted to have a few tasters of his food offering at Theo’s Simple Italian.
The kind of dishes on offer at Theo’s Simple Italian are closer in many ways to the kind of food you might find on holiday in Italy than the upmarket (and delicious) dishes you’ll get at Theo Randall’s at the Intercontinental. They are priced accordingly, in the evening, you can feast for a little over £25 for three courses if you stick to the set menu and there’s a brunch for £40 which includes unlimited Prosecco, Mimosas and Bellinis and which offers up a four-course menu – it’s called ‘Mozzafiato’ meaning breath-taking and it’s definitely the kind of deal I’d like to try.
That said, a tasting of some of the new summer dishes along with some excellent wines from Tenuta Torciano in San Gimignano, Tuscany was a formula for an excellent evening.
We started with platters of Fresh Focaccia and Bruschetta Theo’s Style and the only glass of white wine of the evening, a Vernaccia di San Gimignano which would otherwise be known as a pinot grigio
Next, we moved on to tasting a platter of Polpo Grigliato – fresh grilled octopus with a fennel, orange and olive salad which was light and citrusy, perfectly textured octopus created by poaching it for 2 hours in vinegar, served with shaved fennel and orange and tiny Taggiasca olives from Liguria. I could have been very greedy and devoured the whole platter, along with a glass of Torciano Chianti Classico DOCG.
Our first glass of Brunello di Montalcino was a revelation. It’s a red wine, 100% Sangiovese, which has been made in the Montalcino area at least since the early 14th century.
Deliciously rounded it was a good foil for the Panzanella e Burrata, a Tuscan tomato and bread salad topped with creamy burrata and celery.
We went on to enjoy Tenuta Torciano’s premium Brunello, Gioiello – a 2011 vintage wine which was utterly delicious, velvety and fruity. A beautiful ruby red wine that belied the title of ‘Brown’ wine.
Carpaccio di Bresaola is a classic dish of thinly sliced cured beef here served with figs, radicchio and parmesan which complemented the wine perfectly.
A delicate dish of homemade ravioli stuffed with aubergine and ricotta in a Datterini tomato sauce served with burrata and fresh basil went down a treat. I made a mental note that I need to go back to Theo’s Simple Italian. As an ex-neighbour, in what he described as a ‘neighbourhood restaurant’, I think that’s a must.
We continued our vertical wine tasting with three Super Tuscan wines from Tenuta Torciano. But, I was already in love…with the Brunello di Montalcino Gioiello and nothing else would have stolen my heart by this stage.
And rounded off the evening with Italian biscuits and coffee.
Now, I am yearning to go back to Tuscany and visit Tenuta Torciano, a historic winery located between Florence, San Gimignano and Siena. And, of course, to visit Theo’s Simple Italian (probably an easier and quicker wish to fulfil).
We were guests of Theo’s Simple Italian with wines provided by Tenuta Torciano.
Theo’s Simple Italian
34-44 Barkston Gardens,
Via Crocetta 18 – Loc. Ulignano
53037 San Gimignano (Siena)