Italian food has always been a popular choice when it comes to dining out. Here’s a country with over 300 forms of pasta after all. And then there’s all the other stuff Italians do with dough from pizza to panettone, focaccia to cornetto via panini. In Venice they’ll take stale bread and turn it into a polenta-like peara bread sauce, while in Tuscany they’ll add it to soups such as pappa al pomodoro or salads such as panzanella. And don’t forget their dreamy ways with rice, from risotto to arancini. Yes, I could go on.
For a majority of people around the world, Italy is synonymous with pasta, pizza and wine. But having been to Italy in the summer of 2017, I can tell you there is a lot more that Italian cuisine offers. That’s why I was excited to try out Forty Dean Street in buzzing Soho with my friend on a chilly December evening to showcase that Italians know more then just the classics.
Forty Dean Street, which is a small family run business, has had a glamorous make over in the past couple of months with velvet banquettes, low lightning and a new bar bringing a touch of Italian sophistication to Soho. A classic chic yet modern setting, my friend and I knew that we would be in for a treat this evening. Around us sat happy customers laughing and singing to the music.
To get us started for the evening whilst we wait for our starters to arrive, homemade crusty bread was brought to our table with a side of nutty olive oil and vinegar. A staple in tItalian culture whilst we wait for our starters!
To get the evening started, we were excited to try out some of the cocktails on offer. My friend went for an Amaretto cherry sour cocktail which contained Amaretto, lemon, Angostura and cherry liqueur, and was topped off with egg white – so good. So good in fact that I had around 4 of these throughout the night! The cocktail was sweet and creamy and if you love cherry, this is the drink for you!
I am a lover of gin so went for one of their famous house cocktails – the gin basil bomb which contained gin, lemon and basil was topped off with egg white – the new trend taking the cocktail scene by storm. The egg white brought a creamy rich feeling to the drink and the basil and gin combination created a refreshing stance on this classic cocktail.
As we sipped our cocktails and dipped our crusty bread in olive oil, we were given some plump green olives.
Then our mains came. My friend went for the Italian antipasto starter. It was a selection of cured meats, pickles, buffalo mozzarella and chargrilled artichokes that came on a trendy cutting board. My friend was delighted by the meat selection that contained the classic salami, prosciutto, capocollo and Bresaola. It had chunks of creamy and rich buffalo mozzarella cheese and came with a side of pickled artichokes, carrots and celery – a starter for all lovers of cured meats.
For my starter, I went for my all-time favourite, the bresaola. This is an air-dried thin slice of beef that has been left to cure for 3 months. The taste is divine – salty yet sweet. It came accompanied with wild rocket, shaved Parmesan and lashings of truffle oil. I could not fault this dish. It was the perfect starter that satisfied yet left room for your mains.
For the second round of drinks, we went for the classic Cosmopolitan which contained Citron vodka, lime, Cointreau and cranberry. It was an elegant cocktail that had a fruity punch.
Next up was our mains. I wanted to go for a non-classic dish to showcase that Italians know a thing or 2 about lamb chops! I went for roasted rosemary and honey-coated lamb chops that came accompanied with mustard crushed potatoes and green pesto. The lamb chops were cooked to perfection – tender and melted in the mouth. The honey coating gave the lamb a nice sweet after-taste and worked well with the mustard crushed potatoes. The crispy parsnips brought the dish a whole new texture and balance.
My friend went for the spaghetti aglio e olio with mixed fresh seafood, tomatoes and a brandy sauce. This dish was not only beautiful to look at, it also tasted amazing. It contained king prawns still in its shell to keep all that juicy flavour, creamy calamari and perfectly cooked mussels in a garlic, fresh chilli and extra virgin olive oil sauce.
As a pre-dessert treat, we went for the classic Italian cheeseboard. The board contained various types of crackers with chucks of Parmesan, Percorina, Taleggio and Gorgonzola. It came accompanied with a pot of honey to drizzle over the cheese and crackers – perfection. The grapes added a nice depth of sweetness and crunch to the cheeseboard.
And finally, several cocktails later (that Amaretto and cherry cocktail one!), we were persuaded by the lovely waitress to try out their homemade tiramisu. On the menu this dessert is described as a ‘Pick me up!’ and boy did it pick us up. Creamy, rich and loaded with coffee and Amaretto liquor, my friend and I were fighting for the last piece.
I urge you to try out 40 Dean Street and be prepared for some tasty dishes and amazing cocktails. Let this little Italian restaurant be your hidden gem.
Forty Dean Street
40 Dean Street, London, W1D 4PX