What better way to spend a Summer evening than enjoying a delicious Italian meal, rustled up by one of London’s most exciting chefs and served up on the rooftop terrace at Harvey Nichols? S.Pellegrino and James Lowe of Lyle’s recently teamed up for this one-off event as part of the Live in Italian series of dinners, and I was lucky to experience it.
I’ve long been a fan of S. Pellegrino beverages, having attended Cannes Film Festival as their guest and also having been wowed by the standard of cooking at their Young Chef UK & Ireland heats. They had the brainwave of transforming the Fifth Floor Terrace of the flagship Knightsbridge Harvey Nichols store into a beautiful Italian piazza. To further the pleasure, they invited four famous chefs on four Tuesdays in July and August. Ollie Dabbous of Dabbous, Theo Randall of Theo Randall, James Lowe of Lyle’s and Alyn Williams of The Westbury all cooked up a storm, with different menus of their own creation, inspired by Italy. I haven’t yet been to Lyle’s but James Lowe’s Shoreditch restaurant has been garnering rave reviews and holds a Michelin star. Before sitting down to dinner we enjoyed a chilled prosecco. It was very welcome as it was a hot and humid evening! I loved the simplicity of the table setting with the rustic wood and fresh herb decorations.
It was fitting as James’s cuisine is all about simplicity. His restaurant, in the Tea Building in Shoreditch, is a stripped-back place by all accounts, letting the food do the talking. He is somewhat of a champion of British cooking so it was interesting to hear how his recent holiday in Sicily had been the starting point for this Italian menu. He was really impressed by the quality of the ingredients there and wanted to give us an equally tasty experience.
Our meal kicked off with an attractive dish of tomatoes, sourdough and lardo. From the crunchy sourdough base to the perfectly ripe tomatoes and the fine lardo charcuterie, it was a real pleasure. A fragrant olive oil was drizzled over the top, adding to the Summer flavours. James had chosen a Sicilian wine, in keeping with his holiday, to complement our starter. With an intense aroma of citrus fruit and spice, Catarratto 2015 by Nino Barraco had a pleasing minerality.
Our next course wins the prize for most photogenic course! An unusual combination of peas, stracciatella and borage, it featured edible pansies with a wonderful peppery flavour. I’m not normally a fan of peas but here these were so fresh that I really enjoyed them. Contrast was ensured by the addition of tangy Ticklemore cheese from Devon. We savoured a delicate Roero Arneis 2015 Valfaccenda from the Piedmont that worked nicely with this dish.
Up next was a spectacular sea trout, whey butter and samphire. I always choose samphire every time I see it on the menu – this sea vegetable adds a fantastic crunch to any meal. The whey butter and gooseberry sauce lifted the dish to a whole new level and the sea trout itself was cooked to perfection. I enjoyed the distinctive Rosato 2015 Podere Santa Maria, from an organic vineyard in Montalcino, Tuscany. Interestingly, this area was once an island and the vineyard still has many seashells, lending the wine a fine mineral aroma.
My favourite dish, however, was the trout, girolles and wild fennel. It was such a pleasant surprise to be served two fish courses, especially for an Italian meal. With Summer in full swing, I’m keen to avoid overeating and James’s cooking is so healthy. The texture of the girolles balanced the soft, fleshy fish and the wild fennel pollen gave a subtle seasoning. An organic Brazan 2012 by I Clivi was a revelation. Made by a father and son team, it’s from vines that are up to 70 years old and has a lovely fruitiness.
Our final course was a clever combination of loganberries, yoghurt and blackcurrant leaf meringue. This dish really encapsulates Summer on a plate, with a fresh take on the usual Eton Mess. The fluffy meringue and sweet honey balanced the acidity of the loganberries beautifully. It was a fitting finale to our rooftop banquet – thanks to S. Pellegrino Live in Italian and James Lowe for a wonderful evening!
Are you a fan of Italian cooking and what dishes would you serve up?