Diciannove at the Crowne Plaza Hotel
An exclusive truffle menu created by chef Alessandro Bay to celebrate the Truffle Season, using white truffles from Umbria.
I must admit, before this experience I’d never quite understood the fascination with truffles. Not only are they essentially weird looking little mushrooms, they suffer the indignity of being sniffed and snorted and hunted out by hairy pigs and trained ‘truffle dogs’ in the countryside of France and Italy before being shipped to our shores. However, I appear to be in the minority – they are the diamonds of haute cuisine, the second most expensive ingredients in the world (coming in just behind caviar). Warring Umbrian farmers have even been known to murder each others prized pigs in an effort to win the truffle wars.
I’ve had hints of truffle in dishes before, and been known to use the now-disgraced truffle oil in cooking occasionally, but never really embraced them. Where better to give them the full appraisal than by trying a full truffle menu at Diciannove? Chef Alessandro has designed three truffle-heavy dishes for this exclusive menu to celebrate the Italian white truffle season, which runs until the end of November. With 5g of the stuff per dish, this was a serious undertaking, although most diners would choose only one option and explore the rest of the lovely Italian menu for the other courses. I didn’t think that would be giving them a fair go though – so three courses and 15g of fancy fungi it was.
The antipasti starter of pan fried egg with small radicchio salad, corn bread crostini with truffle butter, parmesan and white truffle shavings (uovo in padella con insalatina di radicchio rosso crostino, parmigiano e tartufo bianco) was essentially a very jazzy, very delicious version of scrambled eggs. The truffle butter made the eggs gloriously creamy, while the truffle flavour was intense, but not overpowering. All the scrambled eggs I’d ever enjoyed now seemed bland and meagre in comparison.
Next up was the pasta course – ravioli filled with ricotta cheese and parmesan with butter sage and white truffle (ravioli di ricotta al parmigiano e salvia con tartufo bianco). Pasta, cheese and truffle is a natural pairing, especially with the addition of sage, and the dish showcased these ingredients very well.
By this point, I was regretting wearing tight jeans and wished I’d gone for something with a more elasticated waist. The star of the show now arrives, a main course of pan fried cod with sweet white onions and butter, served with soft polenta and white truffle (merluzzo con polenta tartufata). The cod is delicate and delicious, melting on the tongue and happily complimented by the soft polenta. The truffle shavings are generous, and thus slightly overpower the flavour of the cod and polenta, so a more robust fish might have been a better choice.
Despite an enticing dessert menu including tiramisu, affogato and some very creamy gelato, I give the sweet stuff a miss and finished with mint tea in an attempt to digest my three-course, fungi-friendly meal. The verdict? I think I may have finally been converted to truffles after all – although I probably won’t be eating them in such enormous quantities in future!
Antipasti: Uovo in padella con insalatina di radicchio rosso crostino – £24
Pasta: Raviolo di ricotta al parmigiano – £33
Secondi: Merluzzo con polenta tartufata – £46
Diciannove Crowne Plaza London
The City 19 New Bridge Street