Category: Bistro – Brasserie (££-£££)
It is a hard job to be an amateur restaurant critic. Always rushing off to the newest openings, which means, thanks to the new non-booking trend, queuing for hours in the cold, eating mediocre food in places hyped for inapprehensible reasons and then there is the constant fight against personal bankruptcy, alcoholism and obesity.
Every zealous amateur restaurant critic needs a restaurant to rest, to regain his/her strength and to put the cornucopia of often questionable food trends into context. Shortly, a place that constantly delivers, that doesn’t annoy, that doesn’t instigate rants, doesn’t rip off, that you can get a table at reasonably short notice and that doesn’t include the service charge into the bill (I will forgive the overfilling of wine glasses in this instance). One of my foodie refuges is Tinello.
Located a 5 minutes walk from Sloane Square in an area with a high-density of overpriced and underdelivering restaurants, Tinello stands out. Even though it has put up its prices up quite a bit recently, you can still have a starter (from the ‘Small Eats‘ section) and a pasta main for well below 20 pounds.
And the food is excellent. I respect and admire that it follows the Italian principle of less is more – few, high quality ingredients expertly prepared, clean and simple flavours and unfussy presentation. Â It is easy food, comforting food and food that makes you feel at home. In the end Tinello serves authentic, non-anglicised TuscanÂ cuisine, difficult enough to find in London!
Well done for the ‘small eats’ section of the menu. The size is that of a starter really, so you can share 3 between the 2 of you if hungry, but if you are on a budget you get an absolutely decent starter for less than 4 pounds! That’s amazing value for money and something that more restaurants should embrace.
I have a weakness for crostini with Toscan chicken liver. The Tinello one (1.95) hit the spot – rustic and earthy, coarsely chopped liver served on toasted, crispy and thinly sliced ciabatta. A simple but wonderful dish was the creamy Burrata (3.2) with pomegranate seeds and some slices of ciabatta sprinkled with aromatic olive oil.
Nice also that you can get a small portion of Italian prosciutto (3.20). I like a few slices of prosciutto – unfortunately most Italian restaurants only offer huge platters with all kinds of Italian meats and cheeses – usually too filling far too filling as a starter.
Tinello does a very customer and blogger friendly thing (this alone is reason to go back and back again). The waiter was aware that we intended to share our dishes (usually we swap half-way through each course, this is your sad fate when dating a food blogger) and offered to serve the pasta dish and then the main divided onto 2 plates. Maybe more restaurants would do this, I never thought of asking. I love it because it means you get one more course, you can keep your plate and it prolongs the pleasure.
The pasta course (13.50, 9.50 as a starter portion)Â was again agreeably simple and very delightful. Home made al dente pasta tubes came with a spicy and savory tomato sauce topped with chilled and creamy burrata offering a winning polarity of hot and cold, spicy and fresh, velvety and doughy.
I can’t hold back with my praise also regarding the main course. Pink and tender venison was served on a bed of pumpkin swimming in a beautiful and rich sauce. What made the dish not only very good but special were the hazelnuts which went surprisingly well with the strong meat. A good idea also to add some watercress for freshness and colour.
Finally something that did not completely convince: The pear tart with yoghurt ice cream (6.5) was perfectly edible but did not play in the same league as the previous dishes. Too much dough, not enough pears and I didn’t think the yoghurt ice cream and the tart were a very good match.
The waiters are friendly and have opinions on food and wine and are not afraid to share them. Service charge is not included. The wine list is reasonably priced. I am sure there are places that are more exciting, more experimental, more sophisticated but sometimes all I want is my safe foodie refuge, and with Tinello I found it.
- Food: 8/10
- Service: 8/10
- Ambiance: 7/10
- Value for Money: 8/10
- Chances of Returning: 100%
- Verdict: Apart from Zucca, my favourite Italian in London. Food that’s good for the soul.