Canto Corvino is the third restaurant from Andrew and Ninai Zarach, owners of the hugely successful Manicomio restaurants in Chelsea and the City. Now Spitalfields is home to their unique take on Italian cuisine and we couldn’t be happier
No journalist likes their work to be questioned, despite often claiming we appreciate ‘constructive criticism’. So when I was asked about the many local restaurants I have visited that have been given a hearty four stars out of five, I bristled at the suggestion I am predictable. There just haven’t been those five star experiences this year, I counter, before walking off in a huff. Well, there wasn’t until I visited Canto Corvino in Spitalfields.
Ahead of my visit with my wife, I had heard great things filtering through the grapevine, which sometimes has a negative effect on me – with such hype, you are bound to be disappointed. However, everything good that has been directed towards Canto Corvino is fully justified.
It all starts with the location. Tucked away on Artillery Lane, a mere five minute walk from the craziness of Liverpool Street station, it’s yet another addition to the wonderful variety of life around Spitalfields. The designers haven’t forgotten about the area’s history, with a warehouse aesthetic that nods to the trading heritage of Spitalfields. Upon entering you are greeted by the Bar, which warrants a capital B due to the thought that has clearly gone into its look and feel. We greatly enjoyed a cocktail there before moving into the 140-cover restaurant.
The people behind Canto Corvino suggests this place is on to a winner – it’s Andrew and Ninai Zarach’s third restaurant after the hugely successful Manicomio restaurants in Chelsea and the City, with Michael Mayhew Head of Operations and the acclaimed Tom Salt responsible in the kitchen – and the setting oozes warmth and comfort. It was two months before Christmas on our visit, but we both were overcome with a feeling of being wrapped in a big hug keeping the outside cold at bay.
The menu is literary feast, with words and combinations that you can almost taste. Purple figs, blu di bufala and Jerusalem artichokes; Mackerel, moscato grapes, apples & capers; Organic Rhug Estate chicken brood, soft egg & capellini; Pork T bone, onion squash, salsa verde & burnt plums; Skate, beets, capers & kale chips… I didn’t know what half of it meant, but wanted it all. The a la carte is split into 8 sections, with the Stuzzichini offering ideal starter dishes to share. After much discussion, we finally opted for the aforementioned figs, the lamb ribs, smoked aubergine and sesame, and the Sicilian red prawn, chilli and tomato arancini. All three dishes were exemplary and covered all bases for the meat lover (me) and pescetarian (Karen). The lamb, in particular, I thought was exceptional, soft strips of meat on a greyish bed of aubergine and sesame, I’d happily return again just to have more of this.
The aforementioned pescetarian had to avoid the Salumi selection, and the chilli outside put us off the Crudo choice, so it was on to the bigger dishes, with Karen opting for one of the Pasta/Zuppa dishes (pumpkin cannelloni, walnuts and smoked provola) and I went for the Josper choice over the Al Forno offering (Monkfish, mussels, chilli, broccoli & fregola). Now, in the past I have exuded a general distaste of mussels and I admit this was nagging doubt about my order, but I had nothing to fear. The monkfish off the bone was astonishingly good, and I loved the little flecks of chilli that occasionally added a welcome burn to my mouth – and even the mussels were dispatched with ease. The pumpkin cannelloni, despite coming with a warning from the waiter (excellent all night, by the way) that it wasn’t a huge dish, was satisfyingly just right, with the sweetness of the pumpkin adding something welcomingly different to a cannelloni dish.
We shared one dish from the Contorni menu – a simple green salad – before moving on to Dolci, capping the night off with poached pear, walnut and buttermilk ice-cream, and the salted chocolate delizia. Again, we had no problems polishing off both dishes. Sitting back with a big smile on my face, I realised this was what a five star restaurant looks like.
Words: Mark Kebble
21 Artillery Lane E1 7HA; 020 7655 0390; cantocorvino.co.uk