A few weeks ago, my friend Arthur took me to lunch at the newly opened restaurant, Veneta, in St James’s. Veneta is the latest enterprise under the Salt Yard Group, and its menu is inspired by Venetian cuisine. The restaurant’s interior evokes the beautiful city too, with its watery green colour scheme, elaborate chandeliers and ironwork reminiscent of long, black gondolas.
It’s been many years since I was in Venice, but I still remember ordering my first proper fritto misto there, which was delicious. There’s nothing so obvious as fritto misto on the Veneta menu, but there is plenty of fish and seafood, as well as imaginative pasta and risotto dishes.
Arthur and I started off with some deliciously plump green olives as we perused the menu and caught up on each other’s news.
The menu is tapas style, with a suggested 2-3 plates each to share. I have to admit, I’m getting slightly bored of tapas; to me it feels like the trend has been rather over done in London. However, it is a nice way to sample different dishes, and the Veneta menu certainly has a wide-range of options, so even if you’re dining with people with certain dietary requirements, you shouldn’t find your choice too restricted. Arthur and I decided to sample a dish from the raw bar first: Cornish mackerel tartare with fennel pollen.
This dish was exquisitely done: the mackerel had a surprisingly delicate flavour (it’s quite a pungent fish when cooked!) and the light dressing was the perfect match.
I settled down to thoroughly enjoy my meal, soaking up the warmth and vibrancy of the restaurant, as it was a decidedly damp and cold day outside.
Next up was a bowl of steamed clams and cockles in a garlic, parsley, lemon and cinnamon broth, as well as wild mushroom and truffle risotto with gremolata (a chopped herb condiment made with parsley, lemon zest and garlic).
Both Arthur and I agreed at the end that the stand-out dish of the whole meal was the risotto. Far from the typical second-rate offering many restaurants include as a nod to vegetarian diners, this mushroom risotto was a spectacular addition to our feast. The truffle brought out the earthiness of the mushrooms, and the addition of gremolata (usually served with meats) was sheer genius. The pesto-like herb mix both lightened the dish and gave it an extra boost of flavour. Delicious!
Sadly, the least successful dish of the meal was definitely the clams. I usually enjoy cinnamon, but it was rather overpowering in this dish, and I can’t say I like it in combination with garlic and slightly briny seafood.
Our next two orders were more successful: roast duck with peverada, pickled pear and radicchio and red prawn agnolotti, shellfish brodo and oregano.
Of these two, the duck was especially my favourite. It was perfectly cooked – blushing pink in the middle and crisp on the outside. The red prawn agnoletti were delicate, but still flavourful, and we happily tucked into both plates.
Feeling rather full, we decided to share a dessert, and settled on the Frittelle (Venetian doughnuts served during the Carnival) with cinnamon cream, hot chocolate sauce and fruit compote.
The frittelle were a little dry (I think they would have been lovely filled with either the cream or the fruit compote, with the chocolate sauce for dipping), but we slathered on the toppings and still managed to polish off every one!
Overall, I very much enjoyed my lunch at Veneta, and I highly recommend ordering the mushroom risotto if you find yourself there for a meal!
Have you tried the menu at Veneta yet? What did you think of it? Do you love tapas restaurants, or do you also feel they’ve been a little over-done in the last few years?
P.S. Making pumpkin pie next week for Thanksgiving? Make sure you download my recipe!