Tuesday, 18 January 2011
Tinello is sophisticated but fun, elegant but unstuffy. It serves quality food and wine at reasonable prices. London is certainly hitting its straps when it comes to Italian restaurants right now.
I like Tinello's ambience immediately - there's exposed brickwork, industrial lighting, wooden floorboards and well spaced tables with crisp, white tablecloths. The clientele are wealthy 30 plusers and, in case it gives you further confidence, there's many Italians among them on the night we visit.
To start, the mixed antipasto (£7.80) includes a selection of cheese, spicy salami and (my favourite) a silky, rich duck liver pate. Deep fried baby cuttlefish (£3.80) are coated in a crispy, light batter giving way to moist and inky pockets within. Wondrous fine shreds of fried courgettes (£2.60) look like fireworks in a bowl and are certainly moreish if slightly greasy. A creamy Pugliese burrata with tomato bread (£3) is served as a splodge on the plate, rather than whole, but loses nothing in taste for that.
A firm spaghettini with Cornish crab meat, chilli and garlic (£11) looks boring - you might go looking for the crab - but rest assured it's in there - and it tastes like sweet, spicy, al dente heaven.
Orecchiette with turnip tops, chilli, garlic and anchovies (£10.50 as a main course as above, £8.50 as entree) is one of our favourite dishes from Puglia. Here, it's not the greatest I've ever tasted, but it's good. It's salty and firm, with the kick of chilli giving it some lift. Taut pockets of pumpkin ravioli are nestled in a smooth smoked ricotta (£11.50 as a main course, £9.50 as entree). They're excellent - perfectly cooked with a terrific, robust smokiness. I'm certain you won't get flabby pasta at Tinello.
The roast veal cutlet is simply fabulous. It's juicy, fatty and tender, with the added bite of a braised fennel and lemon salad (£23.25).
They're out of tiramisu, so we take 2 serves of gelato and sorbet (£3.50 each) and a gorgeous white chocolate and pine kernel semifreddo with cocoa ice cream (£5) which I strongly recommend.
Service is attentive and friendly enough, but not overly fussy (which I count as a good thing).
With wine (a couple of bottles of fruity Valpolicella) and service, our meal tallies in at around £55 per head - excellent value for such great food and ambience. If you haven't been yet, put Tinello on your list.
Tinello, 87 Pimlico Road, Chelsea, London, Tel: 020 7730 3663