The Italians really know how to lunch.
A lunchtime trip to La Trattoria by Alfredo Russo, at the glorious Pelham Hotel in South Kensington, is an indulgence. That Italian Primi – the first course, between appetiser and main – will finish you off if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Fortunately, the staff at La Trattoria by Alfredo Russo – all Italian – are one hand to offer assistance. My friend and I, however, opted to brush aside our friendly waiter’s advice that we’d be better to share a primi, and each ordered our own. We did not finish. But our tastes are so different (I like as many ingredients on my plate as possible, whereas my friend prefers simple dishes) and the menu is so temptingly put together that frankly I think we were conservative.
Alfredo Russo is one of Italy’s most notable chefs. Born in 1968 in Turin, he discovered his passion for cuisine at just 13 years of age, and in 2004 was voted Italy’s Best Young Chef by L’Espresso. He has since gone on to collect a Michelin star and an International Five Star Diamond Award for Dolce Stil Novo – his prestigious restaurant located inside Venaria Palace in Turin – and in 2013, the Italian Touring Club declared him one of Italy’s finest chefs.
We dined on one of those beautifully sunny days that has punctuated our topsy turvy spring, and so a cold glass of Pinot Grigio ‘San Angelo’ Castello Banfi from Tuscany was called for – light, crisp and delicate, we were tempted to call off the rest of the working day and order a couple of bottles. And if you’re not in a hurry to get back to the office, or dining on a weekend, then do, because this food is meant to be lingered over.
We started with the burrata e pomodorini to share (we can share, see?), a divinely creamy thing served with contrastingly sharp three-colour cherry tomatoes and a generous splash of oil and salt. Why did burrata take so long to make its way onto London menus? It’s such a wonderful thing.
Why did burrata take so long to make its way onto London menus? It’s such a wonderful thing
On to those cheeky primi – I was certain that I simply must eat ricotta, while my friend was set on a lasagna. And so it had to be. I ordered the fusilli alla crema di basilico e ricotta fresca (fusilli pasta with basil, pesto sauce and fresh ricotta), which arrived stacked in a Kilner jar, the ingredients in clear, separate layers, before our waiter gave it all a rigorous shake up so that the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. An unexpected little sideshow that was quite a treat. (Had I been quicker off the mark it would have made a great Boomerang for Instagram.) The flavours were fab – fresh ricotta, punchy pesto, crunchy walnuts adding texture and the odd chilli to pep the whole thing up.
My friend’s lasagna della nonna looked incredible, rustically served in a ceramic oven dish atop a wooden board, the beef ragu bubbling up through the top. I can confirm that it tasted just as good as if Alfredo Russo’s granny had indeed made it – rich, creamy and moreish – because I stole some.
Feeling pretty full already, the best was yet to come – the abbacchio al forno (roasted suckling lamb with herbs for two), with a side of roasted polenta. The lamb was rich and fatty and gorgeous, the polenta lulling us into a false sense of security that we were clean eating (apparently its a low carbohydrate grain rich in vitamins A and C).
We simply couldn’t do dessert. No way. No matter how good the tiramisu (probably the best in town, says the menu). But oh, go on then, the bounet (caramel, coffee and amaretto dessert) looks pretty harmless. It certainly look adorable. Served in a dinky jar topped with creme and a sprinkling of biscotti crumbs, it was pretty damn good – who can resist that sweet hit of amaretto? We shared it, and almost managed to finish, sifting aside the creme to get to the good stuff at the bottom.
And that was us. Beyond satiated and actually looking forward to the 25-minute walk back to the office. If only all Wednesday afternoons could always be this way…
15 Cromwell Place, South Kensington SW7 2LA; 020 7589 8288; pelhamhotel.co.uk
Burrata e pomodorini, £12
Fusilli alla crema di basilico e ricotta fresca, £10
Lasagna della nonna, £14
Abbacchio al forno, £18
Polenta arrosto, £6
2x glass Pinto Grigio, £14