Its not often you find a place where upon leaving you swear to all the staff you'll be back soon, or after taking a delicate bite of a tasty morsel from your plate you throw your hands up in the air and shout "Yes!"
Well that happened on Friday at Tozi.
I must admit I am a little bit of a dinner bully, I like to pick where I eat out. This tends to end up being japanese, a restaurant on my 'want to eat here' list, something healthy or a french michelin type place. I must have been feeling particularly magnanimous when I selected Italian (my other halves favourite) though I did select Tozi on the basis of them having opened very recently and the lack of big pasta dishes on the menu.
As the doors were flung open to us, we were greeted like old friends! by everyone...! Most times this kind of attention leaves me cringing a little, but the jovial atmosphere makes it feel like you are being invited into their gang. The restaurant itself is large and airy with minimal decor. The lovely open kitchen, grill and wood burning oven with various meats and sausages dangling from the ceiling laid out next to a large wall of wine is the focal point for the room.
Our waiter Ricardo does a good job of explaining the concept of the restaurants food without saying the word 'Tapas' which would have been just too easy I guess! Small sharing plates 'Chiccheti' in the Venetian style are brought out whenever they are ready and are to be enjoyed by everyone at the table.
We start off though by ordering some of the house prosecco which is on tap here, and very quaffable it is too- light and fresh, well suited to a sunny, warm evening.
We were advised to select 2-3 dishes per person, it was hard to stick this to be honest- there are so many incredible sounding dishes on the menu! Orders duly made with Ricardo, we were brought freshly baked foccacia still warm from the oven with aged balsamic and a sweet fresh extra virgin olive oil to dip it into. Our water & prosecco glasses were never far from empty before an obliging waiter would glide over and top us up- wonderful attentive service!
First out from the pass were Calamari fritta with Amalfi lemon & Aubergine parmigiana- both dishes I know and love, I wanted to see how their take on these would be.
The calamari was delicious, the batter light and crisp. The Amalfi lemons intense juice & aroma was squeezed all over to give a delightfully fresh flavour to both the big squares of head and the little squiggly legs!
The aubergine parmigiana was a perfect size portion, enough to satisfy but not to fill you too much. The aubergine melted in the mouth from being pre fried before baking, and the tomato sauce was rich with character. All topped off with a huge sprinkle of melted parmesan- yum!
The grand selection of cured meats and cheeses came next, this is one of their sharing boards made for 2 or more. There was a delicious light blue cheese, Blu di Capra, some rich Grana di Pecora and a wonderfully fruity Testun al barolo which is aged in barrels lined with the residue of the grapes they use to make Barolo wine. With this we had a selection of meats, aged Parma ham, speck and a delicious Mortadella with pistachios that I may have taken more than my fair share of :)
Next up was the dish of the night, Buffalo ricotta ravioli with black truffle, this was the culprit that made us both sit in a food meditation state making 'mmmm' noises and smiling until our mouthful was finished. Just before my partner shouted out his appreciation, making our waiter grin ear to ear and pat him on the back as it was his favourite too :) Delicate but rich, creamy but with a great earthiness and depth, just thinking about it eating it again makes me start salivating. Its not the prettiest plate of food I have ever eaten, but it is one of the tastiest- make sure you order this dish if you go to Tozi!
The final dishes out were Gnocchi with duck ragu and ewes parmesan and Lamb shoulder with artichoke and mint. The gnocchi had just the right amount of 'give' to its texture, not too chewy or soft and the rich ragu was delicious with the slightly fruity parmesan. The lamb was slow cooked so that it fell apart at a touch, the sweet mint and slightly bitter artichoke balanced and complemented each other wonderfully.
At this point we were completely stuffed and had to refuse trying any of the desserts for fear of having to be rolled home. Our lovely waiter seemed to have different ideas however and brought us out a selection of sorbets on the house.
A delicious trio of zingy basil and lime, creamy coconut and a boozy passionfruit.
At this point I felt like I was going to pop- I had to eat all the sorbet you see! It was too yummy to leave! We were then brought some Brutti Ma Buoni biscuits, which translates to ugly but good :)
Oh and they were good, nutty and crunchy!
It was finally time to leave, all the staff wished us goodbye and a pleasant evening, and like 13 year olds that had fallen in love on holiday we professed our love and promised we would be back to see them soon :)
The service, atmosphere and food at Tozi was amazing- I can't recommend them enough! Get yourself there before everyone knows about them!
Find them at 8 Gillingham St, London SW1V 1HJ.