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Briciole Ristorante Gastronomia, the new venture of Latium's chef Maurizio Morelli in partnership with maitre d' Umberto Tosi (big signor Umberto) has opened at 20 Homer St, London W1H 4NA.

Expect a report soon :smile:

(actually I'd be deligheted if somebody nearby tried it before I manage to go down to London!)

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Well I had to try it...

Front section is 'gastronomia', you can buy Italian produce or sit for a cappuccino or glass of wine, rear section is the restaurant. When the weather allows there will also be an outside area. Open for Sunday lunch.

As expected, very simple Italian cuisine, excellent ingredients, very authentic, for me personally almost moving as I found true Italian flavours combined with the professionalism of somebody who's worked in the UK for decades, the end result being (sad to say, but true) that I ate and felt better than in 90% of Italian trattorie.

Kind prices: primi (e.g. artichoke tagliolni) at £8, a main of polpette (meatballs) at £5, a main of salsicce (sausage) with side vegetables £8, a generous side of sauteed sprouting broccoli at £3, desserts (tiramisu, cannolo) £3, espresso £1.60.

We had:

Vitello tonnato. I know that many Brits find this disgusting but if you tolerate it, be advised this is a very fine example :smile: , the veal melting in the mouth, the sauce intense but not overwhelming, the capers adding that extra dimension, a fine example of that balance which is, in spite of what some people believe, the hallmark of Italian cuisine. (£5)

Tagliatelle with artichokes. Tagliatelle, like most pasta, is made at Latium and cooked similarly here. Since at Latium you eat one of the best pastas in London...and here it costs £8, draw your own conclusion.

Salsiccia with sproutng broccoli. A true Italian salsiccia, aromatised with fennel, hearty and gentle. (£8).

Polpette al sugo di pizzaiola. Accompanied by generous and excellent tomato sauce, I am not sure exactly what mix they put it in, certainly some pork and some cheese. Wonderful.(£5).

Tiramisu and Cannoli also were as they should be and would pass grandma's test.

For the bread, they imported a specialist breadmaker (a human, I mean) from Italy, and the results are apparent. The focaccia is light as air and superb, all bread in fact have great lightness and springiness, and flavour. He is still struggling with the different temperature, water, and humidity conditions so that the most sensititive type of bread, the 'rosette', still does not come out with the typical 'void' inside, but he's working on it...

The wine prices, ohmygod, are simply eye-popping so low they are, completely out of line with London markups (this was the fourth day of opening and I'm not sure how long it will last!). I saw a 'Giulio Ferrari' Riserva del Fondatore Metodo Classico (Italian champagne method bubbly) at £87 when it goes for about £60 from UK distributors!! I saw Barolos and Chiantis for prices you pay in restaurants in Italy (i.e. no more than than half of what you pay in London). If you like wine and Italian wine in particular, just go, really, as the list (still under construction) is very interesting and you'll find bottles you've probably never seen before, in a price range from £15 to £150.

Edited by Man (log)
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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

I was looking for a new restaurant to try for Sunday lunch last weekend and thought I would give Briciole a try (partly, I admit, because the top three on my list of places to go to aren't open on Sunday lunchtime).

We arrived at 1.30pm and there was a large family party (perhaps 25 to 30 people) of Italians celebrating what might have been a 65th birthday. A large gathering of Italians having a family party in a new restaurant is always a good sign, in my opinion. We were the only other people there.

The dining room is a big, open space. I guess it was a pub originally and now it has brick walls, light wood floors and simple wooden tables. Very minimalist. There is an open plan kitchen where the bar would have been.

I ordered a Negroni, which the waitress didn't appear to entirely know what it was (but it was perfect when it turned up), and my wife had a glass of Prosecco (which was originally delivered as a glass of white wine but was quickly swapped).

We ordered a basket of bread (£1.50) which wasn't huge but the focaccia was excellent. I gather Briciole prides themselves on their breads and they deserve to as this was some of the lighest focaccia I have had in London and was perfect.

The menu is very much in small plates/big plates style which is so trendy at the moment. It is a well thought out selection and well priced. Various plates of meats, plates of cheeses (all priced between £4 and £9), fried dishes, breads, vegetables etc. The problem is really knowing how much you should order and the balance between starters and main courses. Perhaps if you came here as part of a group of 6 then this would become a non issue but for two people it was definitely a consideration.

