Tartufo … trufflingly brilliant

DINING OWL AWARD1st – value

When I visited: Various times from 2014-2015

Location: London, near Sloane Square

Team: Alexis Gauthier (associated group), Manuel Oliveri (Head Chef), Antonino Giacolone (Restaurant Manager), Roberto Della Pietra (Head Sommelier)

Rating in the Michelin Guide: Not rated in the Guide

Dining Owl Hoot rating: 4/5

What to wear: Men – shirt and jacket and nice trousers and shoes; women – a smart dress and/or smart trousers and a top

Ambience: Smart, quite intimate

Course of the meal: Tortelloni with black truffle and mushroom

If I could change one thing: More lively atmosphere

Review: 

There is a reason why I keep returning to Tartufo, and despite its name, it’s not just for the truffles. I must say a word about truffles here, however: they’re one of those stereotypically-expensive ingredients where you normally get just a shaving and/or have to pay a supplement for them. The flipside of this is that they’re DELICIOUS, and a rare example of that ‘umami’ taste (as opposed to sweet, salty, sour or bitter).

Tartufo offers AMAZING value for truffle courses, in contrast to lots of other restaurants. On two of my visits, it cost £40 for 4 a la carte courses and lots of these involved truffles. In addition, the staff are extremely friendly. Maybe it’s the fact that the restaurant is tucked away a bit in the bottom of a hotel a few streets away from Sloane Square, rather than being on show, but it is often quite deserted for some reason – this has served me well when I’ve been let in at short notice, but I really don’t want it to close. Drawing attention to gems like Tartufo is part of the reason I started this blog.

The drinks at Tartufo are delicious; it’s always worth starting with a glass of their deliciously dry house Champagne. In addition, I have sampled a Brillo Italian white wine (very soft and drinkable) and a red Chianti Classico.

In true Michelin style (although it no longer seems to be in the Guide for some strange reason), you get bonuses: these begin with amuse bouches. In my visits there, these have included arancini balls, crostini with fish pate and tomato puree, and crostini with Italian sausage mousse on top. You also get some gorgeous Italian bread: focaccia, white and thick, thin and crispy, and grissini.

The 4-course a la carte menu is a great choice if you want a blend of savoury and sweet goodness, perfectly balanced with truffles (that’s right – truffles again). First courses that I’ve tasted / seen include Scottish scallops with fennel, beef carpaccio with truffle shavings, beef carpaccio with Parmesan and black truffle, and scallops with pear (you know I love scallops …!). Second courses have included tortelloni with black truffle and mushroom; these ‘second courses’ are perhaps the highlight as they show off the truffle to its best advantage.

The third courses are typically meat or fish: poached duck egg with black truffle, pheasant with hibiscus and risotto, John Dory fried with tartufo nero, onions and vegetables, or pork belly with beetroot, parsnip and black truffle. Sometimes my partner Owl likes a cheese course and this was a good one – celery, blue cheese, soft and hard Italian cheese and flat bread pieces.

Desserts at Tartufo are also a thing of beauty: chestnut with dark chocolate, vanilla ice cream and gold leaf pieces, dark chocolate ganache with chocolate dots, or dark chocolate crunch with lemon cheese ice cream and a piece of gold. With our green tea to help us digest all this wondrous food, we got petits fours: financier with chocolate and almond, biscotti with a coconut taste, and shortbread with raspberry mousse on top.

Go to Tartufo and spread the word … even if its wonderful value for money disappears as a result, I’d probably still keep going.

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