Sunday, 11 January 2015

A meal at Texture with Nespresso, missing something

Texture is a Michelin starred Icelandic restaurant just behind Marble Arch. I had been wanting to visit for a while and the occasion came in the form of an invite to lunch from Nespresso, with the caveat that we would be challenged 'to find out what's missing'
Unfortunately I arrived late (for once I was using public transport and massively overestimated TFL capabilities) and missed something already: the welcome drink!

The menu prepared for us, in the private dining room, was a 3 course menu, with a choice of vegetarian or fish course; beautiful flat breads and crispy fish skins laid out with dips and olive oil while we placed our orders.

The appetiser was a very light pumpkin soup, with saltiness found in seaweed powder and olive oil drizzled on top, while texture was given by small nutty crumbs. My starter of choice was a colourful New Season Colchester Bay Beetroots with goat's milk, pistachio and herbs. I love beetroot and really enjoyed this dish, matching the eating to a chat about how to grow beetroot in my small city garden with my fellow diners. 

Most of us it seems, opted for Icelandic Lightly salted cod, prawns, barley and grapefruit. Another delicate dish, the grapefruit providing a subtle yet strong tartness, perfect to break up the dense yet deliciously creamy barley. 

We were served a refreshing, tiny and delicious predessert of herby granita, but we were still quite clueless as to what was 'missing'. We ploughed on and Skyr arrived. I had skyr in Rekjiavik and loved it, of course this was a more refined yet just as pleasant version, with different textures of the icelandic milky dessert: ice cream, mousse and more textures found in the crumbs and the tuile. Still kind of clueless.

We then were offered a choice of Nespresso by Jonathon (Head of Coffee). I picked the more intense, Italian style espresso cru. Great ending to such a fab meal. Still clueless though!?

At this point Chef Agnar Sverrisson came to see us and introduced himself and the food and finally... gave us some initial clues... from the pumpkin soup to the skyr... no cream nor butter are used in Texture's food (music to my fitness focused ears, by the way). Those were the elements missing from the food, without affecting the taste nor the consistency (the soup was as creamy as it could have been with cream). Indeed, everything I had was extremely good, delicate throughout with deep flavours and textures (of course). 

Jonathon then challenged us - what was missing from the coffee we had drunk? 
And one of us finally got it... caffeine! that is what was missing - we had all been drinking decaffeinated crus, much to our surprise.    

The coffee experts at Nespresso took the three most popular Grands Crus - one each from the Intenso, Espresso and Lungo ranges and created decaffeinated mirror images. The new coffees have been especially created to match the exceptional character and aroma of their original Grand Cru alter egos.

I had in fact tried the Arpeggio Decaffeinato. When offered its original, caffeinated version, I thought the decaffeinato was possibly even better, smoother and more rounded! Its intensity is 9, with strong character, intense body and indulgent cocoa notes. The other crus are Volluto Decaffeinato and Vivalto Lungo Decaffeinato (intensity 4 for both).   

Having recently started limiting (or trying to) my caffeine shots to two per day, decaff is an option I am now asking for in coffee shops and often leave disappointed, having to add sugar and milk to a single espresso. I particularly enjoyed the Arpeggio Decaffeinato, drank it absolutely straight, and I am looking forward to trying the other decaff crus.

The new decaffeinated range will be available in January 2015 and will be priced at £0.31 for the Espresso and £0.32 for the Lungo. The coffee will be available from Nespresso boutiques, via the Nespresso Customer Care Centre and online at

I was a guest of Nespresso UK. Opinions are my own; I was not asked to write about the experience. 

Sustainable? Sadly, I doubt it. I asked if the scallops (starter) were hand dived and the answer was no.  

Friday, 2 January 2015

A meal a Veritas, Napoli (Italy)

When one thinks about Neapolitan food, primarily is the traditional stuff that springs to mind: spaghetti, pizza, sfogliatelle and the likes. Nothing wrong with that, and for those like me who emigrated a couple of decades ago, going back home means also eating our classic dishes. Yet on a recent visit, my family took me to a restaurant called Veritas where chef Gianluca D'Agostino uses traditional ingredients with creativity and modern techniques, and I loved it so much I decided it's worth a blog post.

Located in central Napoli, on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, close to a couple of nice hotels, Veritas is a small, welcoming place with some interesting cityscape inspired ceramic pieces (loved the Vesuvius cones) and a few tables that make the ambiance calm and elegant. 

Amuse bouche
The menu changes often, and ingredients mix local terroir with exotic influences in some of the dishes. The amuse bouche was a marriage of two classics: ricotta and cream of anchovies, with a shaving of seasonal truffle. A great opener.

Courgette leaves consomme
My starter was so delicate, light and bursting with fresh flavours: zuppetta di talli e frutti di mare al lime e peperoncino, pretty much courgette leaves with seafood in lime and chili pepper. TroppoBuono had recommended it and she was absolutely right; she opted instead for Mantecato di baccalĂ  con ristretto di polpo e lenticchie di Ventotene, salt cod in braised octopus on Ventotene lentils, striking and equally good. 

Baccala' and octopus
After the starters, the chef sent us all a taste of one of their pasta dishes, which looked beautifully green: Linguine with clams and roquette

It was my turn to try cod: for main I chose salt cod with chard and pinenuts on chickpeas puree, another very balanced and delicate dish created using local produce from the sea and from the land. 

Cod on chickpeas puree
A lot of the desserts read 'tradition'. For example, us youngsters at the table did not know what 'migliaccio' was: an old fashion cake made with semolina and ricotta. Veritas uses its original recipe with modern tecniques and marries to sour cherries and custard. I chose one of the best desserts I have had in recent years: Pera sciroppata ripiena di ricotta al pepe rosa, briciole di amaretti, ricotta filled poached pears with pink peppercorns. I have read on the web that allegedly Veritas has re-invented the wheel and this dessert is a copy of more famous versions. Frankly, I do not care. I have not tried any other version myself and this was absolutely divine and worth a meal here on its own. The pear holds a soft, creamy ricotta centre, which is not too sweet and which is then incredibly well complemented by the light and aromatic poaching liquid which has pink peppercorns all over, yet is balanced to such level, it's just perfect. 

Pear. Amazing
Veritas wine list is well put together and extensive, with a lot of Campania and southern italian labels, plus there is wide choice of artisan beer. 
Service was great, friendly and professional. I loved our evening at Veritas, and will make sure I return on my next visit to my beautiful home town. 

Sustainable: most produce is locally sourced, yet fish is heavily used. I did not ask how it is caught as in Italy this is still often an obscure subject.