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Valentina Fine Foods Opens Flagship Italian Shop and Restaurant
June 17, 2015
Rather like our European cousins, visiting some Italian restaurants can be a loud and brash experience. You almost expect to be greeted with a plethora of hand gestures on arrival. This might be ideal if you are on holiday on the Amalfi coast, going to a one off celebratory party but regular Italophiles probably prefer their dining experience to be more elegant and discreet. Step forward, Valentina Fine Foods – an authentic Italian delicatessen, restaurant, café, and enoteca. It has been impressing food and wine lovers since 1991 and has just opened it’s flagship restaurant and shop at Shad Thames.
Discreet it certainly is, being on the cobbled pathways of Shad Thames away from the extravagant Tower Bridge facing restaurants by the river. Despite this, you will no doubt be lured in sight of fresh hams, salamis, cheeses and traditional antipasti, which sit invitingly in their deli. The decor throughout from shop to restaurant is modern and vibrant, using clean designs with an elegant white and blue colour scheme.
The freshness of their food is never in doubt. The carpaccio – whilst not being thinly sliced as described – had an intense beefy rawness. The salmon was well marinated and had a fresh lemony taste, which was also present in the beef.
The main courses were further examples of how using top quality produce is half way to success in making a fine dish. Linguine di mare beautifully evoked images of the Mediterranean with the flavours of the langoustine and prawns soaking invitingly into the pasta, although the langoustines were typically more shell than meat. The opposite was true for the Bistecca, their ribeye steak. It said 300g on the menu but it was more like 500g with a considerable amount of accompanying potatoes, greens and mushrooms. Perhaps the extra weight explained why the first 300g was medium rare as requested but progressively as we got to the middle, it turned into a blue steak. If you have any room left after main courses, they offer a great selection of classic Italian desserts from Gelato to Panettone to tiramisu.
Service is outstanding here; the staff is all Italian and extremely knowledgeable about recommending food and wine. The saying “La vita è troppo breve per sprecarla bevendo vino cattivo” adorns the top of their wine bar, which our server helpfully translated for us as “Life is too short to drink bad wine”.
She recommended a bottle of Angelo Nero D’Avola: it had light fresh and juicy blending aromas which didn’t overpower the food we ate. It is a great example of how Sicily has been producing premium wines at affordable prices.
The remarkably convenient thing is if you enjoyed your meal as much as we did, you can helpfully buy most of the produce at their deli, which has over 200 wines and 1500 products – although you probably need to practice your culinary skills for a good few years to match the appetising delights created by their head chef, Vincenzo, who is unsurprisingly from Sicily.