A couple weekends ago, I was lucky enough to be invited along to the Hotel Indigo in Earl’s Court for a pasta-making masterclass by Theo Randall and to try out the new Italian Brunch menu he has designed for his Theo’s Simple Italian restaurant at the hotel. This four course bunch menu is available from Saturday 24th September for £35 a head (and includes a glass of prosecco on arrival). I suggest booking pronto, as the food was incredible, and it was the most enjoyable tapas style sharing spread that I’ve had in a long time.
I was very excited to attend this event, as not only is Theo Randall an amazing chef (he was head chef at The River Cafe for over 15 years), but I had also been able to ask some other bloggers to join me. I contacted the lovely ladies I met in Paris and was looking forward to a little reunion!
I’ve been to a few events at the Hotel Indigo before, and I always love returning. It’s a really gorgeous space; somewhere equally nice for a pot of tea, lunch or a cocktail in the evening. If I’m ever at a loose end and have time to kill when I’m in Earl’s Court, then I will inevitably find myself loitering over tea (and something carb-laden) at the hotel. There are plenty of cosy nooks:
As well as light, airy dining spaces:
Yes, it’s definitely always a pleasure to pop into this hotel! My arrival on this occasion was made even more joyful, as I was immediately handed a glass of the most delicious peach bellini. On my first sip, I felt all the cares of the week slip away, and I settled down to enjoy a fabulous start to the weekend.
As well as the lovely ladies I’d met in Paris, there were several other bloggers at the event, and it was a lot of fun to meet everyone and discover some new-to-me blogs. After chatting for a bit, we all gathered round to watch Theo demonstrate his recipe for fresh ricotta and spinach ravioli.
Theo had a brilliantly down-to-earth manner and was charming to everyone, giving some great tips on how best to cook pasta. I’ve already started incorporating his advice into my cooking and have been very pleased with the results! According to Theo, you should always undercook hard pasta by 2-3 minutes less than directed on the packet. Rather than draining the pasta over a colander, remove it from the water with tongs or a slotted spoon, adding it straight to your pan of sauce. Add a ladleful or two of the water that boiled the pasta to the sauce and stir through for a few more minutes. Your resulting pasta will have nicely absorbed the sauce and be perfectly cooked.
Theo was also kind enough to give his recipe for the fresh pasta dough he used for the ravioli. I couldn’t find the note I made of it, but I tracked down a recipe of his that’s very similar here. Now I just need a pasta machine!
After seeing one of the pasta dishes we’d soon be served prepared in front of us, our appetites were definitely whetted for the Italian feast ahead. It was certainly a good job we were hungry…to kick things off, enormous platters of antipasti, focaccia and bruschetta arrived, along with some white wine.
I absolutely love this kind of spread, which is ideal for sharing, and we all tucked in, dipping our focaccia into bowls of olive oil, piling marinated artichokes, prosciutto di Parma and buffalo mozzarella onto our plates and exclaiming over the sweetness of the perfectly ripe tomatoes.
Next came bowlfuls of pasta so tasty that I felt if I closed my eyes I could imagine myself twirling spaghetti round my fork outside a restaurant in Rome. Very Eat Pray Love style. The pastas served were the spinach and ricotta ravioli we’d seen Theo making, dished up with a sage and butter sauce, as well as a mouth-meltingly good pappardelle con ragu di manzo (fresh pasta with slow cooked beef in Chianti and San Marzano tomatoes) and seafood linguine.
Next up, we were served fish, pork and frittata, with red wine to accompany the pork. Theo’s passion for using top quality ingredients to create simple, authentic and flavourful Italian dishes really shines in this menu. Every plate was a beautiful example of a classic dish created with expert care and attention.
Finally, dessert arrived: a platter of tiramisu, Amalfi lemon tart and ricotta cheesecake with pears marinated in Marsala and vanilla. I am going back to Theo’s Simple Italian for the ricotta cheesecake alone. My favourite Italian restaurant on Long Island served the most delicious ricotta cheesecake I’d ever tasted (Mum and I sometimes used to stop off on my way to ballet class, just so I could have a slice of that cake!), and I’ve been searching for one just as good ever since we moved away 15 years ago. Now, I’ve finally found the equivalent (if not even a tiny bit better – the pears really add a lot), and I’m taking my Mum as soon as possible so she can try it too.
Feeling exceptionally full, I bemoaned the fact that I had to head off to the gym to do a weights session (not the pleasantest thing I’ve ever done, let me assure you), so I waved goodbye to the others and headed to the tube. It had been such a fun afternoon, and I really can’t recommend Theo’s Simple Italian enough. I don’t always enjoy sharing menus, but this one really is fantastic, and I like the way you can choose which Primi and Secondi dishes you would prefer. Importantly, the serving sizes are definitely plentiful too so there’s no danger of feeling hungry!
Are you keen to try Theo’s Simple Italian yourself? What are your favourite Italian restaurants in London?