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Francesco Mazzei’s guide to London

Happy (almost) Ferragosto! In a few days’ time, all of Italy will down tools and make for the nearest beach, restaurant or bar for an annual summer celebration that dates all the way back to 18 BCE. Us Brits have a long history of taking our cultural cues from the Italians, and we think it’s high time we adopted such an awesome holiday tradition too.

To help you celebrate in true Italian fashion, we asked Calabrian chef extraordinaire Francesco Mazzei of Sartoria to get the lowdown on his guide to eating and drinking in London. Saluti!

Let’s jump straight in with the heavy hitter: what is your favourite restaurant in London right now?

With the current restaurant scene in London this is probably one of the most difficult questions to answer but if I had to pick one, I would probably go for The Clove Club. Isaac is a very talented chef who makes simple but sophisticated food.

As this is Ferragosto week, where would you recommend we celebrate in true Italian style?

For celebrating, definitely Locanda Locatelli. They consistently deliver the best Italian food in London (apart from Sartoria, of course). Or if you want a coffee and a pastry, head to Princi in Soho – their espresso is fantastic and their bakery always great value for money.

You recently opened your latest restaurant, Princi, in Islington where you’re based. Can you give us any insider knowledge for other dining spots in Islington we should check out?

Bellanger is my favourite Islington restaurant. I’m a big fan of Chris Corbin and Jeremy King’s venues and this one especially for its good food and great ambience. Plus, it’s round the corner from my house! On sunny days I head to Smokehouse for their good cuts and great atmosphere. If I had to do brunch (it’s not really my thing), I’d head somewhere local such as Elk in the Woods.

 

 

How about local drinks?

69 Colebrooke Row are the best cocktail bar in London, which is fantastic as they’re based just up the road from me. Their innovative approach to cocktails and great atmosphere make it unbeatable. For a pub with a good selection of beer, I’d recommend Market Tavern.

Are there any local producers you’d also big up?

Turner & George, based towards Clerkenwell on St John’s Street. It was set up by Hawksmoor founder Richard Turner, so you know you’re in safe hands. Steve Hatt Fishmongers have consistently high quality seafood and have been based on Essex Road for generations. For chocolates, I always use Paul A Young, who has a shop on Camden Passage as well as Soho.

Back to Radici and Sartoria. What is your favourite dish on your own menus and why?

I honestly like them all, if there was anything I didn’t like or wasn’t sure about I would take it off the menu.

What do you love about restaurants in London?

Right now, London is the only capital in Europe where you can find the best of the best restaurants. It wasn’t like that 20 years ago but has grown into the leading food and drink destination.

You’ve been in London for over a decade now; what would you say is your most vivid food memory from your time here?

Being part of “Who’s cooking dinner” event supporting the Leukaemia charity, Leuka, last year. It doesn’t happen every day to see the top 20 chefs in the UK cooking together for a very good cause.

Which dish from a London restaurant represents the city’s food scene best?

Meat fruit at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, no question.

Finally, if you had one day left to eat your way around London, how would you spend it?

I would have breakfast at Bellanger on my way to Radici, then move on to lunch at The Duck & Rice. Afterwards I’d head to Sartoria for an espresso, followed by afternoon tea at The Wolseley. I’d finish with an aperitivo at The Bar at The Dorchester with Giuliano and dinner at home with my family.

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