It's not fancy, it's not big and it's not clever, but the scrag end is delicious. For simple, honest opinions on restaurants, recipes, supper clubs and what not, you've come to the right place.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Cantinetta, 162-164 Lower Richmond Road, Putney

Pity the poor folk who live in Putney. With all the worst trappings of complacent suburbia and none of the benefits, it’s a miserable and clumsy nowhere - Kingston without the shopping.* 

On the other hand, it now boasts a very fine restaurant. Cantinetta is the latest in a seemingly endless list of middle-to-high end Italian eateries that have opened in London in the past year or two. After years of fruitless effort, during which Cafe Uno and Bella Pasta passed for Italian restaurants, the English finally seem to be working out how to do it. Even in Putney.

Not that there’s anything particularly English about Cantinetta, beyond its unfortunate location on the Lower Richmond Road (note: this is an extremely long road, and if you look for number 162-164 on Google Maps, it directs you to a main artery about two miles from the restaurant). It’s another Locatelli influenced offering, following hot on the heels of the very-slightly-underwhelming Tinello. Chef Federico Turri is a Locatelli alumnus.

We went for Sunday lunch during the soft opening, meaning the food was half price. I know it’s not particularly good practice to review restaurants during soft openings (they’re designed to let the place iron out any problems before charging full price), but until I can afford not to worry about the prices, I’m going to continue taking advantage of the offers. In any event, the two restaurants I’ve reviewed in this way (Hawksmoor is the other) were both so good as to render the softness of their openings irrelevant.

We shared a light, perky potted rabbit for starter. Served with thick, crunchy bruschette, it struck a beautiful balance between fatty, melting meat and a citrusy salsa verde. 

After that, we went for borlotti bean and mussels soup (me) and squash ravioli with pork ragu (Cute Letts). The soup was rich and warming, with excellent borlotti hovering somewhere between firm and melting. The squash ravioli dazzled, the sweet smoothness of their filling offset by the earthy pork ragu and textural delights of precise pasta: near perfection, and the dish of a very good day. 

Tagliata di manzo (in this case, a huge hunk of ribeye) came with deep fried polenta that looked and felt like Michelin-starred hash browns, and a thick nebbiolo sauce that ended up being slightly too rich for me. A beautiful dish, nonetheless. We added courgette fries (for a change), which were among the best I’ve ever eaten. Again though, Cute Letts picked the pick. Monkfish with globe artichoke and sprightly salsa verde was magnificent, with just enough tang from the salsa to complement the luxurious swimmer. 

However, as Meat Loaf didn’t say, one out of three ain’t bad – I nailed the dessert selection, choosing sebadas filled with pecorino and drenched in honey. Sebadas are a kind of deep fried ravioli, and this dish was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted: warm, sweet and sticky, but with an undertone of frisky cheese to boost the ensemble.

Cute Letts did pretty well too. Her panna cotta was drenched in very nice grappa - a coup for this chubby, creamy dish. 

A nice bottle of Sicilian Borgo Selene worked well for £14.50.

Non-soft opening prices would have seen this lot come in at about £40 per person. For this quality, that’s a serious bargain. The restaurant is airy, with a bar serving booze and tiraditi (little snacks, unavailable when we attended) that is sure to make it a local favourite. If it wasn’t in Putney, I’d be there all the time.

Phil Letts’ take: 8/10

*I don’t know Putney all that well, so if this assessment is entirely inaccurate, I’m sorry. It just always seems like a place that thinks it’s very posh, sophisticated and smart, contrary to all available evidence. 

Cantinetta on Urbanspoon


  1. Not sure if you're a coffee fan but Putney now also has a great cafe (like most of SW London it was a good coffee wasteland before):

  2. You know nothing of putneypies and seemingly little of restaurants this place is now closing