41 Mortimer St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3JH
- Style of food: Italian fusion
- Wine to try: Jermann Red Angel Pinot Nero, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy 2016
- Price: £160 for a meal for two with wine
- Kitchen open: 7.30am-11.30pm Monday to Thursday; 7.30am–12am Friday; 9am-12am Saturday; 9am-6pm Sunday
Fans of Italian food and wine are spoiled for choice in London, which serves up everything from Michelin stars and designer wine bars to family-run neighbourhood favourites. It can be difficult to stand out from the crowd, but Mortimer House Kitchen does just that – despite the fact that it opened with little fanfare back in 2017 and flew far under the radar of the capital’s restaurant critics in its early days.
This was undoubtedly a good thing, allowing the place to find its groove, so that today it feels like one of those restaurants that’s been around forever. There’s a delicious buzz to the room, designed by New York architects AvroKO, who have created an alluring setting with a bright open kitchen at one end, comfortable, well-spaced tables and a soothing amount of indoor greenery.
Mortimer House is one of the capital’s many members’ clubs, but its Kitchen is open to all, with a pleasing democracy that extends to the menu of variously sized sharing plates. They’re the creation of chef Antonio ‘Lello’ Favuzzi, who spent a decade working with Francesco Mazzei at the celebrated L’Anima, before striking out in style on his own.
There’s a distinct Southern Italian influence to his cooking: Favuzzi was born in Sardinia, the son of a Sicilian mother and Puglian father. But his dishes also combine ingredients from his travels to Tel Aviv, particularly sesame-laced tahini and halva.
This Italian-Middle Eastern fusion works well, in dishes such as burnt carrots – subtly spiced, deliciously caramelised and served with a generous dollop of Greek yoghurt and tahini with fennel pollen. Another small plate of lamb meatballs sees the nutty tahini and tangy pickled mushrooms used to cut through the sweet fattiness of the lamb – an example of the balanced textures and flavours that are a hallmark of Favuzzi’s accomplished cooking style.
Similarly, from the large plates, a perfectly grilled and tender veal cutlet is served with rich, savoury, rustic Sicilian caponata – not a traditional combination but one that works well nonetheless. But the star of the show were Favuzzi’s signature herb tortelli: al dente pasta parcels packed with creamy smoked burrata and glistening with buerre noisette. This is the kind of food that will haunt your dreams and lure you back for more.
Unsurprisingly it’s the Italian bottles that will catch the eye of wine lovers on the drinks list, though classic regions and styles from France and Spain also feature, including Provence rosé, Chablis and Albariño; Côte-Rôtie, Gevrey-Chambertin, Paulliac and Rioja.
There are even a couple of cuvées from Judean Hills producer Clos de Gat as a nice nod to the Middle Eastern influences on the food menu.
Wines are listed traditionally by price, and without notes, though clued-up and thoroughly hospitable staff will guide you through unfamiliar selections. On the downside, choice by the glass is disappointing, but the range of bottles roams pleasingly across Italy, featuring quality names such as Antinori, Gaja, Planeta and Jermann – and offering plenty of food-pairing potential.
Those addictive tortelli were a magical match with La Raia’s Gavi 2018 from Piedmont (£50), its crisp bite cutting through the rich pasta; while Il Poggione, Brunello di Montalcino 2014 (£78) offered a textured pairing with the veal, its fruit also emphasising the sweetness of the meat.
Older vintages such as Antinori’s 96-point Tignanello 2010 (£210) will appeal to those seeking complexity.
With such stellar bottles and its authentic Italian flavours, Mortimer House Kitchen delivers a heartwarming slice of la dolce vita.