It’s that time of year again, albeit a bit later than usual owing to poor crops in Italy, when foodie noses twitch to the aroma of truffles in the air. So expensive, so delicious and as they are only available for a short while, so important to hunt down while you can.
Refettorio is where we like to get our truffle fix, because it’s a Locatelli place and Giorgio knows what he’s doing even if he isn’t in day-to-day control. Head Chef Alessandro does the day-to-day work instead and he’s a great Italian chef, delivering a regular menu of classic with modern touches and pasta of sublime silkiness
Refettorio’s truffle tasting menu may sound expensive at £125 a head and of course no one can deny that sort of cost is not for everybody. But if you’re on the right side of the great UK rich/poor divide, then actually it’s not bad, as Refettorio have kept the cost the same as last year, despite truffles being more expensive owing to the poor crops. As Alessandro tells us though, the upside is that those truffles that have arrived are more concentrated in flavour as a result
Nonetheless the Foodepedia budget will not stretch to £250+ for lunch so we sample a few instead as all dishes are available individually. I eat ‘faux truffle’ with a starter of Pappardelle ai funghi misti (Pappardelle with mixed wild mushrooms`). It could not be simpler but it is delicious, with the pasta made on the premises slippery with butter and oil and those wild mushrooms all tumbled up inside. There’s a waft of garlic and a hit of Parmesan and it sums up all that I adore about Italian food.
J has a more Modern European dish of Capesante scottate con purè di ceci, porri e salsa all’agro dolce (Pan fried scallops, leek and chickpea purée, fried leeks, sweet and sour sauce). He liked it but wasn’t sure about the fried leeks ‘a bit stringy’ he said indistinctly through a mouthful of scallop.
Ah but we can smell the advancing truffle and see the digital weighing machine used to control portions. With product this pricey nothing less than a drug-dealer’s attention to accuracy of measurement will do.
J has Spaghettini al burro e tartufo Bianco (home made spaghettini with butter and white truffle). Even without the truffle it’s a dish you’d want to eat; the spaghettini has flavour all of its own and the butter laps around it. Not too much Parmesan of course out of respect for the truffle, and it is the truffle taste that takes the dish up and away. Pasta is the perfect partner for truffles, the gentle warmth it retains from cooking is just enough to tickle the fine shavings of truffle into vibrant life, each forkful is so good you want it to last forever.
I wanted the Ravioli di fontina e radicchio con burro e tartufo bianco (Radicchio and fontina filled ravioli with butter sauce and white truffle) next, I really really wanted it but felt duty bound to eat something that wasn’t based on pasta.
Filetto di manzo scottato su polenta grigliata, salsa al vino rosso e tartufo bianco (Pan-fried fillet of beef on a bed of grilled polenta, red wine sauce and white truffle) was the non-meat main. The beef was gorgeous, great quality and cooked just right with no nonsense about how I wanted it. There is only one way to want beef and that’s rare to medium and this was perfectly that.
A punchy red sauce floated the grilled polenta and even though I have never really seen the point of polenta, I have to say that griiling it brings it some proper flavour and texture to the party. This was such a good dish it almost didn’t need the truffles, but once again the gilding on the lily was an olfactory treat as well as a gustatory one. You just sit there mesmerised, letting the aromas take you out of London on a gentle breeze.
We left without dessert; all that sitting around mesmerised had eaten up our lunch hour. A shame as the Warm sabayon with white truffle and Savoyards biscuits sounded lush and lovely.
Refettorio’s Truffle menu lasts until the truffles run out which may not be until mid-December but do check in advance if making a special trip, but this is special meal so don’t miss out.
The Crowne Plaza Hotel Refettorio Restaurant. 19 New Bridge Street, Blackfriars, London, EC4V 6DB www.refettorio.com
Refettorio White Truffle Menu
Starter – £35.00
Scrambled eggs with toasted ciabatta bread and white truffle
Uova strapazzate con ciabatta tostata e Tartufo bianco
Middle – £45.00
Radicchio and fontina filled ravioli with butter sauce and white truffle
Ravioli di fontina e radicchio con burro e tartufo bianco
Home made spaghettini in melted butter, parmesan and white truffle
Spaghettini al burro con parmigiano e tartufo Bianco
Main – £50.00
Pan-fried fillet of beef on a bed of grilled polenta, red wine sauce and white truffle
Filetto di manzo scottato su polenta grigliata, salsa al vino rosso e tartufo bianco
Dessert – £15.00
Warm sabayon with white truffle and Savoyards biscuits
Zabaione tiepido con tartufo bianco e savoiardi
Coffee and Amaretti
Including VAT, excluding 12.5% service charge
Please note this menu is not available in conjunction with any other offers