By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
Opened right at the end of 2014, Enoteca Rabezzana is perched upon the southeast corner of Smithfield’s famous meat market. Essentially, a wine bar with its impressive list of almost 150 Italian wines, the venue does also include a strong focus on Italian food. Inside, the humble residence is cosy and inviting: there’s an open kitchen, a sleek tiled bar with a design that amalgamates into the flooring, and plenty of wine used almost decoratively. The location is perfect given its proximity to the city as well as the Barbican, while the ambiance is generally quite romantic, juxtaposed to the more business driven atmosphere of this type of venue a little closer to the square mile’s centre.
Taking our seats within the window as trucks of cargo begin their deliveries across the country for the next morning (thankfully these aren’t the open backed trucks that display the carcasses like a Damien Hirst exhibition), we’re joined by an a la carte menu of sharing plates and quintessentially Mediterranean fare. Before the food arrives the manager appears, insisting that we compromise on a bottle of sparkling wine, being that our choice of white (albeit chosen before we’d ordered any food) would not be as suitable to accompany.
Quickly following the wine, we’re presented with an amuse bouche – two deep fried veal meatballs. The outer casing isn’t dissimilar to Arancini but the inside meat is to die for as it melts instantly, leaving a moreish aftertaste. A delicious starter of smoked Angus beef carpaccio is outstanding, with paper-thin slivers of smoked beef taste and look similar to cured Iberico ham, topped with earthy black truffle shavings and a drizzle of olive oil – bravissimo! My friend’s starter of deep-fried cheese balls, on the other hand, is interesting to say the least – small marbles of airy Pecorino are reminiscent of cheesy crisps, however the thin accompanying tomato sauce is a little underwhelming. His main, however, is very good – slow braised beef cheek that melts in one’s mouth like a luxuriously rich pulled pork, set atop a bed of smooth mashed potatoes and accompanied by shaved al dente carrots, which add a whole new depth of texture.
The N’duja pasta dish is a little less satiating. The homemade pasta is very good indeed, cooked perfectly and the texture of the creamy sauce is frightfully comforting. The spicy sausage, however, would have given a good balance of spice on its own, but a heavy smattering of fresh chilli delivers an aggressive heat, which completely drowns the other delicate flavours that should be present. Evacuating ones airwaves with more power than any over-the-counter decongestants. Had I noticed the specials board emblazoned with a black truffle tagliolini (one of my all-time favourites), before ordering, I’d certainly have reconsidered. Half way through the mains, a board of bread also arrives, the focaccia is cakey and delicious, but the timing is very odd, especially once we’re already pretty full.
To finish, Cannoli is always a promising order, very rarely executed badly within Italian restaurants, while curiosity leads me to order the traditional Sardinian fritter – Seadas – thin, deep-fried pastry sheets stuffed with Pecorino cheese before being topped with honey. A strange combination, the dish certainly tastes better than it smells. As expected, the Pecorino is overpowering, yet a heavy-handed pinch of lemon zest brings the flavours together, while a little more honey would’ve made the overall plate far more enjoyable.
For the most part, the food at Enoteca Rabezzana is very good, especially when teamed with a strong wine selection and a great location.
Enoteca Rabezzana can be found at 62-63 Long Lane, London, EC1A 9EJ.