Dining at the little sister restaurant of a big name restaurant sounds like such a good idea in theory. You get the great suppliers and produce of the big name and the skill in the kitchen minus high prices and stuffy atmosphere. Unfortunately, this was not the case with Tinello, the newly opened restaurant which is the more casual (and cheaper) sibling of London’s establishment Italian restaurant, Locanda Locatelli. Tinello’s chef, Fedrico Sali, was previously the head chef at Locanda Locatelli, and he has also brought with him his brother Max who was the sommelier at the restaurant.
Calamari and chickpea stew
I visited Tinello for dinner with American in London and her husband, mainly because we wanted him to meet MTV boyfriend so they could swap notes about what it felt like to never be able to eat a plate of food in a restaurant without having it photographed first and the other trials and tribulations of life as the “other half”. The atmosphere was certainly buzzy and convivial with bare brick walls, dark mirrors and dangling light fittings in the style of a New York loft. The prices were also cheap, not super cheap but reasonable enough when compared with Locanda Locatelli.
Max Sali has done a great job on the wine list which had lots of Italian bottles to order at a range of prices from the very reasonable to the very expensive. We were guided towards an bottle of Carmiginano wine (£44.50) a blend of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon which was a zesty red, produced near the Chianti region in Italy.
Sadly, where Tinello fell down was on the food side of things. To start with, the bread, always the precursor to a great meal, was not good at all. It was hard and crusty and tasted almost stale. It was only somewhat redeemed by the accompanying pickled vegetables. We moved on to share a selection of the small plates. Very London circa 2010. These were the best part of the meal, with a cracking calamari and chickpea stew (£7) served with triangles of fried bread. The crostini (£1.90) of toasted bread slathered in chunky chicken liver paté was rustic, hearty and a bargain to boot. What’s not to love about zucchini fritte (£3.50), long ribbons of deep fried courgette which tasted like a more stylish version of fast food french fries. Ordering the carciofi (£2.50) as well, which are deep fried artichokes, was perhaps over indulgence on the deep fried side of things by us. I can’t say we regretted it though.
It was when we ordered pasta, which should really be the staple of an Italian restaurant, that Tinello disappointed. MTV boyfriend and Jon both ordered the paccheri (£11), a large tubular pasta in a tomato sauce with Nduja, a spicy Italian pork sausage, melted through and topped with a large spoon of creamy burrata cheese. However the pasta itself was not cooked and was hard to bite into. When we pointed this out to our waiter he almost refused to believe us and said it was supposed to be that way, and was cooked al dente. Al dente means to the tooth, and this pasta was cooked in a way that was more likely to break a tooth than to just have a bit of bite to it. Eventually the pasta was returned and new plates were brought of pasta that was more edible but we didn’t get any compensation or apology and were made to feel that we were the people in the restaurant asking for their steak well cooked. Having said that, there were no problems with the execution of the gnudi (£11) which comprised three large quenelles of creamy ricotta and spinach perched on top of a layer of thin, sweet tomato sauce. It could have been more carefully presented, but from a taste point of view it was spot on.
To finish, the cheese plate was a single serving of pecornio (£5.50) with chutney which was very Italian in it’s simplicity. There was also an apple strudel that was served as three rolls of crispy pastry filled with stewed apple and topped with a scoop of ice-cream (£4.50). It was certainly moreish but not transcendental.
Tinello had a nice feel to it, and I enjoyed the honest approach to cooking and the fact that the range of ingredients used goes a step beyond the standard fare served at most Italian restaurants in London. However, the cooking was very uneven and for me, this factor teamed with fairly poor service when confronted with a dish that was below par, meant I left feeling a little disappointed as to what could have been.
Details: Tinello, 87 Plimlico road, Plimlico SW1W 8PH (Ph 020 7730 3663) Tube: Sloane Square
Damage: Reasonable. £110 for four with one bottle of wine and only two desserts.
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my review of the best Italian food I have had in London, at the River Cafe, or in my review of an amazing meal in Italy on an island in the middle of Lake Como.