Tinello has been around for about three years but it only came to my attention a few weeks ago when a bunch of my friends attended a sort of relaunch evening. As is often the case when a small group of bloggers are confined in one space, Twitter and Instagram became engorged with repetitive pictures of their dinner, in particular it was a frankly ridiculous looking dish of pasta piled high with tumbling truffle shavings, that’s image insidiously punctuated my feed all bloody evening long. I eventually commented on one of the many pics expressing my appreciation and the restaurant dived in, asking if I’d like to come visit myself? Well, sure thing. Why not. I’m not above a spot of tasty truffle action.
Date firmly in diary, I sold a restaurant visit to the boy woven solely around stories of this one dish, not knowing much else about the place if I’m honest. Eyes gleaming with earthy and pungent fungi dreams, I looked forward to my trip, at the tail end of an elongated stretch of birthday celebrations. An email, shortly before my visit, from the PR looking after the process, quickly dashed those dreams; meal was comped – but NOT for truffle.
Oh well, I reasoned, the truffle dish was on as a special, a show-off highlight for the illustrious gathering, and probably wouldn’t be available anyway…..
Tinello resides in affluent, Sloaney Belgravia, a few posh antique shops along from Sloane Square. On approach, a fairly bland, generically dark front opens up to an equally dark inside. We’re greeted warmly, if stiffly, and seated at a small two man table towards the front, offered a glass of prosecco, and when my eyes get acquainted to the dim lighting I peer around. A fairly narrow room, furnished with customary bare brick walls is, seemingly at first, lit mainly from a bright bar at the back, sparkling with glasses and bottles, it’s only later I notice the rather lovely low slung lights on pulleys. A trip to the toilets later, through a door at the back of the restaurant reveals the true nature of the original building and is liking walking out from behind a film set and stepping behind the scenes. This old building seems to cradle the new, foreign inner structure lovingly with motherly, all forgiving arms. I creep up a deserted creaky staircase and walk around what feels like someones ancient home before returning ever so slightly dazed to my seat as you might emerge into broad daylight from a magical theatre production.
Eyeing white table cloths with suspicion I dip into a tiny plate of pickles and dunk distinctly average bread into olive oil. A menu is brought for our inspection and the specials read out – all I hear is truffle, truffle, TRUFFLE. A teasing cruelty. I fix my stare to ink in order to try and suppress the instinct to cry out an affirmative to the perversely offered specials.
The menu is a delicious puzzle of starters, small plates, pasta, seconds and mains, we gratefully thank our waiter when he approaches, asking if we’d like his suggestions for our first course. Seems to be the sensible choice when I can’t decide between a rather lovely sounding vegetable dish from the starter section or a mish mash of smaller plates. We also allow him to choose a red wine. So lazy but far less taxing on my little brain when the list is so extensive.
Shortly plates start to waft in from the Small Eats section and we pounce hungrily on slices of smoky speck and a salad of bitter chicory that’s dressing clings delicately from each crunchy frond. A tangle of dainty courgette fries are perfectly crisp but desperately lacking that moreish quality a little more seasoning would lend, burrata is everything you’d expect, bejewelled with the superfluous citrus crunch of pomegranate. Tuscan chicken liver crostini unfortunately resembles something unmentionable on the pages of a food blog and is served in an un-friendly three way portion, but a non descript dinky earthenware dish of Ribollita – a Tuscan bean and cabbage stew – is thick with fatty pork and the epitome of savoury comfort.
I’ve chosen what I judge to be the next best thing to truffle on the menu, having long since decided pasta in some form is the order of the day; a wild boar ragu; rich and warming, the meaty sauce straddles substantial, delightfully toothsome homemade pappardelle like an inappropriate leg hump and banishes all thoughts of the cold and gloom outside for a few moments. It is however lacking entirely in truffle. The boy has a well cooked and generous venison dish. Also, sans truffle.
The boy shuns his usual favourite dessert, tiramisu, and goes off piste with a cheese plate; this one, a simple arrangement of two excellent cheeses, I forget what exactly, but a goats’ that progresses from slightly chalky and firm in the middle to creamy and soft towards the edges that’s paired with a piquant pecorino, good sized slabs these are, with daubes of honey and slices of fruit bread. My choice is an equally uncharacteristic, as I don’t as a rule do pastry, chocolate tart and is really rather good; crisp pastry, decadent chocolate filling, glossy ganache topping and a fabulous scoop of pistachio ice cream to top it all off. We dismiss coffee, as is generally wise to in restaurants, but instead we’re presented with two tiny petit fours like a pair of miniature tits on a plate. And oh my, these are the surprise hit of the evening, for where they have the crackled look of macaroons or small biscuits, these are actually little choux buns, which when torn asunder reveal a stunningly naughty filling of marsala cream, crowned with a hair lick of vanilla fondant icing.
Service is on the austere side for my liking; I’ve never been a fan of being treated as if incapable or fussed over – my napkin slips off my leathered knees on a number of occasions and each time it’s magically placed, neatly folded at my side, my unmentionable behaviour not mentioned, a dirty secret between them and I – and don’t talk to me about the scraper of doom, I KNOW I’m messy, I’ve learnt to live with it ok?!
I feel like I’ve moaned a lot here but make no mistake, we have a lovely time, that ragout and the little petit fours worth a visit alone if you find yourself stranded amongst the well to do this far West.
As we leave I catch sight of a large truffle protected under a glass dome on the reception desk, and I could swear it gives me a cheeky goading wink.