The Handbook
The Handbook

Following my namesake and having spent the summer inter-railing around Italy exploring Florence, Venice and Rome, the opening of Frescobaldi, the first standalone restaurant in the UK from the Frescobaldi family was one that I was not going to miss. And despite spending three weeks, exploring every nook and cranny of Florence, the closest I got to Tuscany where the food is inspired from, was the wine I had been sampling, so I was looking forward to a taste of it.

Whilst most reviewers have described the food at Frescobaldi’s as authentic Italian (which it is), there is much more to the restaurant than this. Despite being the UK baby of the famous wine dynasty Frescobaldi’s, the food that is on the menu at Frescobaldi- showcases the very best of Italian cooking- not simply the moreish spaghetti dishes that are at the heart of all Italian homes but well executed, innovative, fine quality cooking. No, at Frescobaldi not only are you treated to a slice of Italy, but the best slice- think fresh tomatoes, sumptuous wine and homemade olive oil and you will get a feel of the place. And speaking of olive oil- make sure to sample it, it is award winning!

Drawing on the family’s connection to wine, I was delighted when the sommelier recommended a wine flight to sample, or to be more precise the Bianchi Friulani, featuring three different expressions, grape varieties and emotions from Friuli. Sampling the three wines side by side, meant that for the first time, I did not envisage myself acting out Michael McIntyre’s sketch of wine tasting. In fact, had a wine flight been an option elsewhere, we all probably would be a little more clued up on the old vino. The sommelier, who is a native to Italy, explained the wine came from the Attems winery in the Collio area, which for all your geography buffs, is one of the best wine districts in Italy based on the border of Italy and Slovenia. Make sure to add that to your Christmas quiz list! My favourite of the three wines sampled was the Sauvignon Blanc and this certainly complemented the rest of our meal.

Choosing what to eat was a little trickier. The menu is complex and everything sounds absolutely delicious. After a lot of deliberation I eventually settled on the Burrata Pugliese di Andria con pesto di Rucula e Pomodoro- and before you ask, despite my Italian inspired name, I didn’t make the waiter endure my excruciatingly bad pronunciation. After one mouthful, it was obvious that Burrata is the queen of all mozzarella. I am still thinking about it today:  perfect, creamy Burrata on a bed of baby tomatoes…absolute bliss. In comparison my Sainsbury’s sandwich is really quite dull. Luckily I was also able to sample my guest’s choice of Manzo di Pozza con lenticchie e zucchini or in English: Marinated black Angus beef with lentils and courgettes. Despite being a rather large starter, we both did a pretty good job of wolfing it down and besides in Italy food equates to love so it would have been rude not too.

However, it was my main course that bought the experience to another level. I decided to go for the chef’s recommendation: Beef Fillet on a bed of spinach with grated white truffle. I asked for the beef on the rare side- which was met with a little bit of surprise by the waitress who informed me it is recommended to be medium. We compromised, deciding to go for medium rare. When it arrived, I was wondering where the truffle was. Had I ordered the wrong thing? But thirty seconds later, it arrived in style- being grated straight onto my plate over my shoulder. I thought that this was a really lovely touch adding to the homemade feel of the meal. The beef was cooked exactly to my liking and combined with the spinach and truffle made a delicious mix. If only every day could be truffle season. My friend, went for the artichoke and langoustine risotto. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to sneak in a try of this myself but I heard no complaints.

After showcasing our limited Italian to the sommelier, he informed us the two words in our vocabulary: ‘gracias’ and ‘gelato’ were all we needed to get by in Italy, prompting dessert to be drawn in. Using my new found insight, I decided to go for the sorbet despite the temperatures outside probably urging me not to- when in Rome. The sorbet really did bring back visions of walking around Florence, heading over the Ponte Vecchio. I have to say this was a really great end to the meal and I definitely felt as though I had eaten up to my namesake.

My only quibble which was probably bought on by my own greediness was the lack of macaroon. We had spied some other guests being treated to this after our meal but I can’t really complain. The staff were really great, always caring to our needs and offering just the right level of conversation and advice without being overbearing.

Perhaps next time I won’t spend so much money running round Italy and just head to Frescobaldi instead- where there is fun to be had by all.