Until we visited Brixton newcomer Maremma, we’d never heard of its namesake region in Italy – a coastal area of southern Tuscany bursting with fantastic local produce, food and spirit. By the time we left we felt we felt we’d known it all our lives, or at least we wished we had.
This lovely new restaurant is located on the corner plot once occupied by Montego Bay (a Caribbean bar/restaurant with sporadic opening hours and a legendary rep), and has one simple goal: to bring the best bits of Maremma in Italy – seafood, wild boar, handmade pasta, all the good stuff – to the forever food-obsessed folk of south London.
It’s a bright and breezy spot that takes the notion of your ‘favourite neighbourhood Italian’ and updates it with super-regional specialities, fresh interiors and wines you’ve (probably) never tried before.
What it shares with the classic local trattorias we all know and love is that warm, sunny welcome you get from a team who genuinely adore what they’re doing. That passion is apparent from the minute you walk through the door thanks to owners Dickie Bielenbery and Alice Staple’s enthusiasm for the food and drinks of the region. They love this part of Italy, and they want you to as well.
Ingredients such as salumi, cheeses and olive oil have been carefully selected and imported directly from Tuscany. You can even, on occasion, find Bielenberg driving cases of the local wine from the region’s vineyards back to Brixton himself.
‘What it shares with the classic local trattorias we all know and love is that warm, sunny welcome you get from a team who genuinely adore what they’re doing’
Speaking of vineyards, the restaurant’s sommelier proudly told us that the grapes used to make the very fine rose she served us during our visit were grown at the end of her road. She’s from Maremma and right at home at its Brixton namesake, suggesting and pouring wines to compliment a menu of dishes that showcase fantastic ingredients in perfectly uncomplicated ways.
A tentacle of octopus arrived chargrilled, scorched in all the right places and luscious within, while a dome of burrata was kept super simple to let all that creamy unctuousness inside really shine.
Papardelle with wild boar ragu was a stand-out primi plate – the flavour of the meat intensified by long cooking before being draped over sunshine-yellow strands of pasta – while a sturdy piece of wood-baked hake was simply stunning, sharing its bowl with strands of samphire and sweet little clams.
Guinea fowl also received the wood oven treatment, resulting in a fabulously crispy skin and juicy meat, again served simply to let its flavour do the talking.
Maremma’s signature dessert, ‘torta di nonna’, was a creamy custardy dream, fragrant with pine nuts and so charming it encouraged us to linger and soak up the restaurant’s warm, convivial atmosphere a little longer. What was once a part of Italy we’d never heard of had begun to feel like home.
36 Brixton Water Lane SW2 1PE; 020 3186 4011; maremmarestaurant.com