Brunching out… 

There are thousands of restaurants in London. New ones are opening – and closing – all the time. It’s almost impossible to keep up. I always wonder how so many seem to be so busy. But competition is fierce and it’s not until you go to a restaurant that’s fairly quiet that you remember that.

And to keep busy, location is key. In Soho, queues of super-keen people – stupidly – wait the one-and-a-half hours to get into a tiny restaurant. The best fine dining restaurants have week-long or even month-long waiting lists for a table. While others that have the room can sit empty, until it’s drinking time. And it’s rather a shame when they’re empty and it’s a good restaurant.

Sitting at the end of High Street Kensington, as Italian restaurant Enoteca Rosso does, is a bit out-of-the-way. In between High Street Kensington station and Olympia Overground, its saving grace is the newly revamped Design Museum only a few doors up. It should benefit from the affluent locals where it’s closer to Holland Park and plenty of luxurious flats and homes behind the main high streets and on into nearby Notting Hill, although neighbourhood restaurants and wine bars are not really Kensington’s forte.

It’s taken over the old Barclays Bank and the interiors of Enoteca Rosso retain their elegant columns and Victorian style mosaic floor, while the wine bar themed large space uses dark and rather sombre colours that are classic of wine bars – essentially black and burgundy – with huge amounts of bottled wine lying horizontally in terracotta wine holders, covering entire walls.

The brunch menu is a new idea – only beginning the first weekend of this month – hence the quietness at 11am in a wine bar on a Saturday morning. And the restaurant is not much newer really, opening at the beginning of the year.

But the brunch menu (served weekends between 11am and 5pm) is perfectly formed with seven dishes. I choose the Rosso English breakfast (£14); one large circular piece of sausage ravioli takes centre stage on the plate that sits on a smooth cannellini bean velouté, that’s lightly creamy. Atop it is a poached egg – bright orange – crispy bacon and a juicy confit tomato and decorated with pink edible flowers. It’s rather beautifully presented and is a fresh take on a breakfast that incorporates bacon and eggs – just a little more elegant.

Hugh chooses the club sandwich (£12) – rather heftier than mine and packed with smoked salmon and avocado, quite literally, so the avocado oozes out of the bread’s holes and ends up a rather messy, but worthwhile way to start the day. It’s dressed with plenty of lemon for extra zing and comes with a side of eggs your way – fried, for super orangey yolk dipping to add to the delicious mess.

Afterwards, we’re presented with the menu again for something sweet. I didn’t think I wanted something, but the pancakes with fruit and mascarpone cream sounds like a great way to end it. And it is – the pancakes are made with the same eggs we’ve preciously eaten and that are used for the fresh pasta, which gives them a different colour and texture; lighter, fresher and smoother rather than the air-filled ones I’m used to.

One thing it’s lacking is the equivalent brunch drinks, which the Italian theme lends it to perfectly. The menu is almost screaming out for a prosecco cocktail, or just a glass of it, an Aperol spritz wouldn’t go amiss either

In the kitchen, it’s chefs from Italy; head chef Flavio Militello previously worked in Milan, while sous chef Giuseppe Itri has been cooking since the age of 12 in Sicily. It is great Italian fusion food, cooked by people that know what they’re doing.

Let’s hope more people know about it soon.

Enoteca Rosso; 276-280 Kensington High St, Kensington, London W8 6ND; 07384 595191; open daily 11am-11pm

 

Brunching in… 

Egg bhurji with berkswell and shallots

This dish was created almost by accident after we started making staff breakfast meals in our Soho restaurant. The first time I ate Indian scrambled eggs (or “egg bhurji” in Mumbai), I remember thinking how superior it was to how we eat them at home – I found the Indian spices far more exciting. I have created my own version for you to try, but have stuck to the traditional way of preparing the eggs, using lots of butter, and cooking over a low heat, to retain that melt-in-the-mouth texture.

With the lardo (cured pig fat), melting over the hot eggs, topped with salty berkswell sheep’s cheese and sweet and sour shallots, this is the perfect balance of flavours. If you can’t get berkswell, you can use parmesan, pecorino, aged cheddar, comté or gruyère. Leave out the lardo if you’re vegetarian – the result is still delicious.

Serves six

12 local, large free-range brown eggs
1 large red onion, finely chopped
3 green chillies, finely chopped
1 bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped
200g unsalted butter
1tbsp cumin seeds
1 handful of fresh curry leaves
1tsp ground turmeric
4 slices of sourdough bread
12 slices of lardo
400g berkswell cheese, finely grated
Sea salt, to taste
Micro coriander, to garnish (optional)

For the pickled shallots

500g banana shallots, thinly sliced into rings
200ml pickling liquor (see below)

To make the pickled shallots, steep the shallots in the pickling liquor for one to two hours at room temperature, then keep in the refrigerator until needed. Whisk the eggs in a bowl with the red onion, green chillies and coriander. Reserve a little of the butter for the toast and melt the remainder gently in a frying pan. Add the cumin seeds, curry leaves and turmeric and cook over a medium heat for 30 seconds or so, stirring, until the spices are fragrant.

Add the egg mixture, reduce the heat and cook gently, stirring continuously with a spatula or a wooden spoon, for about 3-4 minutes until the eggs are just cooked but still soft. Season to taste with salt and remove from the heat.

Toast the sourdough bread and spread with the reserved butter. Spoon the egg mixture on the toast, top with a slice of lardo, a sprinkle of grated cheese, a few slices of the the pickled shallots and garnish with micro coriander leaves (if using).

Note: this recipe makes more pickled shallots than required for four people but it is well-worth making up a batch for you to use as you like. Just store in a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge. It will keep for a few months.

Pickling liquor

I use this to use with all kinds of vegetables but cucumber is a special favourite. It will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks – it keeps forever. If you want to make a smaller amount, the recipe is based on equal quantities of vinegar and sugar.

Makes 1 litre

500ml white wine vinegar
500g caster sugar
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
2 fresh Indian bay leaves

Put all the ingredients in a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat and stir occasionally until all the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool before decanting into a sterilised jar. Store in the fridge until required.

Kricket: An Indian- inspired Cookbook by Will Bowlby (Hardie Grant, £26.00) is out now. Photography by Hugh Johnson