La Tagliata, Liverpool Street

The best Italian restaurants are often the simplest – little, unpretentious eateries that only offer a few specialities and service with a smile. This is exactly what you will find at La Tagliata, a new Italian establishment near Liverpool Street.

The restaurant is named after the main dish served here… La Tagliata is a traditional Italian steak dish – sliced meat with potatoes, rocket and tomatoes, rustic but delicious when done well. The team here is passionate about offering high quality Italian food without the endless menu options and complications. Manager Carlo Palumbo brings his much-loved family recipes to the table, while executive chef Antonio Tonelli brings the experience and techniques he has learned from working in southern Italian kitchens since the age of 13.

Choose between just a main course for £19, a starter and main for £24 or three courses for £29. For first course there is a choice of four seasonal sauces with daily homemade tagliatelle. The sauce options when we visited were: pomodoro, limone, ragu and pesto and the special for the week, white truffle. Unable to decide on just two the lovely Carlo let us taste three, omitting the basic tomato pomodoro and ragu. Pesto is classic and flavoursome, truffle felt indulgent and special, but the limone was our favourite, a light and creamy sauce, originally from Capri, made with egg yolk, lemon and parmesan.

For vegetarians there is a Scamorza cheese and porcini mushroom option to replace the Tagliata. Though I would urge everyone to try the delicious steak: thinly sliced meat with a wonderfully seasoned chargrilled edge, topped with fresh peppery rocket, the sweetest cherry tomatoes, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and thick shavings of parmesan. We tasted both the herby roasted potatoes and the lesser known shepherd’s potato (crushed and seasoned). If I had to recommend one I’d say go for the roasted as the taste and texture is so appealing.

For dessert there are a few classic Italian dishes: cheese, pannacotta or tiramisu. If you are a fan of coffee and cream I urge you to order tiramisu, a glass of pillowy sweet cream and sponge.

La Tagliata represents the best things about Italian culture; passion, pasta and parmesan. There’s not much that can go wrong with these ingredients, and this little start-up manages to exceed expectations bringing some humble authenticity to an overcrowded chain restaurant ridden area of London.

More information here: www.la-tagliata.com

Silk & Grain, Bank

Silk & Grain is the City’s latest restaurant and bar specialising in barrel aged cocktails. Just minutes from Bank station, it is stylish and welcoming with a long cocktail bar and ample comfortable seating for diners to relax and indulge.

When I approached I was surprised to hear loud laughter out on the street. This restaurant is a hotspot for city bankers needing to let off steam at the end of a long day and when I visited on a Thursday evening the venue was heaving with suits and was consequently very raucous. We sat upstairs which helped with the sound levels, though the room was stiflingly hot. Needless to say, I was delighted when an exotic cocktail was placed in front of me, and I began to relax.

Cocktails are the main reason to visit Silk & Grain. They use intricate cocktail ageing processes to add new quality and taste to classic cocktails. The concoctions are left in oak barrels, metal, leather and glass containers to develop and accentuate the flavours. There are also original cocktails on offer, innovative creations with which they hope to woo customers. We tried a variety of these drinks:

The light, spritz-like City Orchard is flavoured with fruity ingredients (pear liqueur, lime and apple) and mixed with rum. It is the ideal refreshing summer drink. Panky Club is the ultimate sweet girly drink, similar to a Clover Club with gin, raspberry, lemon and egg white.

Later on in the evening we tried a Carney’s Brew, a great drink for beer and cocktail lovers as it is mixed with Bourbon, house-made ginger syrup, lemon, Innis & Gunn oak aged beer. An aromatic alternative is the Leather & Spice which was my favourite drink, a balanced short cocktail made with Scotch, leather infusion, mango, passion fruit syrup and cardamom bitters, it felt like I was on holiday.

To eat, we opted for a special sharing steak with numerous side dishes. The steaks are cooked on the Josper grill for maximum flavour though we found ours to be slightly overdone which was a shame as the meat was top quality. Skinny fries with truffled Parmesan were delicious, the fat chips had a lovely garlic hint but were heavy and dry inside. The steak sauces were nondescript, I couldn’t tell blue cheese from Bearnaise.

Desserts are indulgent, based on classic British recipes (there are pudding cocktails too but we decided to resist). Frozen white chocolate parfait with strawberry coulis and pecan parfait was the unaminous winner, a sweet creamy ice-cream cake with a satisfyingly crunchy nutty crumble.

Silk and Grain has a strong concept, and I think after resolving a few teething problems, it will become a great destination for cocktails and supper in the city.

More information and book here: silkandgrain.co.uk

Blackfoot, Exmouth Market

Blackfoot is a place for people who love pig. Or to be more precise, pork. As a child I loved sausages, my university days were spent guzzling bacon butties, and now, in my civilised twenties I can’t go a week without my chorizo fix. All the varieties in between are often found in my fridge too. There is something luxurious yet homely about pork and creating a neighbourhood restaurant dedicated to it seems to me like a brilliant idea.

The eatery opened in 2013, previously it was a much-loved traditional eels and mash place called Clarks. Many of the building’s original features have remained intact and give the main room a lovely retro feel. I visited with a group of friends on a Thursday evening. We had called a few days earlier to book a table, and been made to feel rather fortunate for managing to secure one. We squashed into a very tight booth, and sipped the lukewarm house white whilst catching up.

Between us we tried an assortment of meaty dishes, luckily my friends are not vegetarians but there is one dish (Mega-nut burger) for those avoiding meat. Whipped Lardo on sourdough toast was a devilishly tasty start, especially paired with the finest fennel salami. Main courses were mighty and magnificent. I loved the Spare-Rib Steak, an extremely tender piece of pork marinaded in fennel seeds, garlic and cayenne, well paired with the Blackfoot pepper sauce. Another popular choice on our table was the richly flavoured Long Smoke, the whole belly smoked in applewood chip with a Sichuan pepper, black treacle and star anise crust, cooked low and slow for six hours, carved and served with pecan coleslaw and pickles. Taking it to the next level is the Love me Tender, a rack of ribs ‘just the way Elvis would have wanted’, they were slathered in a wincingly sweet Southern BBQ sauce but were wonderfully easy to pull off the bone. There is always something very satisfying about picking apart ribs and finding the fleshy goodness.

Desserts don’t let up on the calories – if you are going to try one to share, go for Peanut butter and bacon semi-freddo which is a tasty mix of sweet, salty and nutty. I also liked the homemade chocolate eclair, which arrived dripping in melted dark chocolate and stuffed full of freshly whipped vanilla cream. Lemon sorbet with pink fizz is a good option if you feel like something light and palate cleansing.

Blackfoot is reasonably priced and ideal for a fun night out with friends, particularly good for greedy little piggies like me.

More information here: blackfootrestaurant.co.uk