Monday, 2 June 2014

Trattoria Treats...

I have a few bones to pick with Jamie Oliver. For one, why is it that I have cupboards full of pointless tins and jars bought simply for the kitsch packaging? What led me to become the owner endless mismatching serving bowls that I like to liberally drizzle with olive oil and artfully chuck torn leaves of coriander at? Why do I own more copies of his multicoloured titles and  matte-paged magazines than I do  pairs of matching socks? And to be quite frank, I would rather like to sue for the seemingly welded-on gratings of parmesan that looked proper rustic when scattered in the general direction of that bowl of spicy sausage rigatoni on Saturday night.


But, the truth is, although I spend more time elbow deep in washing up liquid for a Wednesday dinner for one than I usually endure for a party for six with canap├ęs and petit fours; I can make no bones about it, I love that Jamie Oliver. Is it the palpable passion for food that seems to drip from his fingertips and pulse through every vein in his body? Or maybe the unrivalled way he takes beautiful ingredients and never fails to create a plate of food that is packed full of amazing, vibrant flavour and an irresistible, but never over-the-top twist? Is it because all his breakfast, lunches and dinners somehow manage to be simple, inspirational and accessible all at the same time? Is it because he taught me how ‘pukka’ was actually pronounced (thus making ‘Pukka Pies’ a much more appealing chippie option...)? Perhaps the amazing photos that make me want to search through every skip I come across for a piece of distressed wood to use as a background (much to my boyfriends despair)? The perfectly chipped enamel cups? The endless amounts of Sriraca chilli sauce and extra virgin olive oil?


Well yes, all of those things have some kind of weight upon my affinity with old (sorry, I mean super hip & trendy) J.O- But, most of all, it is because the way he so clearly feels about food is a near perfect reflection of how the same thoughts bubble and boil in my mind, non-stop. Like Jamie, food is my life. If you cut me in two, I would probably bleed homemade Arrabbiata sauce or foraged elderflower and lemon balm cordial. I think about food more than is probably healthy. OR conducive to doing anything else...

I mean, for goodness sake, I dream-cooked an entire wild mushroom and mascarpone lasagne in my sleep a few nights ago (don’t worry Mum, my head didn’t leave the pillow- fortunately the kitchen was still in one piece in the morning. Unfortunately, there was no lasagne...) But more than my bleary-eyed wonderings, I truly believe in the power of food. Not only to make your dreams that little bit more tasty, but, with the least cheesy intentions, to add true value to your life and that of those around you. To make our bodies healthier, out pockets heavier and our hearts that little bit lighter. Food is life. And I think Jamie believes in its magnitude almost as much as I do...

But enough of my fan mail; what I really meant to talk about before I got so ridiculously carried away, was my visit to yet another offshoot of Jamie’s unfathomable empire that really got my love of all things Oliver boiling over once more.


Jamie’s Trattoria, the distressed wood heavy, Bresola and Pecorino laden foodie heaven in leafy Richmond; is the next generation on Jamie’s bid to conquer the restaurant world. Based loosely around the Jamie’s Italian model (drawing on many of the fresh, authentic dishes prepared with the same amazing, flavour-packed ingredients used in Italian branches up and down the country, but with a very distinctive Trattoria twist), it takes inspiration upon the Italian love of gathering a big group of chattering family and friends around a scrubbed steel table decked out with delightfully mismatching chairs (Ok, that might be more Jamie’s style..) and feeding them up with beautiful, lovingly prepared grub. Digging in is the name of the game here; leave your food-sharing hatred at the door with your umbrella please...


With small-plate, sharing style starters including shaved courgettes with lemon, mint and ricotta rubbing shoulders with beautiful, almost plasticine-like matte green skinned Cerignola olives served on a bed of eerily smoking dry ice and platters of the most gorgeous fennel flecked salami; this is a joint where it is frighteningly easy to over order. After much deliberation, and one extremely drinkable coral hued negroni; we decided on the freshest pea, mint and baby mozzarella crostini, chorizo roasted with octopus, clams and butterbeans, and delightfully rich baked goats cheese with crispy pancetta and sticky green tomato chutney. All were divine; the freshness of the peas and mint cut with a little lemon contrasting perfectly with the creamy mozzarella, and the rich smokiness of the chorizo proving the perfect partner to the soft, perfectly cooked octopus and meaty butterbeans. I have not one complaint- It even managed to make my infamously plate-protective boyfriend share, which is nothing short of a miracle, to be honest.

 And the mouth watering food-fest did not stop there. Next up on my side of the table was the most delicious risotto marinara; crowned with soft, sweet crabmeat and the iridescent purple shells of the plumpest, meatiest mussels and finished perfectly with lemony strands of salty, vibrant green samphire. It was, and I am not just saying this, hands down the best risotto I have ever had in a restaurant. Which might be something to do with the fact that the only place I have ever previously ordered one was at the plastic table covered table of a Premier Inn restaurant (horrid, shockingly...), but I knew I could count on Jamie. Not a single stodgy, overcooked grain of rice in sight, it was an absolute winner.


My dinner date chose the special, a parmesan rich, creamy spaghetti carbonara, flecked with slivers of yellow and green courgette and salty, crustily fried bits of cured ham and salami from the display adorning the open-style kitchen. Again delicious, but I think my jump of faith with the risotto was the choice of the night. Particularly when washed down with a large goblet of zingy Trebbiano. Yes please.

By the time the paddle of puddings made it round to the table, I was happily too stuffed to eat any more. Although looking a blackberry fangipane tart and hazelnut chocolate torte in the eye does rather test a girl’s willpower. But resist I did, rounding off my incredibly satisfying dinner with a Trattoria coffee; a rich, syrupy concoction of espresso, hazelnut liqueur and lightly whipped cream. Just YUM.

 I think it’s safe to say that I was a fan...

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