Ambasciatori del Gusto: A celebratory lunch @ Fratelli La Bufala
June 12, 2014
I was delighted to be invited to a lunch hosted by Ambasciatori del Gusto, to celebrate the birthday of Mr Leonardo Simonelli Santi, President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce UK. What made this lunch so special was that it was made and served (at Fratelli La Bufala in Shaftesbury Avenue) by students from Gasparrini High School, Melfi.
Where is Melfi, you might ask? Located in the southernmost part of Italy, the high instep to be precise, is the remote and little known region of Basilicata.
It’s a region famed for its meat products,especially cured meats, well represented on the menu and well liked by those who sampled them.
As a non meat-eater, my favourite aperitivo was the Pecorino di Filiano when partnered with the most beautiful honeys, lemon, mandarin, fruits of the forest, intensely fruity flavours providing the perfect foil for the mature, crumbly cheese. There was cheese in the truffle cream too, but I thought it overpowered the truffle, which was a shame.
On to the starters. What a plate. It looked innocent enough, but there was a controlled explosion of punchy tastes and contrasting textures. I loved the shy, tiny wild asparagus tips that curled round themselves,then there was the rich,chunky sundried tomato stuffed with salty anchovy, the spicy pepper with tuna, the small shiny unpitted black olives, some more truffle paste on bread. There was only one problem. This was filling, after the aperitivo and there was lots more food on the way!
Next up, First course. There was “Zuppa del brigante con pezzente” with spelt and beans and chicken, which looked rustic and hearty.
My dish of field mushrooms with crunchy chickpeas was delicious.
The meat pasta course had three types of pasta ..interesting ..with ragu made with pork and beef.
I got chickpeas with pasta, a dish I make at home often; to be honest, the chick peas were a bit too soft and overcooked for my liking, as was the pasta, but I liked the fact that they were the larger chickpeas.
For main, there was beef. I saw cleared plates all around me, which speaks for the quality of the produce and the cooking. I was presented with a beautiful platter of pecorino cheese and chutney, but I could not do it justice, having already had quite a sampling earlier. I did enjoy the rosemary potatoes that accompanied the beef, though.
Dessert. A highlight. Something absolutely new to me and therefore a taste sensation. Described on the menu as “Apostles’ fingers stuffed with sweet beans and fruits of the forest honey”, it was light, not too sweet, almondy food good enough for angels. I don’t want to know everything about this dish, I want it to keep some of its secrets. Beans in a dessert! Say no more.
In his speech of welcome, the President mentioned the courage of the young people who looked after us so beautifully over lunch. This was their first visit to London and they proved to be charming and hospitable young ambassadors for their region, especially for the food that region has to offer. The teachers that accompanied them have every reason to feel proud.
Italian hospitality at its best and it was a real pleasure to enjoy good food, good wine – I sampled the Il Preliminare, an impressive dry white from Cantine Del Notaio – in good company.
Ursula O’Reilly Traynor
London Food and Drink