Saturday, January 20, 2007

Almalfi passion

We met up after work and walked down Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia, looking for a place to eat. We thought about the Brazilian restaurant Boteco Carioca and the Spanish Navarro's, but settled for Italian food at Passione.

We entered through a door on the side of the restaurant that looked like it was the door to someone's private quarters and walked up the narrow, rickety staircase into a cosy first floor room that felt like someone's living room. The customer toilet even had a shower cubicle in it! I've eaten here before, with work colleagues, and I knew we were going to be blown away by chef Gennaro Contaldo's expensive but delightfully succulent, fresh flavours from the sun-drenched Almafi coast in Southern Italy.

In this intimate setting, we started with pera al vino rosso con gorgonzola, pinoli e radicchio sott'olio (pear poached in red wine with gorgonzola,pine nuts, red chicory and rocket) and with crostino con pasticcio di fegato alla toscana (grilled bread with chicken liver cooked in butter, sage, rosemary and vin santo). For mains, M had a monk fish dish of the day and I savoured cervo alla griglia servito con polenta, cavolo nero e salsa di mostarda di cremona (grilled venison served with polenta, black cabbage and a spicy fruit mustard dressing). All washed down with a robust and earthy red Sangiovese d'Abruzzo.

By the time the desserts came, we had been joined in the room by two other couples, but despite their close proximity, everyone was too lost in the food and private conversation to feel awkward. I had mousse alla nocciola con salsa al cioccolato (cold hazelnut mousse in chocolate sauce) and M had panna cotta alla lavanda con salsa ai frutti di bosco (cooked cream with lavender served with a mixed berry sauce), which we washed down with an intense espresso and the creamiest, densest cappuccino I've ever had the pleasure of sipping.

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