Peter Morrell and his wife discovery that small packages hold some big surprises
For the last 30 years Capricci has been finding and selecting exceptional food and wines from small artisanal producers in Italy. They have now arrived in London bringing their expertise and products to the capital’s food scene.
Capricci is right in the middle of the flourishing Bankside area behind Tate Modern. It’s a combination of a restaurant and deli which I would describe as an Enotica. Eat the food, drink the wine and have the opportunity to buy the ingredients and a bottle or two to enjoy at home.
The dining space is small, with only about 25 seats, and an open plan kitchen where the food is cooked. Diners sit among shelves of wine, olive oil and balsamic vinegars. This is a formula that works, there was a clamour for tables throughout the evening which created a very buzzy atmosphere.
Capricci has recently appointed a new young Head Chef, Federico Casali, to elevate their Italian offering with a new and improved menu. With Federico’s Michelin star background he brings to the constantly changing menu the use of exceptional, fresh, seasonal ingredients that have strong, natural flavours,
The very friendly service team soon had us seated and browsing the menu. The list of dishes changes weekly and is reflective of the time of year and what is available. On the evening we were there the starters included Cantabrico anchovy fillets with rustic bread and butter, burrata with Sicilian datterino tomatoes and salted cod fillet with cauliflower romanesco, All simply prepared to allow the natural flavours of the food to shine through.
We chose an even simpler dish, taglieria, a sharing board of products straight from the deli. There were three options, cheese, meat and mixed, we chose the meat. This was an ultra-fresh ‘just carved’ assortment of moist tender cuts which were all packed with flavour. The selection included air-dried ham, salami, mortadella and bresaola. The meats were served with very good artisan bread and a peppery olive oil.
The primi and secondi dishes continued the theme of good food, simply prepared. Examples from the primi menu were paccheri pasta with duck ragu and ricotta and spinach ravioli with datterino tomatoes and basil. Secondi examples were oven-baked sea bass with sweet and sour aubergine stew and lamb chops with roast potatoes.
We both made our selection from the primi menu. My wife had gnocchi with artichokes and octopus and I had mezzemaniche ‘half sleeve’ pasta with white Brixham crab and datterino tomatoes.
The evening we visited Capricci was cold and damp and these two dishes certainly warmed us up, The underpinning of my wife’s food, the gnocchi, was enhanced by the smoky character of the artichokes and the powerful taste of the octopus. My pasta was coated with a delicate sauce that had the precise flavours of crab and tomatoes. This was highly satisfying food.
One of the highlights of a visit to Capricci is the extensive range of wines on offer. They have all been specially selected from small vineyards across Italy. Several of the wines are available by the glass, my wife’s pairing was the Rallo Bianco from Sicily made with the grillo grape. This was a light fresh wine with good citrus notes in the bouquet. The citrus was joined on the palate with tropical fruit flavours. The was good acidity with hints of minerality which made the finish bright and uplifting. My match was from Puglia, made with primitivo from the area of Manduria. This is reckoned to be the birthplace of the primitivo grape. The dark red colour was an indicator of this wine’s depth. There were strong aromas of plums and cherries on the nose. These progressed to the palate with additional dimensions of raspberry flavours and spice. The tannins were well structured and the finish was fruity and persistent.
The portion sizes of the first two courses meant that we couldn’t manage a dessert. They were all very tempting though, offering homemade indulgent treats like tiramisu, dark chocolate mousse and pannacotta.
This small restaurant had offered some big surprises. The friendly team, the fresh ingredients, Federico’s culinary skill, the wide range of Italian wines and the upbeat atmosphere had all combined to give us an excellent dining experience.
NEO Bankside Unit C South
72 Holland Street
London SE1 9NX
020 7021 0703