We review Iddu, a new Sicilian 'incontro' (meeting place) in South Kensington. Expect light food with a focus on vegetables - especially aubergine. Don't miss the caponata and a simple but exquisite cheese plate. Plus: meet the chef, Francesca D’amico.
A wall of fresh oranges and lemons heralds the healthy credentials of this new Sicilian ‘incontro’ (meeting place). Linked to the South Kensington private members’ club, it offers a lighter take on Sicilian food in caffe-like surroundings with casual decor and an all-day menu.
Forget meaty pastas and hunks of charred meat – the compact dinner menu is big on veg, particularly Sicilian favourite aubergine. We try it in a light caponata, piquant with capers and olives, which we eat with delicate slices of Pio Tosino prosciutto carved from a leg taking centre stage on the serving counter.
We also try veal cotoletta alla Palermitana, breadcrumbed veal that is baked rather than fried. Tuna crudo (small cubes of raw tuna) is served with quinoa orange salad and looks pretty but is less punchy. Involtini of aubergine parmigiana (aubergine rolled with tomato and parmesan) is a favourite with both IDDU’s health-conscious clientele and fresh-faced chef Francesca D’Amico (Scroll down to meet the chef). The cheese plate is the meal’s highlight – great value at £7 – and includes a young pecorino served with orange mostarda. Cannolini Siciliani (cylindrical cream-filled pastries) and an orange and almond cake are also offered on the small pudding menu.
The all-Italian staff, led by slick Andrea Bassi, take care to explain the origins and authenticity of each dish and are keen to share their knowledge of the Sicilian-heavy wine list. There is also an extensive range of cold and hand pressed juices made in house, from arancia rossa (Sicilian orange) to alkaliser (spinach, kale, clery, lemon, ginger) as a final reminder that at Iddu, health eating is always front of mind.
Misfire: tables are close together which is fine for a quick breakfast but not so good for a relaxed dinner
Bullseye: the selection of aperitivi including a generous Antica Formula (top class sweet vermouth) and prosseco spritz
Meet the chef: Francesca D’amico
The best thing on my menu isour caponata – sensational because it’s made of typical ingredients such as capers from Pantelleria, and the agrodolce flavour is fantastic! Owner Luca Del Bono imports all our products from Sicily. We serve simple, healthy and delicious dishes; Sicilian food revisited in a healthier way.
In my fridge there’s always pechino cherry tomatoes, artichokes, aubergine, parmesan, lentils, basil and mint.
My most-used cook book is Il talismano della felicita, the oldest book of traditional Sicilian cooking.
My favourite 15-minute supper to make at home is broccoli soup because it’s healthy, filling and it helps you sleep as well as being rich in vitamin B. Boil water with a bay leaf and leeks, add green broccoli and coconut milk. After 15 minutes add some nuts, blitz it and enjoy!
I like eating out at Ramusake [a Japanese izakaya-style late night private member’s hangout] in South Kensington because of the quality of the fish there and Assunta Madre in Mayfair, an Italian place where you can find Mediterranean fish.
My guilty pleasure is fried meatballs and fried potatoes.
A fellow chef I admire is Pino Cuttaia at Restaurante La Madia in Licata, Sicily, because he believes in team work and really wants to teach his way of cooking – always with passion.
A place I love that not many people know about isShepherd’s Bush Market where I find the best quality fruit and vegetables, and also the cheapest. The smells and the variety of products that you can find there reminds me of the markets in Morocco or Turkey.
If you gave me a tenner I’d spend it on coffeeand a slice of orange and almond cake at Iddu (total £6.30). Barbera coffee is one of the best I have ever tried and Iddu is the only place in the UK to serve it.