Diciannove in Blackfriars
For many well travelled diners, Italian restaurants in hotels set the faintest alarm bells ringing in their minds. No matter where you are, the sleek, polished hotels of the world always seem to come with one, like part of the furniture. Too rarely is it a celebration of the culinary culture of the country, more often than not using the Italian flair for the simple and the delicious as a way of pleasing as many people as possible with as little effort.
Located in the Crowne Plaza City hotel in Blackfriars, Diciannove could easily be mistaken for one of those lazy options, but there’s real quality here. Our waitress shows an enthusiastic knowledge of both the menu and the wine list that quickly puts our fears to rest. Her recommendation, a Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 2013, is a good one, the versatile, medium bodied wine a solid pairing for the majority of food we ordered.
Carpaccio is the first dish to emerge from the kitchen and perfectly encapsulates what we’re hoping to see from this special white truffle menu at Diciannove: great ingredients treated with care and respect, avoiding the desire to overcomplicate. Oddly, a garnish of rocket is the star here, its slight astringency combining beautifully with fresh lemon, truffles and paper thin beef to create a dish that’s as light as a feather. Tagliatelle is heavier, but not as much as one might imagine, thanks to a cautious hand with the taleggio cream cheese sauce. Said sauce is the ideal vehicle for the fragrant truffle, allowing it to work its perfumed magic unobstructed.
A generous hunk of Beef fillet is cooked to perfection. The slightest hint of caramelised crust hides a heft of meltingly soft meat that’s so tender you could cut it with a spoon. It’s more than robust enough to hold up to the truffles, and the pair dominate a silky little splash of mashed potato, which does little more than provide a textural contrast, though that’s certainly not a bad thing. The technical excellence continues in a perfectly cooked risotto, the butter, parmesan and truffle forming a symphony of simplicity. It’s simultaneously an ideally executed restaurant dish and a bowl of pure comfort, perfect for the long winter nights.
Desserts are simple but delicious: tiramisu and gelato. The hazelnut gelato is fantastic, intensely sweet but somehow not at all sickly, a shot of intense, almost caramel-laced flavour that dances across the taste buds with surprising grace. Tiramisu is moist and delicate, thankfully avoiding the over sodden sponge that tends to plague most interpretations of the dish. Both are a pleasantly light end to a meal that has otherwise been incredibly rich.
Never overwhelmingly so though, and this is perhaps the crucial factor. All that dairy, beef, and truffle reads like it will sit heavily but, despite generous portions, that doesn’t feel like a problem at all. In fact, special praise must be given to the perfect balance achieved between the liberal use of white truffle. As an ingredient, it’s at its best when it’s indulgently showered atop dishes and worked into beautifully creamy sauces, revelling in its own decadence. Yet, it’s so easy to go overboard there and make the entire thing feel gratuitous. That’s a pitfall Diciannove avoids with grace. They might not be pushing the boat out here, but they demonstrably know how to treat good produce with the reverence it deserves and when it comes to both truffles and Italian cuisine, that’s a winning philosophy.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Marco Mucchiut
To book a table at Diciannove, 19 New Bridge Street, EC4V 6DB, call 020 7438 8052 or visit here.