Tuesday, 22 June 2021

The Italian Greyhound, Marylebone

In a handsome old building in Marylebone, life in post-covid Britain appears to be creeping back to normal. Staff scoot about in smart uniforms, the tinkle of fine glassware fills the air, and a relieved and deeply grateful public (which would include me) are settling back into a routine that God Knows I hope won't hit a brick wall again.

I had a hugely enjoyable evening at the Italian Greyhound in Marylebone - it's early days for the new kitchen, nobody running a hospitality venue is having a particularly relaxing time of it at the moment, and the quality of the ingredients and technique on display was well worth shouting about. And if everything arrived with at least two or three - sometimes more - bits and pieces too many, which tended to distract from what would otherwise been an even more impressive display of Italian classics, well, who cares. I'm still out and about and eating.

Having said all that, I actually thought the cocktails on offer had been modified from the classics for the better - putting oregano in a Negroni is a very clever move, the flavour of the herb combining incredibly well with the other bitters and aromatics. Similarly a 'Smoked Negroni' worked incredibly well, not too bonfire-y and nicely presented. Pretty big measures on both, too.

I can see the way their mind was working, providing a medley of summer herbs and veg alongside a burrata, but I think you probably needed either asparagus or broad beans, not both, and perhaps the asparagus would have been nicer just presented as whole stalks rather than chopped up into bits and doused in oil and red pepper. But you know what, these were still good ingredients cooked well, and it all got polished off.

Smoked yellowfin tuna was a revelation - I believe they smoke it themselves, and the salty, earthy flavour of the fish itself combined with a luxurious texture was like a cross between the finest carpaccio and top-end smoked salmon. The caperberries were lovely too actually although I think it would have fared just as well without the cress or celery. Definitely on the must-order list though, no question.

Octopus, tender and nicely seasoned, came with daintily-peeled cherry tomatoes and celery leaves, and I do appreciate the effort to use every bit of the vegetables across a variety of dishes. This star of this dish though wasn't the celery, or the octopus, but some cubes of potato which were just about the sweetest and softest little bombs of flavour I can remember any potato ever being. I was so impressed, I asked what they were and was told a special name which I have since completely forgotten. Sorry. I bet if you asked them they'd tell you, though.

Onto the pasta dishes, and I imagine you know the drill by now. The pasta was fantastic, just the right side of al-dente and a joy to eat. Similarly the slow-cooked lamb (shoulder I think) was full of flavour and not a hint of chewiness, it just dissolved in the mouth. And there they could have stopped and had an absolute winner, except instead they decided to cover it all with breadcrumbs and herbs which, you know, weren't horrible just a bit distracting and pointless.

Even more "busy" was ricotta ravioli which as well as containing more beautifully done pasta, all silky and buttery and with a fantastic bite, had a ratatouille tipped on top of it, courgettes and tomatoes and pine nuts. Without the ratatouille this would have been one of the great London ravioli dishes - in fact, look it was one of the great London ravioli dishes, if you ignored the ratatouille.

Last of the savouries was a superbly cooked fillet of sea bream, skin nice and crisp and flesh inside just-so, a work of art by itself that didn't at all need the "aquapezzo" (lit. crazy water) broth underneath. I am not such an extremist that I would recommend they serve the fish literally on a plate with nothing else, but the aquapezzo was rather bland and the textures rather confused the experience of eating the fish.

Ironically - and wonderfully - when it comes to desserts the Italian Greyhound have decided simplest is best. Cherry and almond tart was a fine old thing, boasting a nice crunch and with a soft sugary filling of plenty of cherries. And a raspberry & prosecco sorbet just let its ingredients absolutely sing - no weird dressing, no confusion of flavours, just two blobs of pure summer loveliness. Where was this judiciousness in the savoury courses?

It sounds like I've been moaning a lot, and I have I suppose, but sometimes it's just easier to cover everything (in the correct spirit in which it is intended) than to attempt to sugar-coat the sorbet. As you can see from the score below, I had a nice time at the Italian Greyhound, and I do recommended it, I just wish they'd have a bit more confidence in their incredibly good pasta and raw ingredients and give them a bit more space to shine in their own right. On the other hand, you could go and decide all the dishes are perfect and you like it just how it is. All opinions are available.


I was invited to the Italian Greyhound and didn't see a bill. Imagine with wine/cocktails you should expect to pay about £50/head, which is about right for somewhere this smart in Marylebone. EDIT: It's occurred to me that the first paragraph way way too harsh considering everything that followed, so I've tweaked it a bit.

No comments: