Young Genoese chef Guglielmo Arnulfo whose cooking I admired a couple of years ago at Acciuga (see our review), his Kensington restaurant showcasing the food of his native Liguria, has gone into partnership for his second venture with Italian winemakers Rabezzana Vini.
Together they have opened a new wine bar in the City. Enoteca Rabezzana is a much more informal operation than Acciuga with a menu of small dishes and sharing plates as well as an A la carte. With the Rabezzana connection it is also a more wine-driven offer and the list featuring almost 150 Italian bottles has real strength in depth.
But how would Arnulfo’s food translate to the hustle and bustle of the City? Some unexpected deep-fried courgettes came out of the kitchen-hot and fresh-just like me…
For my first dish I had to try the Ligurian speciality Trofie al pesto di Rossi (£11). It was sublime with a creaminess from the pasta and a vegetal taste from the basil that is quite specific to the basil from Genoa.
Fiona, who was reviewing with me went for sausages, Salamella alla Griglia (£6), which were rustic, meaty and salty. We were drinking a light red wine, a Verduno Bel Colle 2013 (£6.50 125 ml) that showed a great balance of tannin and fruit.
With our mains we drank a Falanghina from Abruzzo that was mineral and light and perfect with the Fritto misto di mare (£18). The fish and seafood were perfectly fried with the lightest of coatings and were so full of flavour that I wanted to weep tears of happiness. Obviously I didn’t but Guglielmo’s focus on using the best produce is articulated so eloquently in simple dishes like this and the trofie which are so delicious.
Paprika fries (£4) were crisp and spicy…
and a green salad (£3) was so simple and perfect with just a splash of oil and balsamic.
Dolce Amore (£8) was a delicious boozy take on a Tiramisu and
Bonet (£7), the soft Piedmontese dessert of rum, egg, cocoa and Amaretti biscuits, was rich and indulgent. We washed our desserts down with glasses of Malvasina di Castelnovo, a not too sweet sparkling red (£4.50 125ml).
The quality of cooking and ingredients at Enoteca Rabezzana is way beyond its price point. When Farringdon station reopens it will be impossible to get into. It is a place of real quality and integrity. Try it while you can.
Guglielmo Arnulfo is a 24 years old Italian chef from Genoa with an intruiging backstory having trained as a lawyer and then playing international rugby before following his heart to spend the next few years learning how to become a chef in his native Liguria.
He has now opened Acciuga, a restaurant showcasing the food of his homeland in that gastronomically underserved part of Kensington where the Warwick Rd bisects the High St. Fiona from London Unattached and I were invited to explore the food (there is a seasonal set lunch and a la carte menu) and it seemed like a great opportunity to investigate Ligurian cuisine.
Acciuga Dining Room
The room is cool and elegant in a northern Italian kind of way and there is a rather chic wine store /private dining/communal eating space in the basement that can be called into use if necessary.
We started with a glass of N.V Brut Metodo Classico White Flower, Luigi Elio, Selezione Brjnda (£45.00 for a bottle). It was a sparkling white from Piedmont made by the traditional methode champenoise that was light and refined with floral notes.
Breadsticks and rolls @ Acciuga
‘Grissini’ Breadsticks and rolls were freshly baked with good texture and flavour.
Smoked duck and Rocket pesto @ Acciuga
An Amuse-bouche of Smoked duck and Rocket pesto arrived. The duck had a smoky intensity and set us up for our starters.
Crostini of smoked salmon, smoked scallop, smoked swordfish and salmon roe
We had asked for wines to match the food and with our antipasti we each had an elegant glass of 2012 Roero Arneis Le Faville, Selezione Brjnda ( £9). The notes of aniseed and fennel in the wine particularly suited our Crostini of smoked salmon, smoked scallop, smoked swordfish and salmon roe (£10). The roe were big salty globules of pleasure and the lightly-smoked trio of fish were subtly flavoured with both the fish flavour and smoke coming through.
Stuffed Courgette flowers
Stuffed Courgette flowers (£10) were deep fried with a breadcrumb coating and a delicate courgette, breadcrumb and marscapone filling.
Cantina delle Cinque Terre (£8) is a light-bodied Ligurian wine made from the Albarolo, Bosco and Vernaccia grapes with notes of Apricot and Melon. It worked well with our pasta dishes.
Trofie al Pesto
The dish of Trofie al Pesto (£14) was incredible. Trofie are a twisted and tapered pasta made with just flour and water and served with the traditional accompaniments of green beans and potato. They were coated with the most deliciously light and fragrant Pesto I have ever tasted. Both of the main elements of the dish are of Ligurian provenance with the pesto being brought in from Genoa as the quality of the basil cannot be matched elsewhere. It is the combination of the fertile soil and the sea air that gives it such character and Arnulfo won’t compromise on quality by using more local ingredients.
Ravioli di pesce bianco
Ravioli di pesce bianco (£14) was a very pure dish. Silky pasta with a white fish filling.
Polpo e Patate
At this point we were sent over a couple of glasses of wine to accompany our secondi from a lovely woman on an adjoining table who worked for the Cecchi wine producing family. Castello Montauto 2012 Vernaccia San Gimigniano is a creamy white from the picturesque Tuscan town of San Gimigniano and was an excellent flavour match with our dish of Polpo e Patate (£18) which was another revelation. The octopus had been cooked sous-vide and was incredibly tender and flavourful. The potato croquettes didn’t add a huge amount of value.
Seppie in Zimino
The second Cecchi wine was Valle delle Rose, Morellino di Scansano, a lively blend with 90% Sangiovese that was robust enough to stand up to the umami richness of the Seppie in Zimino (£18). This nourishing dish of Cuttlefish cooked with greens (spinach and borage) had a deep savoury flavour and tasted like something the Genovese mariners might have had for their dinner when returning from a long trip (Columbus was Genovese) to up their vitamin intake.
Salted Chocolate tart
We finished the meal with a Salted Chocolate tart (£8) and a Bellini sorbet (£8). The tart was bitter and rich, just like I’d like to be, and for me the sorbet, glamorous as it sounds, needed a bit more peach in the mix.
Guglielmo Arnulfo is a serious and driven young chef who transitioned from a background in molecular gastronomy to working with his native food. If you are interested in regional Italian food or just want a really good meal you should try Acciuga.