Thursday, 27 October 2011

Machiavelli: The Italian Escape Pod

Machiavelli Kitchen & Dining Room on Urbanspoon
Taupe tones, sharing tables and great books
I have always wanted a villa in Tuscany or Umbria. One of those places decked to the rafters in taupe tones, lots of books, natural linen, hand sawn wood and interesting furniture. A place that would be focused around cooking, eating, reading and escaping the rate-race that London can sometimes become.

Ms P and I can't quite stretch to the villa-dream this decade, but we can stretch to walking to Covent Garden to sample the delights on offer at Machiavelli. It is a bakery, bar, restaurant, delicatessen and book shop  all rolled-up into one offering that fulfills my need for an Italian escape pod. Owned by the Italian restaurant group and food importer that run Manicomio Chelsea and Gutter Lane, it offers reasonably priced Northern Italian cooking in convivial surrounds.

My recent visit coincided with my return from a prolonged period of gorging in Italy and Lebanon (more on that later), and therefore unfortunately I couldn't partake in the entree of salmon tartar with capers and lemon or the buffalo mozzarella with roast beetroot (there were numerous other great choices all between £5 - 7.50).

The crunchiest of crackling but where is me stuffin

There were many offerings in the main menu that tickled my fancy - Tuscan sausages with banana shallots, sage and borlotti beans or the parcel of sea bream steamed with potato and fennel. Ultimately I settled on the stuffed rolled belly of pork with mostardo di Cremona (mustard fruits). I have a fondness for mostardo (I've always enjoyed its addition to pumpkin ravioli) and I wanted to try it with one of my favourite cuts of pork. Machiavelli offered perfectly cooked and presented, generous portions of belly pork with the crunchiest crackling I've had for a long time. Unfortunately on the night I visited, it appeared to be missing its stuffing. I was advised by staff that there my have been fresh herbs added during the cooking process, but these were not apparent in the tasting. I think if they had been added or added in greater quantity this would have increased the levels of flavour in the dish and taken it from good to great.
Perfectly presented and the moscato jelly was a revelation
The dessert menu offered a tantalising mix of all of my favourite sweet things: think salted caramel tartlets with cape gooseberries or roasted quince with spices and ginger biscuits (all between £3.50 - £5). I chose a duo of Italian cheeses with freshly made pane carasau (the thinnest of thin bread) and homemade moscato jelly. The cheeses (pecorino and a strong blue) were perfectly aged and the moscato jelly was a revelation.

Whilst I didn't partake, cocktails and wines by the glass or carafe are all reasonably prices; with all wine coming from the main producing regions of Italy.

On the whole Machiavelli offers great value well cooked Italian-inspired food, with enthusiastic staff in a comfortable escape pod environment.

69 Long Acre
London WC2E 9JS
T: +442072402125

Machiavelli Kitchen & Dining Room on Urbanspoon

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