Friday, 4 February 2011

[Restaurant - Italian] Daphnetely Meh; Daphne's of South Kensington

Location - South Kensington, London [UK]

Oh dear, it would seem as with my other blogs, I sometimes endeavour [Yes, it is an actual accomplishment!] too hard with creating a unique title, ending up with a rather contrived result. Which is essentially how I would describe the aforementioned restaurant in a nutshell. Hmm, that about works! Win! I hope this would set a subtle tone for the experience, though let it be said that it was not terrible.

Rather, fitting for the location I would think. There is no real story of how we came to dine here - I just came into town with Huzaifah and the place was pre-booked by our Chelsea Apartment living Russian Friend. Hint. Stereotypes. Me? Never ^-^. One thing that struck me immediately though, was that my rather inept brain couldn't quite come to terms with a rather trivial fact - an Italian restaurant, called Dafini? Delfini??

Then the taxi pulls up - DAPHNE'S?! Erm, whut? Hmm. Prejudicial mode on.

~ Starter ~
- Insalata di Barbabietola e Caprino

Spurred by my exceedingly daring streak and want, no, NEED to try out dishes of a different slant, I pined for the aforementioned, which in this case, was a Beetroot and Goat's Cheese salad. Heavens! Essentially, I have never eaten Beetroot, and I love Goat's Cheese. Hitherto, my two main motivating factors. That, and it would make me feel less guilty about the inevitable dessert.

I know, living on the edge. And. Well, my inner Bear Gryll's died a little. And in a future foretold, you will see a similar response shortly. It would seem the Beetroot was poached of all flavour, almost in its entirety, as was what I presumed to be slices of papaya..well, it had the look and consistency of papaya at least. The goat's cheese however was plentiful and delicious - the sharp, tangy nature of the "crust" soon gave way to a lovely creamy cheese and all was forgotten. Again, as said of a previous Goat's cheese salad I sampled, I would have happily been contented with just a big slab of goat's cheese, but perhaps to expect so was disingenuous. Other than the lack of depth from the Beetroot, the sour leaves were not to my liking, but combined very well with the cheese, and the dressing was well suited - sweet, yet not overtly so, and very light.

A liked salad, mainly for the cheese though.

~ Main Course ~
- Spalla d'Agnello con Lenticchie, Cotechino e Cavolo

Already from the title you can tell the sheer sophistication of this dish, the depth of intricate flavours. No? Actually, no, this is a simple Venetian [I think] dish, commonly consumed on New Year's Eve, composed of Roast lamb, lentils, boiled pig's foot meat, and in this case served with some wilted greens. See, sophisticated!

Actually, I chose this as, well, it was the most interesting thing available, and something I've never had in a restaurant [but have had essentially every New Year's, minus the lamb]. And. Well. You shouldn't be surprised by the forthcoming description, as it was foretold. These semantics help me with the stresses of boredom. And essentially that's what this dish was. Boring. It was well presented, naturally, however, maybe disingenuously yet again, I was surprised by the proportioning of quantities - a huge serving of lamb [good!], but, a meagre splash of lentils [there goes hopes of digesting the meat], and, where's the Cotechino!? I ordered this FOR the cotechino! Oh, wait, there's a little pinkish cube. And another. And that's it. Not. Impressed. BAH! Mind you, it is a specialist meat, and maybe I shouldn't expect the hockey puck-sized discs usually served at home. Imagine the reactions restaurants would get though if they breeched expectations!

Otherwise, this was a very forgettable dish - there were too small a smattering of lentils to add to the meatiness of the lamb, there was too little cotechino to flavour the lentils. As for the lamb, it was quite. Dry. For it to be roasted? I had to double check. I mean that dry as in almost crisp - inside it wasn't spectacularly moist, but it wasn't carbonised. However, with a dearth of residual moisture in the dish, it left an essentially single-track dish, a bit rudimentary. Disappointing. Good quality lentils though - in Italy the size of the lentils are essentially related to quality, the smaller being the most revered, and these were tiny. However as previously mentioned, the execution probably didn't serve them to their potential.

~ Dessert ~
- Torta allo Zenzero Speziata con Mascarpone

That's Ginger Cake with Mascarpone, heathens, learn some Italian! It is also, the saving grace. Far too much religious terminology, but mascarpone this rich certainly cannot be anything other than divine!

Ok, I'll stop with this overwrought description now, for I fear the hand of..

Bah! It was epic. Reasoning for the choice is that it is something I wouldn't usually go for, surrounded by the usual Tiramisu's and Pannacotta's and....Crumble. And as such, it was a conventional grainy cake, pardon my complete lack of knowledge, and delightfully moist at that. The hint of spice permeating was delectable as well, which suited perfectly the richness of the mascorpone, at once giving it a highlight, and combining with the sweetness of the cake. I was actually struggling to pace myself and may have eaten part of the dessert spoon. No matter. Another unexpected delight was how well I paired the dessert wine!

[No, I'm not leaving you hanging, but for the sake of categorising, my extraordinary wine selection effort is relegated below ^_^]

~ Drinks ~
- Vin Santo Dessert Wine

The Vin Santo, I know is a well renowned dessert wine in Italy, Tuscany region. And. Not much else. And I don't pretend to know much else about its preferred combinations. However, something told me, almost beckoned me to convince myself it would suit a "Spice" cake well.

When it arrived, replete with a plate of cantuccini sweets, I figured I could be onto something. Something struck me as familiar but I am largely ignorant and had no idea how the wine/biscuits were to be combined, but combine they did. Well. A very rich wine, quite honeyed, which when paired with the almond biscuit just lightened up. This effect was exemplified when combined with the ginger cake, what with its spicy note, combining to great effect. I have no idea what I have just attempted to describe, but I somehow understand the Aramaic ramblings, or rather the motive for such gloriously elaborate descriptions, of appreciators of spirits, wines and so on!


Overall it was a mixed but sedate experience, not combining any real expectations with any particular disappointment. Especially as any Italian "Daphne's" would probably be found on the Border with France. Probably more so in France. The service was quite slow, and obviously appalled with my spoken Italian. Despite being Italian. I know, I should be ashamed.

For what my narrow-mind can fathom, this was a restaurant that perhaps combined itself with a smattering of pretension considering the area it is in; nothing in the menu was particularly creative, traditional - or rather, regional - and in execution, I was left wanting more. Other than the Dessert, though as I've made it plenty clear in other posts, I find it hard to criticise desserts. Though that remains to be seen when I try out an infamous South-East Asian Red Bean Paste-based Dessert. Mmm. Delectable.

Even dishes which perhaps sound eccentric, such as Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu' seem to be becoming a tad de rigeur of late with Italian Eateries, as an aforementioned trip to Chiswick and the observing for 5-6 nearly identical French Eatery menu's revealed similar trends for the French. In the end, perhaps I feel this restaurant has to project a certain class and execution to its food to cater for a certain clientelle - evidenced by the fact we were by and large so underdressed as to be naked in relative comparison - and I perhaps keep getting self-facepalmed by the disingenuous notion that I expect farmer food to taste like farmer food, despite the location. If you're counting, that's the nth time I said disingenuous. And disingenuous again. Pumpkin Smile Tangerine [?].


Dessert made me happy though, so, that obviously means I wub Daphne. Just for desserts. And the Vin Santo. And Dessert again.

That is all.

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