Tentazioni is tucked away in deepest darkest Bermondsey and is well worth the walk along puddle strewn streets. Cowie and I were going to whistle up to Manchester to dine at Juniper, but thrift got the better of us. So in the grand scheme of things a visit to SE1 is hardly a million miles away.
We used our Taste London card which meant we got our food in BOGOF format. We would never have come to Tentazioni if it wasn't on special offer.
I guess they aren't on the beaten track so they need to entice people away from the familiarity and safety of the West End to pay them a visit. Which is exactly how they got us to come here.
It's a charming, modern space with staff who are eager to help, with walls decked out in red, passionate art. It's got a really intimate feel that lends itself to romantic evenings.
We were seated upstairs away from the ghastly Christmas music. I wonder what the people downstairs had done to deserve being subjected to Slade and Cliff Richard all night.... they even had the nerve to have their special Christmas CD on sale!
Whilst Cowie nipped off to the loo, I ordered a couple of Belinis to get us in the mood. They were beautifully sweet and reminded me of Dad's pre Christmas cocktails that normally send us all into oblivion. A distinguished neighbour of ours once had to leave early in a fit of outrageous drunkenness and opened his umbrella in our kitchen and fell over backwards into all the champagne glasses! Smash!
We demolished two bowls of salty, deep olives whilst decoding the Italian menu. So often you think of Italian food as being salads, pizzas, pasta and tiramisu. But the only pasta you could find on the menu was the occassional reference to "open ravioli" or "al forno". It reminded us massively of our trip to Croatia earlier this year.
Cowie's langouistine and cougete salad with a seafood dressing was like a work of edible art. The langoustine was sweet and super soft. And the cougette actually tasted of something... which is unusual. They're normally all soft and msuhy.
My carpaccio of beef was sensational. Deep red. Just like the artist's pigment it was named afterwards. Here's the story of it's origins from Wikipedia which I bored/wowed Cowie with over dinner:
"According to Arrigo Cipriani, the present-day owner of Harry's Bar, the Carpaccio was invented at Harry's Bar in Venice, where it was first served to the countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo in 1950 when she informed the bar's owner that her doctor had recommended she eat only raw meat. It consisted of thin slices of raw beef dressed with a mustard sauce. The dish was named Carpaccio by Giuseppe Cipriani, the bar's former owner, in reference to the Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio, because the colours of the dish reminded him of paintings by Carpaccio."
Vittore Carpaccio. Healing of a Madman. 1494
It was juicy and as tender as a the stems of that expensive brocoli when you've steamed it for too long. Combined with griddled aubergine, cougette and a big poached egg sized blog of deep tasting mozerella it was the perfect way to start our meal.
Already feeling quite full we were glad that we were given time to linger over our wine before the next course arrived. I had a fit of experimentaion whilst ordering and went for tempura pheasant which was moist and crispy with a delicious garlic sauce and some flaps of buckwheat open ravioli which added a great slipperiness to contrast with the crispy tempura. I loved it to bits and at this point was on the brink of cardiac arrest!
Cowie's navarin of venison came with crispy polenta croquetas and a deep bacony red sauce that was the very essence of autumn comfort, in the same way that Hagen Daz is the way that hormonal girls feel normal again. The meat was tender and the sauce had that Ramsay sheen. Glossy, tasty and so, so tasty.
Our side order of green beens with thinly sliced shallots, controversially, were probably the star of a very sparlky show. They were drizzled in olive oil and bolstered by a good hit of garlic. Oddly, for us we ordered some chips, which we certainly didn't need. Which is what the staff must have thought because they never arrived!
We didn't need pudding, but becauase I wanted to give the white chocolate tart a go, we had the second one free anyway. So Cowie had a brilliant collection of sorbets: lemon, passionfruit and blackcurrant. They were far better than my sluggish white chocolate tart. But that's my fault for ordering the wrong thing.
Things got even better once we had paid the half price bill... our charming waiter gave us a Christmas present of fresh Tentazioni pasta and a jar of their mushroom sauce. What brilliant service. I cooked it for lunch today and was transported straight back to SE1!
Don't be put off by the Bermondsey address. Give this place a try. With the Taste London BOGOF deal can you afford not to?
We still love to go on trips around the UK, staying in BnBs or camping in search of a good meal or two - hence, Around Britain with a Paunch. Quite often the trips have been prompted by Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook. Here's where we've been to: