Battle of

Mussels, frogs and snails or olives, pasta and pizza? France and Italy have very high standards when it comes to food – but which cuisine is better? Henry Hopwood-Phillips pleads the French case but resident Kate Gordon begs to differ...

the Latins

A GALLIC AFFAIR
ew restaurants can boast a courtyard that was once Henry VIII’s tennis court. Boulestin, however, is less ‘field of the cloth of gold’ than a leather and brass affair. Sitting on a marble chessboard, it’s the sort of Mayfair gaff that is so unrepentantly Mayfair that it’ll inevitably wind its way into some recherché manual of foodie heaven out of sheer force of confidence. I like that. No doubt many will claim it’s dated; declare it too posh or too French, but to visit Boulestin knowing you don’t like those things is like inviting David Attenborough to an abattoir – the results are predictable. The first Boulestin stood in Covent Garden, the eponymous creation of Anglophile Marcel Boulestin, the chef who first brought French cooking to our TV screens. He died in 1943 but his restaurant survived him by half a century (the original site is now a Deep Pan Pizza). Joel Kissin has spurred his ghost into life. And he’s grabbed Andrew Woodford from Colbert over on Sloane Square to help him. Looking at the menu, it’s not user-friendly but if that is a priority then one should go to the Chinese down the road where the food is all in pictures. It’s also in Franglais – a mixture of French and English – that perfectly suits our monoglot command of French. Kicking things off are the lamb sweetbreads, a dainty delicacy made from the glands that sit just above the heart in a young lamb. Slightly metallic like kidney, it skips in puddles of tangy, acidic sorrel, which itself flirts with a lamb reduction round the edges. The result, a jumble of metallic and salty flavours, should be a disaster but this is well-executed, leaving me excited about the next course: daube de boeuf. The test of a good ‘daube’ is that it falls apart in strings without being stringy. It’s cooked in a marvellous contraption rather predictably called a daubière (think of a

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‘Looking at the menu, it’s not userfriendly but if that is a priority then one should go to the Chinese down the road where the food is all in pictures’

tea pot crossed with a casserole dish). Mine is faultless. The sauce is rich and full of onion, garlic, wine and the dark arts. Profiteroles end the party, like iced grenades they discharge a thick gooey vanilla custard. I’m sure at this point I should pretend I am used to such scrumptious explosives but in truth I’m more acquainted with that culinary polyfiller: squirty cream. The wine list is imposing; it is long and contains no details. But there is a sommelier on hand to help out, and so he does in a friendly manner. On his recommendation we plump for a 2011 Bourgogne Pinot Noir (Domaine JM Pillot). It’s a good choice. A dark, glimmering garnet colour, it’s got a raspberry nose that might be waving at some chocolate in the distance but I could be making that part up. Historically we have always found it easy to resist Gallic charm. France is the first place we reach when we leave our island and is therefore, as often as not, the place we first come across a Frenchman calling us rosbifs and telling us our command of the language is almost as bad as our cuisine. But instead of retreating into an inferiority complex, we should nod, smile and order another. Practice it at Boulestin. 5 St James’s Street, SW1A 1EF, 020 7930 2030 (boulestin.com)

AN ITALIAN PEDIGREE
here are days when only Italian food will do. It is a comfort food of the highest order. It is also usually accompanied by the sort of welcome that implies that you are among friends, even if it is your first visit. Tinello ticks these boxes and then some. Co-owner Max Sali (ex-Locanda Locatelli) makes all the suggestions; we follow blindly and greedily. I am follows. The pesto tries to steal my attention but it’s all about putting pasta and potatoes together – quite frankly, what’s not to like? Stuffed to the gills, I can make room for anything called ippoglosso – the halibut – with turnip, monk’s beard and a blood orange sauce. It somehow works, but I know now that monk’s beard (the beautifully named barba di frate) is not samphire; it looks the same, but it isn’t. So I can quite happily say that Tinello was also educational, which somehow makes the gluttony feel almost virtuous. We finish with the obligatory grappa, Vin Santo and cantuccini and stagger out into the warm London night happily dreaming of the next trip to Italy. 87 Pimlico Road, SW1W 8PH, 020 7730 3663 (tinello.co.uk)

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‘Tinello was also educational, which somehow makes the gluttony feel almost virtuous’
almost ashamed to list everything we gobble; from the selection titled ‘small eats’ Max suggests the mortadella and fried bread dough, the stewed artichoke with endive and Parmesan, the obligatory zucchini fritte, as well as chicken liver crostini. By far the standout dish is the warm artichoke – a mix of sweet and salty flavours, apple and Parmesan jostle with one another to great effect. Tortelli di patate – pasta stuffed with potato,

B E L G R AV I A R E S I D E N T S ’ J O U R N A L

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