Friday, 23 July 2010
Well blow me down, but if London doesn't seem to be all of a sudden getting the hang of Italian restaurants. First Zucca, an astonishing eatery in Bermondsey (of all places) which blazed a trail for fresh, affordable food and proved that the only options for Italians in London didn't have to be (heave) Zizzi's or (ouch) Aspley's. And now Trullo graces another otherwise unloved area of town with its stunningly tasty food at very reasonable prices, setting up shop just off Highbury Corner. I may not be the first to discover Trullo - as ever, that accolade goes to the always on-the-ball Majumdar brothers - but I left last night, after a delightful meal, its latest devotee.
Prices on the concise Trullo menu aren't quite as low as they were at Zucca, but then the opening £4 starters in Bermondsey didn't last long anyway - recent visitors have discovered everything bumped up a bit. Even here though, you could hardly complain. Starters and the pasta courses came in around £6-£7, and main courses £14-£15; good, solid mid-range restaurant prices and nothing to immediately either raise the hackles or raise suspicions. I did think "chorizo and Padron peppers" wasn't exactly the most Italian sounding dish in the world, but then let's not forget we're sat next to a busy high street in N1 and not in a remote farmhouse in Puglia. Strict authenticity can take a back seat to a bloody good meal, in my opinion.
The chorizo and padron peppers dish was accompanied by some juicy slices of ox heart, and was splendid. The heart was tender (a notable achievement) and had just the right level of offal tang; chorizo was as good as chorizo is, and oozed with salty red oil with every bite; the only slight disappointment was that none of the padron peppers were hot, but they couldn't have done anything about that. But even this dish paled into comparison to my companion's "Braised cuttlefish with Datterini tomatoes and basil", which was by some way the tastiest squid recipe I've had anywhere in... well, I don't know how long. Gorgeous tender pieces of squid nestled in a heady, herby vegetable sauce which complimented and accented the seafood without masking it. Lovely.
The next food to arrive on our table should have been the ravioli, but due to a mix-up in the kitchens (partly due to the no-show of the fish man and my request that we'd prefer to have the brown shrimp taglierini if he ever did arrive) we briefly had our main courses shown to us, then whipped away when we pointed out they were getting ahead of themselves. When the ravioli did turn up though, they were fantastic - salty, glossy, al dente and as addictive as crack cocaine. I could have eaten far too many of these than is good for me, and I'm almost sad I didn't. My favourite dish of them all.
So at this point, the restaurant has already made an error in bringing out our main courses too early. What's the best course of action from here on in? Throw away a perfectly good piece of quality Dorset lamb rump, or stick it under a hot lamp and hope they finish their ravioli quick-smart? I only had a brief glance at my plate the first time, but I'm pretty sure it was the same piece of meat that arrived back at the table ten or so minutes later, with either a new portion or the same reheated chickpeas, and so my lamb was disappointingly overcooked and tough. My friend's pork belly fared better, being moist and tasty and presented with some excellent artichoke hearts, but the crackling had gone chewy - a shame, as fresh from the kitchen both of these dishes would, I'm sure, have been perfect. If I'm wrong on the whole returning-the-same-dishes business then I can only apologise, but the evidence seems stacked in my favour.
But despite this momentary lapse, I still found enough about to love about Trullo to make my dinner last night one of the highlights of recent months. In fact, were it not for the main courses I would put it on a par with Zucca, and there's every chance that if you made the journey up to Highbury yourselves you would enjoy a meal every bit as colourful, imaginative and agreeable as anywhere else in the city. So I will forgive them the reheated lamb and the soggy crackling and just remember the (mmm) ox heart and the (gasp) cuttlefish and the (swoon) ravioli, and declare that Trullo is the kind of restaurant that every neighbourhood deserves. Even if that neighbourhood is in North London.