Tuscanic Soho (originally posted on Blue Tomato Reviews)
Hidden away on Old Compton Street, is a quiet, unassuming little place with a window display filled with a colourful array of sandwiches and Tuscan delights.
I have to admit, when I first walked into Tuscanic I thought it was an artisan bakery; goods displayed elegantly in the window, an open counter kitchen with wooden stools on the side. Somewhere I could go for lunch, not somewhere I’d come to relax and unwind for dinner. How quickly I changed my mind!
Once in the restaurant, you immediately notice the back wall: a display of shelves, lined with tableware and Tuscan ingredients featuring on the menu. The simple décor gives the restaurant an inconspicuous charm; brass utensils hang from the walls and a tiled floor imported from Tuscany give the place a rustic charm, complemented by soft Italian music playing and the charming, attentive Italian staff. Our waiter Lapo, spoke so passionately about the produce on offer, we mistakenly thought he was the owner. When we did meet the owner, Leonardo, he was incredibly welcoming and proudly spoke about the produce picked from the best places in Tuscany; even the tables had been made from old wine barrels!
Most of the food at Tuscanic is bread based; from paninis and crostinis to traditional soups. To start, my partner and I had Le Zuppe (£6), vegetarian soups served in terracotta pottery. The mixed vegetable and bread soup (ribollita) is hearty and warming using leftover vegetables and bread, whilst the tomato and bread soup (Pappa al pomodoro) has a wonderfully grainy texture.
Next we had Il Misto(£10.50/16) Tuscan cured meats and cheese with assorted focaccia, breadsticks and Tuscan bread -Verna, made from millstone flour. We didn’t receive any breadsticks, but did have the Verna, bread made without salt; odd I initially thought until I found out how wonderfully it pairs with the salty meats and cheeses. My favourite was the focaccia; flat and crispy but somehow still light and airy.
The cured meats on the board were made from grigio pork, a semiwild breed that tastes divine however it is eaten! We had Tuscan raw ham, homemade bacon (rigatino), mortadella di Prato, which is boiled for three hours in Tuscan liqueur, Tuscan salami and Finocchiona – salami flavoured with fennel seeds, balancing out the saltiness and adding an almost sweet, subtle aniseed flavour.
Cheeses included a range of pecorino, the most notable being Pecorino Vinaccio – aged for 3 months in red wine barrels full of squeezed grapes, giving the crust a purple colour and an almost blue cheese like taste. This paired with some of the delicately sweet fig jam is a match made in heaven! However, it was the combination of Acacia honey and cheese as per Lapo’s suggestion that was the true winner!
The salty meats had made us thirsty, so wine was needed to wash it all down. I’m not usually a red wine drinker, but I opted for the Alfeo Bolgheri Superiore- Cerlto (£8 glass/£37 bottle), a mix of 50% merlot, 50% cabernet sauvignon and 10% cabernet franc. It has rich, dark, fruity flavours that really hit the spot and I will be going back to get a bottle! Sadly, my partner is allergic to sulphites so can no longer enjoy a glass of wine. This was no obstacle for the wonderful Lapo, who brought out a traditional Tuscan fruit juice – I Succhu (£4), which come from a small Tuscan farm and I just had to order one too opting for a thick and refreshing peach juice.
More bread based options followed: Il crostone (£7) is a toasted slice of bread topped with a cured meats, cheeses, vegetables, and Tuscan spreads. Unfortunately we chose to have artichokes, which were not in season and unavailable, but our ham, rocket and cheese crostone was to die for. Alternatively, you could try the foccacia option, Il panino (£6). Again, we seemed to choose the only unavailable option, aubergines, which were not in stock. Nonetheless, Lapo suggested we have sausage, sundried tomatoes and of course more cheese, which was more than satisfactory!
The dessert selection – Il dolce (£5 each) is a must, whether you have a sweet tooth or not. We shared a ricotta cheese mousse along with the Pistocchi chocolate cake. The chocolate torte was a rich 75% dark chocolate ganache made with a little cream. It melted on first touch with my mouth and is ideal for chocolate lovers. The ricotta mouse was drizzled with lemon zest and honey and was wonderful when eaten with sweet waffles – brigidini di Lamporecchio; a lovely light end to the meal.
Tuscanic offers a relaxed and informal atmosphere; it’s a place you can get lost in for a few hours and forget where you really are. The unhurried dining experience is a rarity nowadays, but Tuscanic, unlike a lot of London eateries does not rush you through your meal, choosing instead to let you enjoy every moment and take time to enjoy the experience as a whole…and I did exactly that!