Established by a former restaurant manager, Giuseppe Turi in 1990, this little known family run Italian restaurant is just beyond the bridge in Putney and finds itself nestled on a handsome corner off the high street.
I am completely a fan of uncovering hidden gems in the city, which are hidden away from the glitzy glamour of central London. Italian in Putney seemed a good place to recharge my batteries from a weekend of excess in Paris. An Enoteca is a wine cellar, or a place to drink, so I can only assume that the name of the restaurant translates to ‘Turi’s Wine cellar’. I probably should also mention that Paula recommended this place to me (she really knows her wine by the by).
Somehow, I was expecting huge vintage photographs and dusty wooden beams, but instead I was greeted with a comfortingly unassuming interior. It was neutrally decorated with pale unpolished wooden floors, white table linen, cream coloured walls and abstract art that exuded a sense of calm. Perhaps a little too sobering and unexciting, I found myself wanting to whisper rather than holler. Very PG-13 and family friendly.
We went for a Saturday lunch, and tried both the a la carte as well as the ‘Exploring Cucina Povera’ menu very generously priced at £15.50. The menu is a breezy read, with largely inoffensive classical dishes. Separated by courses; starters included burrata – a creamy mozzarella with summer bread salad as well as home cured bresaola ; Pastas were risotto with artichoke, summer truffle and thin spaghetti with fresh crab and samphire; The mains included cod fillet with borlotti beans all’uccelletto. Mmm, Samphire.
Ok, lets eat.
We started things off with Grilled mackerel fillet with samphire, potato and tomato, red wine vinegar dressing (£6.50)
The carbon bitterness was immediately evident on the surface of the skin of the mackerel, it was lightly seared it seemed as the delicate fish maintained a bounce in texture. This was accompanied by a stickiness in the bite. The palette was largely dominated by a clean and earthy saltiness. Samphire is rarely used by London restaurants, but it is one ingredient which I would love to eat more often. The samphire carried a natural saltiness to it, soaking in olive oil, it had a distinctly mineral taste. The combination of the greens with the fish was a real cracker, and it was as if it was grilled along the coasts of Sardinia, picking up the sea salt in the air and then magically teleported to Putney. It was lively and refreshing. Coupled with the mellow blanched potatoes and sweetened with the cherry tomatoes, this was a wonderful entrée.
On the other side of the table, the set lunch starter was a simple tuna tartare with chopped celery and carrots and then infused with zesty lemon juice. Roughly diced, the tuna was quite abit fishy, it needed some spices to balance it out and I was longing for pepper or capers or even olives which it had none; too simple and all in all it tasted much too raw.
We skipped the pastas altogether and went straight into the mains. Firstly, the set lunch option of char grilled squid, chick pea puree, tomato salsa and rocket leaves. The burnt flavours were clashing with the bitterness in the chickpea, and somehow it brought out much of the inherent fishiness of the squid – like the tuna tartare before it, I felt like this dish needed a dominant herb or spice to balance out the seafood, but instead the heightened fishiness was a little unnerving. Thankfully this was easily rectified with pinches of salt and pepper. Unexciting as this dish was, it was adequately priced for the set lunch menu, and it did not stray from those realms.
Right then, the a la carte option was Roast rump of new season lamb, courgette fried with mint and vinegar, and roasted pepper salsa (£16.50 )
This dish was suppose to also come with deep-fried olives, but they ran out. I was treated to wonderful juices from the chucks of lamb; the sauce was spewing from the meat like a fountain! The lamb was full of flavour – like a really silky carved kebab, it had that ‘Mediterranean lamb’ taste. The flavours spread into the juicy sauce and the full flavoured gravy was perfect for wiping clean with the bread. I should also add that the sourdough bread was doughy and could potentially make for excellent pizza bases. The palette was also tinged with mintiness and the roasting courgettes and pepper added a sweet and sour edge to the sauce. All in all, a rather comforting roast. I kept thinking about how this dish would have been made even more successful if it was repackaged into a sort of kebab sandwich; since the meat was soft enough to tear away and the bread was thick and savoury enough to soak up the juices, it would have made for one very delicious posh Italian kebab……just a thought though.
So far, a pretty enjoyable meal. It was a lesson in subtlety and restraint, but one that worked. The best part of the meal didn’t arrive until the desserts rolled into town. The set lunch option was affrogato with vanilla ice cream and coconut biscuit, and I order the pannacotta with grape syrup and peaches (£6.75).
Both desserts were divine.
The affrogato was a roasty espresso with sugary ice cream; for every hit of bean aroma, there was an accompanying creaminess. There was toffee sweetness in this coffee bomb and the frozen cappuccino was accompanied by an eggy coconut biscuit that was crumbly and reminded me of Chinese eggrolls.
On the other hand, the pannacotta was luxury encased in a gooey distillation of sugary grape and a compote of mushy peaches. The fruits went so well together, so jammy and intense, it became a little too sharp. Luckily the pannacotta itself was a magical creature altogether; the big white blob was shaped like a formless pillow and seemingly resting on the liquid platform.
I had wondered why it didn’t ‘sit-up’ like a normall pannacotta, and I understood when I dived in – it was thick, thick like a mozzarella. In fact, it looked so white, one could have easily mistaken it to be a cheese. The texture was glossy and there were dominating vanilla flavours as if whole cartons of milk were compressed into it. The rich dairy quality of the pannacotta easily matched the jammy fruit syrup; eating this felt like it was made for a Roman emperor.
All in all, I had a very pleasant meal. The set lunch on the other hand, was so-so. I found the dishes to be unexciting, under seasoned and almost felt like a deliberate attempt to strip it down to keep it profitable at £15.50, except for the affrogato, that was sublime. But then again for £15.50, its quite a steal.
Coming back to the ala carte, I found my experience at Enoteca Turi to be a controlled practice of indulgence. What could have been dominating fishiness in the mackerel or gaminess in the lamb was mellowed out with accompanying vegetables. Subtle flavours which were suggestive rather than over zealous equated to a quiet sort of nice, and in a way a reflection of the family orientated style of the restaurant.
I was mindful of the prices, and for a £35 ala carte, it was good. Of course I completely missed the boat with this place, what with it’s central focus of serving great wine to accompany the food. Oh well, I just have to cross the bridge again in the near future to give the vino another try.
The Gist of It
Enoteca Turi official site
28 Putney High Street SW15 1SQ
0208 785 4449
£35 for lunch, £50 for dinner, three courses, wine probably bit more.
Verdict: Pretty good food, nothing spectacular but the subtlety is much appreciated. Family friendly atmosphere.