As far as great culinary destinations go, Sicily provided one of my best ever experiences. Forget pretty plates and fancy presentation – it’s just about hearty, rustic dishes in a homely environment. The people were also amongst the most hospitable I’ve come across, making the already delicious food taste just that little bit better. However, Sicilian cuisine has been somewhat absent from London’s dining scene, so I was understandably excited when I heard about the opening of Mennula.
Located on the former site of Charlotte Street old-timer Passione, chef Santino Busciglio has delved deep into his Sicilian routes for the opening of his first restaurant. The intimate 44-seat venue keeps things simple with aubergine leather banquette seating, walnut flooring and white Italian stucco walls.
The menu is essentially classic Sicilian with a few modern Italian twists. Freebie appetizers included some delicious Arancini (bread crumbed and deep fried risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella), as well as some tasty olives. Antipasti of masterfully cooked Squid, peppers, olive pâté & capers featured a somewhat redundant potato sauce, but was good all the same. Carbo-licious pasta dishes included Strozzapreti pasta, rabbit, olives & Pachino tomatoes and Linguine with generous pieces of lobster, basil & tomato; light of sauce, but full of flavour, both dishes demonstrated a deftness of touch of someone who really understands their ingredients.
Main course for me was a wonderfully rustic dish of Calf’s liver, spinach, mash, onion marmalade & speck, whilst Miss Pancake also kept things rural with her delicious Pan-fried loin of venison, broccoli & balsamic onions. Portion sizes were also of the kind that would keep a Fat Tony style Sicilian mobster happy. To finish off, the traditional Sicilian Cannoli featured a crisp pastry with a light ricotta filling, whilst the Tiramisu was suitably creamy, although lacking a little booze and coffee punch. Accompanied by few glasses of well priced wine from the extensive Italian list – including an excellent Cortese Divino, Piemonte 2008 for £18.40 – the meal definitely had the spirit of our Sicilian adventure.
So to rate this restaurant, one really needs to throw out the preconceptions of the intricate dishes that most of London’s Italian restaurants have come to serve. This is proper rustic cooking with great quality ingredients at its best. It was probably no coincidence that charming and helpful staff also hailed from Sicily and thus showed serious pride in the restaurant.
Cuisine type: Italian (Sicilian)
Dinner for two (excluding drinks): £70
10 Charlotte Street
Tel: 020 7363 2833