There was the city’s hot new ticket, Ollie Dabbous; Italian stalwart Theo Randall, one of the newer boys in town, James Lowe; and born and bred Londoner, Alyn Williams. Each of the chefs were tasked with creating a meal inspired by Italy and the best Italian ingredients, and the variety, quality and delivery of each menu was nothing short of exceptional.
Ollie Dabbous, first to step up, wowed guests with a creamy buffalo milk ricotta, cipollini onions, crushed Sicilian pistachios, a tangy hit of Amalfi lemon and nepitella (a herb that belongs to the mint family). Second to cook was Theo Randall – the only chef of the four who has built a career cooking Italian food – who served a wonderful dish of ravioli with Swiss chard and rocket spinach splashed with sheep’s milk ricotta and sage butter.
James Lowe brought his simple style to play during his dinner with dishes consisting of just a few, well selected ingredients. Sea trout, whey butter and samphire was a stand out, as well as his wonderfully fresh plate of peas, stracciatella and borage.
The final dinner was cooked by Alyn Williams who really went to town on his creations, riffing on classic Italian plates such as vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce) and adding some interesting ingredients to produce combinations Williams said he liked – which is why guests enjoyed some sweet pops of corn in their tonnato. “I wrote the title in inverted commas,” he told the crowd – just in case they were traditionalists. Williams’s Agnolotti, with a deep, onion broth, fermented ramsons, cubes of smoked eel and a clever laverbread filling, was a strong standout.
In total, the dinners attracted around 175 people and tickets sold quickly – a sure sign that Italy’s culinary popularity is still strong in London. As Williams said towards the end of his dinner, “Perhaps it’s time we had a new wave of chefs cooking Italian food in London?"
It’s a movement we are certainly looking forward to and one, if rumours circulating London are true, that could happen very soon. Watch this Britalian space.