Conveniently positioned just a stone’s throw from the shining lights of London’s theatreland, Cucina Asellina is the stylish twin of Italian Ristorante Asellina in New York. The NYC vibe certainly seems to radiate; before we even knew about the US-link, we joked that we felt very Sex and the City, dining out at a chic Manhattan hotspot. It’s a lovely, relaxing environment to be in – warm lighting from bulbs in impressive copper dome lampshades gives a glam atmosphere, and feels comforting in London’s grey and rainy weather.
Cucina Asellina bread board
We visited Cucina Asellina on one of these drizzly, cold evenings. As a treat to cheer us, we decided to start by waking our palates with a couple of the restaurant’s classic cocktails – a signora asellina, and a la Bianca white sangria. Both with a fresh lemon zing to their flavour, they certainly refreshed us and were a lovely way to kick off the evening.
Mozzarella burrata, caramelised figs, radicchio & aged balsamic
The London Restaurant Festival menu offered at Cucina Asellina gives 3 options per course; all varied enough to find something you’ll enjoy. To start with, we chose mozzarella burrata, served with caramelised figs, and speck of duck.
We were surprised to receive a whole huge ball of milky mozzarella as a starter – you definitely won’t leave here hungry! Paired with the sweet caramelised figs and a sprinkling of salt, the dish was perfectly balanced and very moreish.
Speck of duck, pickled green tomatoes, celeriac slaw
The speck of duck was something we hadn’t heard of before, but ordered on an adventurous whim. Delicate slices of delicious duck came paired with punchy pickled green tomatoes & a creamy celeriac slaw – a fantastic mix for the taste buds.
Oven baked halibut, warm riso venere salad, crayfish & pink peppercorn sauce
For our main courses, we ordered oven baked halibut, with warm riso venere salad, crayfish & pink peppercorn sauce. The presentation of this dish had been well executed, with the white fish contrasting against black rice. It was equally as well cooked with a host of flavours complementing the delicate flakes of halibut.
Roast guinea fowl, Jerusalem artichoke, chestnuts, ratte potatoes & vincotto
We also tried beautifully-cooked roast guinea fowl, which had a wonderful crispy skin and tangy sauce, and was served with potatoes roasted in subtle flavours of garlic and herbs.
After an impressive first two courses, we were raring to see what dessert would bring. We opted for chestnuts semifreddo with chocolate sauce, for that always-welcomed chocolate hit, and the slightly more daring (for us) black sambucca panna cotta!
Black sambucca pannacotta, strawberry & balsamic syrup
The punchy panna cotta was served with the classic, yet also somewhat bold, pairing of strawberries and balsamic syrup, scattered artistically around the dish. The flavours were all quite intense but worked surprisingly well together – if you like sambucca, this is a great dessert for you.
Chestnuts semifreddo, chocolate sauce
The less bold option of chestnuts semifreddo was a delight, and should not be overshadowed by its boozy counterpart. Crunchy shards of sugar complemented a light semifreddo, hiding soft chestnut chunks. The milk chocolate sauce rounded the flavours of the dish off, and brought the whole thing together.
The London Restaurant Festival menu was a brilliant way to experience some of the best dishes created at this restaurant. But don’t fear if you’ve missed out on the chance to try the Festival menu – the fun continues! Cucina Asellina have just launched a new Aperitivo Club at their beautiful bar. Getting your hands on a member’s card means that when you buy a drink at the restaurant bar, you will be given a complimentary Cicchetti (a traditional Italian bar snack). This is a huge part of the Italian culture that Cucina Asellina are keen to bring into London – to me it sounds like the perfect way to start an evening, before settling down to dinner or popping round the corner to the theatre!
336-337 The Strand, London, WC2R 1HA