London: crudo and pasta at Veneta

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SaltYard Group, the company behind favourites like Ember Yard and Opera Tavern recently opened a restaurant in the newly redeveloped area of St James’s, just next to Swedish Aquavit actually. Called Veneta it has a distinct Italian, and Ventian, cuisine, compared to the other restaurants with a more Spanish menu.

I assume it’s because of my frequent visits to Opera Tavern (I wonder how many times I’ve eaten their mini pork and foie gras burger) that I was on the mailing list for Veneta’s soft launch.Either way, I was quick to book a table and went there one night after work with my friend Ro.

As it was a soft launch they offered 50 % off food in exchange for trying things out on us, and requesting feedback.

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Just like the other restaurants in the group, Veneta’s menu consists of small dishes perfect for sharing. I was super excited to see a whole section of the menu devoted to crudo, i.e. raw fish and seafood, which I love and we quickly ordered the raw red prawns with rosemary (top photo). They were plump and sweet and very fragrant from the rosemary. Lovely! Next time I want to try the raw red prawns with lardo.

Next we had the tortelloni, filled with red prawns and served in a seafood broth. It was nice but didn’t blow us away.

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The goat kid ragu with pappardelle however, did. It was just amazing and I predict it will become one of their signature dishes (if it isn’t already!).

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The salt baked carrots and beets with sheep ricotta, date purée and oregano was lovely and the plate was as pretty as a picture. It’s fun to see the vegetable dishes getting as much care and attention as the meat and fish dishes.

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The lamb with chard, lamb fat crisps and caprini fresco cheese was another amazing dish I’ll come back for.

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For pudding both Ro and I were set on having one of the amazing sounding sundaes but they were all sold out (sob) so we had a rethink and settled on fritelle doughnuts for Ro and tiramisu for me.

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The doughnuts were rather compact and chewy but that could have been intentional, as neither of us have had Italian doughnuts before. The taste was lovely though and chocolate sauce, whipped cream and jam works every time. The tiramisu was really nice but lacked a little in presentation I thought.

I could definitely see some teething problems here, like the tables being too close together (it felt like we had dinner with, not next to, our neighbours) and the waiting staff didn’t seem to have worked out a routine yet, but that’s also the whole point of this trial run soft launch.

Food wise I think the savoury dishes were very good and thought out, whereas the puddings could have done with a little more work, however I’m still intrigued by those sundaes and hope they haven’t sold out on my next visit.

I have already planned my meal. Definitely lots of crudo, the kid goat ragu and the lamb. And that ice cream.

Veneta, 3 Norris St, St. James’s Market, London SW1Y 4RJ

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Lunch at Bocca di Lupo, Soho

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My colleague Caroline and I can talk about restaurants for hours and during once such conversation we realised that a) neither of us had been to Bocca di Lupo and b) that we were both dying to go. So we pencilled in a lunch and went last week.

Bocca di Lupo is a well known Italian restaurant in Soho with its own gelato place across the road. The chef patron Jacob Kenedy is also the author of my pasta bible; The Geometry of Pasta. It is a mystery why I haven’t been here before. And after this fabulous lunch I realised how much I have been missing out by not going, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I start going all the time now to make up for not going in the past…

The menu is quite extensive and I could literally eat everything on it, but in the end we managed to settle for a great spread. As well as a short description of each dish the menu also features the region of origin for the dish, which I thought very interesting.

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We started off with some bread of course, and lovely buttery olives. The foccacia with caramelised onions was my favourite.

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The raw Sicilian red prawns were lovely and sweet and flavoured lightly with orange zest. Absolutely gorgeous! And the portion was very generous too.

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I can never resist stuffed courgette flowers and these with mozzarella and anchovies was an utter delight. Crisp on the outside and not too gooey on the inside with lovely robust flavours.

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Thinly sliced courgette with chilli, garlic and parsley was a fresh addition. Hotter than expected but full of flavour.

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Barbecued lamb sweetbreads and artichoke with olive oil and lemon was also amazing. The sweetbreads were tender and melt-in-the-mouth delicious and the artichokes made a great contrast with its charred flavours.

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Another lovely dish was the linguine with dark crab meat and tomato. It was creamy yet light and absolutely divine.

I was really impressed with Bocca di Lupo; the food was excellent, the staff friendly and efficient and the atmosphere great and bustling.

Bocca di Lupo, 12 Archer Street, London W1D 7BB

Lunch at da Aldo, Skanör, Sweden

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On Saturday while I was waiting for my bestie Emma to finish work, I had lunch with her husband Claes. We were in the Skanör-Falsterbo area of Skåne, Sweden and there are quite a lot of cafés and restaurants around. We decided to try Italian da Aldo, which is a lot bigger now than last time I went probably six or seven years ago.

As you walk in you can buy sandwiches, salads and icecream over the counter or be seated around the tables at the back for proper table service and hot food.

Both Claes and I were starving so more or less the whole menu looked good to us. In the end we decided to share a pasta dish and a pizza.

The pasta was lovely and fresh with tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and parmesan. But the portion was rather small.

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The Margeritha pizza was proper in size and absolutely wonderful. We also got some sourdough to dip in olive oil but the pizza was enough bread for us.

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As we were about to ask for the bill our friendly waiter cleverly suggested coffee and ice cream which we thought was a great idea. The gelato looked fabulous as we walked in and I was happy to be reminded of it. We settled for two flavours each; I chose hazelnut and vanilla and Claes hazelnut and his favourite pistachio.

da Aldo is a great place to go to for lunch, icecream or supper if you live near by, but I also recommend stopping here if driving around in the region. It’s well worth a visit!

da Aldo, Mellangatan 47, 239 30 Skanör, Sweden