To start we had:

Pizza Fritta - not quite cooked enough, rather dull (£3)

Arancini - rice balls with cheese, underseasoned and quite bland (£3)

Scamorza - delicious although hard to go wrong with smoked mozarella (£6)

Prosciutto di Parma - generous plate of very good ham (£5)

Insalata Rape & Formaggio - I've actually forgotten the details of this salad, so dull it was. I think it was a beetroot, walnut and goats cheese salad but what I remember from it was that the flavours weren't strong, the cheese wasn't very special (it was fresh, just didn't taste of much) and I thought "I wish I'd ordered something else" (£5)

Main courses:

Ravioli - my wife had the Ravioli with sage and butter, which she said was delicious and the best bit of the meal (£8)

Gnocchi - I had Gnocchi was a tomato sauce which was well cooked but slight lack in depth of flavours. It was fine but nothing very exciting (£7).

We had fagiolini al limone (green beans with lemon) (£3) as a side dish which was good.


The pudding menu is short and heavy on the ice cream and sorbets. My wife had a chocolate ice cream (£2.50) which she descibed as good value but not very high quality and she would have rather have one scoop of really good chocolate ice cream than two scoops of average ice cream which she didn't want to eat all of it (very unusual!).

I had the Sgroppino (£3) which is lemon sorbet in prosecco. Great value and quite delicious.

We drank a bottle of the Alto Adige Terlaner which was keenly priced at £27.70. In fact the wine list was probably the most impressive thing about Briciole. Next time perhaps I will go back and just drink the wine and eat the breads!

The total bill including service was £99.79. Our overall feeling was that it was "fine" but we weren't blown away by any means. The cooking was perfectly acceptable but nothing by comparison with Bocca di Lupo or Polpetto (or at least when they opened, I actually was a bit disappointed when I last went to Polpetto and thought their standards had slipped a little). The service was fine but a little vague at times and I didn't get the feeling the waitresses were fully at home in the restaurant yet. It could also be that the main chef wasn't on duty at Sunday lunch - fairly likely, in fact - but I would have thought early on that those in charge would want to be keeping a close eye on what was coming out of the kitchen.

I also get the feeling that they are still finding their feet six weeks after opening. The manager said something along those lines when I asked him how things were going. Things like the fact the website (www.briciole.co.uk) isn't up and running yet suggests to me that things aren't fully organised yet.

With a few tweaks they could be a lot better. I hope they make those tweaks as that area is short of this sort of restaurant (Dinings is great but not where I'd want to go as my neighbourhood local if I lived around there). Let's hope they can make those tweaks before the critics come and give them a test...

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Thanks for your admirably detailed report, you should write more!

Re. your comment on the arancini di riso, I was reminded of a review Giles Coren wrote about Apsleys, where, among other problems, he found the arancini 'dull'. I remember thinking at the time that, since I refused to believe that the 3* Heinz Beck could get the recipe for arancini wrong or super-meticulous Max Blasone fail to have it executed to perfection, it must be a 'cultural thing'. Or maybe not. Have you had arancini that you like in London (Bocca di L., Polpo, etc.)? The main way an arancino can be dull, I guess, is a wrong balance rice/filling - was this the problem?

I see what you mean about service at Briciole. Those girls are lovely but often a bit clueless, especially with English speakers, dealing with whom may from time to time happen even in London :biggrin:

PS: you're right they haven't 'launched' officially yet, no proper PR has been done.

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I would love to write more often...just not enough time.

I think the problem with the arancino was that they were under-seasoned. I've had them in several locations in London (Sfizio in Theobalds Road do some good ones) but also in Sicily and the equivalent rice dish in other parts of Italy (for example as suppli in Rome and around Lazio). They can be one of the most delicious dishes but this version just didn't taste of very much.

Thinking back, I think probably the best ones I have had have had the rice cooked in a good stock and then seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh herbs. This may not be authentic but I can see why I would prefer it as the flavour cuts against the oil from the deep frying, which can be the overwhelming taste if you are not careful.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 months later...

Today I read with amusement Andy Hayler's blog, where he says that he 'went crazy with the wine' at Briciole, ending up spending a small fortune. I so understand him - top wine prices there are so friendly that the temptation is just too strong. :smile:

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