Every now and then the folks at Tozi in London Victoria update their menu. Sometimes they tell us about it. Sometimes they even invite us down to try it. What you see here is Tozi’s one off, short lived (and delicious) ‘Piemonte-themed menu’, and we sent our Jack out to see what people actually eat in Piedmont. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they eat just as well as the rest of Italy, or at least Tozi makes it out that way…
Nice Tozi You (…sorry)
Tozi lives next to the Park Plaza hotel on Gillingham St – a corridor of giants in an area made up of mainly futuristic, new build skyscrapers. Established by chefs Daniele Pampagnin and Maurilio Molteni, the pair had worked together at the Soho House group and long dreamed of having their own, independent and Venetian inspired restaurant to take on the likes of Polpo and Cichetti.
Years later, amongst the formidable high rents and stiff competition that characterise the London restaurant scene, Tozi thrives – we can assume they are doing something right. I am told that “Tozi” is Venetian slang for a group of guys.
Tozi usually focuses on Venetian food, namely ‘cicchetti ’, which are like small plates. For this menu, however, head chef Maurilio has decided to pay homage to the food of Piedmont, Venetian cuisine’s lesser known cousin. Though both in Northern Italy, Venice and Piedmont are over 400km apart, and so there are distinct differences. Not being an expert in the cuisines of Northern Italy, I won’t pretend to be an authority on the subject.
That said, I have my very own Northern Italian connection – an extremely picky Italian friend from Brescia (a city about equidistant between the Venice and Piedmont) – Andrea, the reality check. To my surprise, each of Tozi’s dishes earn Andrea’s seal of approval, and of all the things on the new menu, he’d only tried the third course.
This goes to show, I suppose, that the cuisine of Italy really has so much regional variety to offer us, beyond the more popular dishes. And that Tozi are quite good at what they do. Each dish from the menu is matched with a wine – with some pairings working better than others.
Carpaccio di Fassona, pickled mushrooms and parmesan £9.50
Wine pairing: Gavi di Gavi, Ernesto Picollo £8.50 (125 ml)
Off to an OK start. The carpaccio flavours are subtle and restrained – the Gavi lifts them a little. I don’t see the use of the pickled mushrooms or the parmesan at all, but the beef itself is exactly what you’d want out of carpaccio.
Agnolotti del Plin, black truffle £10.50
Wine pairing: Nebbiolo d’Alba, Elio Sandri – £10.00 (125ml)
This is spectacular – rich and creamy al dente pasta infused with those earthy, savoury truffle flavours. The portion leaves you wanting for more. Agnolotti is typical of Piedmont – ‘Plin’ means ‘pinched’, hence the shape. Apparently there is one region which fills them with donkey meat. I am so busy enjoying this that I don’t even remember if the wine pairs or not. I don’t think this even needs wine.
Brasato al Barolo, mash potato £11
Wine pairing: Barolo Di Serralunga d’Alba, Fontanafredda – £12.00 (125ml)
‘Brasato’ means braised, and that is what they have done here. The soft braised meat and the sauce in which it lives reminds me strongly of my grandmother’s style of cooking. As beef goes, this is not one of my favourite ways to prepare it, but there is something to be said for breaking it into pieces and merging it with the ultra smooth mashed potato. Satisfying yes, but a little flat.
The barolo that is paired with this is just magnificent, the tannins arranged perfectly. Unlike the last course I am more focused on/distracted by wine than the actual course – and I can’t say that it pairs particularly well.
Chocolate & Amaretto bonet £6.50
Wine pairing: Chinato Borgogno – £9.00 (125ml)
Fantastic. This is a bit like a creme caramel made with rum and sprinkled with amaretti biscuits. The white yin to the bonet’s yang is the whipped cream (also sprinkled with biscuits because it is delizioso). Mash both together on your spoon for a taste that is far more than the sum of its parts. Just the right amount of sweet and full of texture.
It is paired with a bittersweet fortified wine that I have never seen before – ‘Chinato Borgogno’, which is infused with a mix of herbs and spices that give it an almost liqueur-like taste (but not the thick texture you may expect). It reminds me a little of sweet vermouth. It might even be a sweet vermouth, since this is something the Italians are known for. And it combines nicely with the caramel flavours in the dessert…
In the immortal words of Darth Vader – “Impressive…most impressive”. I was not hugely familiar with Tozi nor the food of Piedmont but the men in Victoria have certainly created a culinary experience worth repeating. What appears to be an all Italian staff and highly attentive service create an atmosphere that perhaps justifies the price tag, and the food itself is novel, mostly delicious and very well thought out.
My critique would be the same that would give for most any restaurant that does this fine dining-esque ‘portion to price’ ratio; i.e prepare to spend a lot of your hard earned pennies – especially when you factor in the wine. But you don’t really come to Tozi for monster heaps of pasta bolognese. You come for smaller, more artful portions of agnolotti – which they can provide. Edible art, small portions, big costs.
My usual gripes about prices and the odd wine that didn’t really pair aside, I could not have asked for a better introduction to the food of Piedmont. Good stuff.
The menu is available between 3rd-9th April
8 Gillingham Street, SW1V 1HJ