8 Gillingham Street
Tel: 020 7769 9771
There are quite a few Italian restaurants in London that offer cicchetti or small plates designed for sharing. Tozi is the best I have been to yet. It doesn’t want to be a trendy dark space with moody lighting and loud music or uncomfortable seats. It is a fully formed mature restaurant that allows the diner room to eat in comfort. I like the space a lot. The bright and open bar area is where you can just chill and take a cocktail or two, stylishly furnished in lush red leather it oozes class. The walls have great old black and white photographs showing everyday life of times gone by in Italy.
Simone, the only person there who is not Italian (she’s from Lithuania) floats around looking after front of house and tending to each and every diner. She is an asset to Tozi, her calm demeanor hides an experienced mind, she seems to know what you want before you do.
Maurilio Molteni and Daniele Pampagnin are the creative brains behind Tozi. They work the kitchen as a double act, almost finishing each other’s sentences. It is a joy to watch them collaborate.
The kitchen has a large window at the pass so you can see what’s going on from your table. It’s all very calm and this shows in the food. Consistency is the key here, each dish prepared freshly and the same as the last. I went for a couple of slices of crunchy bruschetta with tomato, garlic and basil. It was bursting with flavour and looked so red. Fresh and very tasty, it didn’t last a minute. I saw buffalo ricotta ravioli with black summer gently truffle shaved by Maurilio go past me several times and could not resist ordering it. Truffle is one of my favourite tastes ever. Mine looked just like the others that had passed me, but as I was on my own I didn’t have to share with anybody! It was fantastic, the buffalo milk used to make the ricotta makes it a creamier, richer cheese. Tossed in a little oil the ravioli was superb and at £7.50 great value. I could have eaten it ten times over.
There is a sleek buzz about Tozi, it reminded me how good a restaurant can be. There is space for everything. At one end of the restaurant there is another section looking after the wood fired oven and a serving counter where the salads, cured meats and breads are prepared. This is a little microcosm of activity. You can wander up and see what they have and order it. How often does that happen in a good quality restaurant? Lunchtime is when to visit with kids, the evenings are busy, but if you go in the day they make a great fuss of little ones.
A dish of ox cheeks with tiny wild mushrooms all sitting of a pillow of creamy mash potato landed at the table. This was gorgeous, a real comfort food that Italian mothers might spoil their children with. It had a good depth of flavour, the jus pulling it altogether. Spinach with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan was my way of making lunch balanced. These dishes are really good and for the prices, exceptional. The ox cheeks were £6.25 and the spinach only £3.75.
I had room (only just) for a little dessert. Chocolate delice with hazelnut and a coconut sorbet. I was little bit concerned about the sorbet as the flavour of pure coconut is not something I always like, but here it was in the right place and in good company. It cut through the thick gooey chocolate and the hazelnuts provided the contrasting texture, a simple end to a very pleasant lunch. As I gathered myself and wandered off I thought how nice it must be to have an Italian mother, providing comfort food like this, no wonder Maurilio and Daniele take such pride in creating it.