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.
Zucchini fritte
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.
Apple strudel
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.

Tinello on Urbanspoon


  1. Very surprised to hear about the bread being a let-down, as it is very good at Locanda Locatelli; being the sister restaurant you’d think that it’d be of a similar standard at Tinello. And the whole pasta incident was a bit poor.

  2. Loved this: “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 trial.” Jon is now constantly making comments about how This or That is going on the “Anti Blog Blog.”

    Totally agree with your post and am thinking I have nothing to add now. 😉 Re: the paccheri incident – I think what was esp awkward was that at first, the service didn’t want to believe us (that the paccheri was still crunchy in parts). Remember how, after the al dente speech, they insisted the only option they could give us was to serve another dish? But then they seemed to change their mind. It was like they couldn’t decide which way to go, and in the end, even though they cooked the paccheri again, the damage was done.

  3. That’s disappointing – I had a great meal there and the service was excellent – although I didn’t have to challenge them on anything.
    Agree the small eats are superb – reasonably priced and actually big enough to be starters, but the name and price allow for some guilt-free pigging!!

  4. A waiter who explains what al dente is because that’s obviously you’re problem, not the pasta being badly undercooked? I’m outraged on your behalf. And the gnudi looks likes it’s fresh form a horror movie set. Boo to Tinello.

  5. Interesting – I’m seeing very varying reports about Tinello. They need to get things sorted out – the mark of a good restaurant is one that is consistent. It doesn’t seem as though Tinello is there yet.

  6. Just to point out – it is not the sister restaurant to Locatelli. Giorgio has helped the brothers with the restaurant, financially.

  7. How funny. We were there on the same night, ordered much the same things (though I snuck in a extra course, by the sound of things) and had entirely different experiences. I thought the small plates were much the weakest point of the meal, and the paccheri was perfectly cooked. Agree with above commentator about consistency being an issue.

  8. 6/10 – interesting given they could even cook the food properly. The Anti Blog Blog would have been harsher.

  9. Top Food and great service. I have been there three times already and will return many more. Last time I tried the special, the white truflle pasta was superb.
    The problem is finding a table.

  10. Mr Noodles – Yes bread is always a good indication of what a restaurant will be like I think

    An American in London – Interested to read what you (or Jon) writes if you decide to review our meal as well. Anyway the company was the best thing about it!

    WalshyMK – It is interesting as peoples experiences seem to be really mixed they either love it or don’t. Glad to hear you had a good meal there.

    Gin and Crumpets – In Tinello’s defence the horror movie gnudi was partly a result of their low lighting and my poor photography! Still it was a bit of a mess.

    A Forkful of Spaghetti – Great comment and I totally agree with you. Consistency is key.

    Anon – Thanks for the clarification.

    Phil Letts- I have just read your review and looks like we missed out by not ordering the veal. Interesting to have such different experiences on the same night.

    MTV – We await the emergence of the anti blog blog with bated breath!

    Anon – Good to hear you have had great meals there. It does seem to be an issue that they are not always consistent. Will have to keep the white truffle pasta in mind – although I suppose it will only be on the menu for a limited time.

  11. What a shame. And disappointing with their attitude towards the undercooked pasta. Gnudi looks interesting – if a little bit as if it has been designed for pensioners.

    Weirdly, despite your misgivings about the place, I’m still keen to go. Sounds as though it has potential if it sorts a few things out.

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