This is the second site for Officina 00 after the well-received Shoreditch opening in 2019. ‘Officina’ means workshop, with ‘00’ being the grade of flour famously used for making pasta – appropriate, given they not only serve up authentic, fresh, hand-made pasta in a range of regional Italian variations but also run several pasta masterclasses.
The Fitzrovia branch has a touch of stylish East London cool about it with polished wood, industrial shelving and both the kitchen and pasta station open to the curious gaze. The menu is brief but intriguing.
We started with grilled king mushroom, caprino foam, crostino, sunflower shoots and port. Caprino is a traditional Italian goats cheese, slightly salty and with a fresh acidity, here made into a light foam as the base for two thick slices of meaty king oyster mushroom. With a touch of sweetness from the port drizzle, a scattering of shoots for freshness and the crunch of a deeply toasted crostino, it was one of the most deceptively complex, visually appealing and admirably balanced dishes I’ve eaten this year.
This has gone straight into my little black book of London gems
Our other shared starter was salt and pepper squid with ink and lemon mayo. As the plate arrived at the table I was concerned that these looked a little pale but they were in fact perfectly cooked: a generous serve of squid in a light, crisp coating with tangles of crunchy tentacles as well as the tender rings. The real star of the dish though was the mayonnaise, which brought lively, citrussy lemon notes and a rich umami depth.
I didn’t get to try the raviolo bergese with egg yolk, mushroom and miso butter, which occasionally drifts into my culinary daydreams and will, eventually, prompt me to rebook.
Service was good: warm, attentive without being intrusive and showing a clear understanding of the menu. For me, well-informed front of house staff are the hallmark of a great restaurant, simultaneously proving an appropriate level of respect for the role and a commitment to customer experience. Diners will return somewhere with average food and genuinely great service, rarely the other way around.
My only quibble would be that, arriving at the very beginning of lunch service to an initially empty restaurant, we were seated under an uncomfortably enthusiastic fan heater. Deciding to shift a couple of tables to the right, we started to explain to our server who replied, ‘Oh don’t worry, I thought that was why’ – slightly begging the question as to why he seated us there at all.
On to the main courses, starting with ink ravioli, black cod, cauliflower, aged balsamic and young radish. Upon ordering this, we were forewarned that the pasta would be firmer than usual and assured us that it would not be undercooked. I was deep in conversation, but I wish I had asked him why. The squid ink added a slightly briny, sea-savoury note to the dish as well as the dramatic black colouring. The pasta was indeed decidedly al dente – although somehow in a robust rather than a disappointing way – and the plate, as a whole, again quite beautiful. Cauliflower appeared as both a silky purée and tiny roasted florets, the shoots this time were radish. When I return to settle my unfinished business with the egg yolk ravioli, I will make a point of tasting these shoots individually and considering why each was chosen.
Like the mushroom dish, the layering of flavours and textures was remarkably accomplished. I remembered reading that Officina 00’s owners, Naples-born Elia Sebregondi and Enzo Mirto, previously worked at Roka and Kiln, and I wonder if that deft, gradual building of a dish owes anything to Asian influences? Either way, it’s impressive and hugely successful.
Spaghetti with truffle and walnut butter, radicchio Treviso, garlic crostini was a vibrantly tasty dish that would have wowed if I’d eaten it first. Again, the pasta was slightly firmer than one might expect; emphatically not undercooked but inherently firm, somehow reminiscent of having been rolled out that morning by a Neapolitan nonna on a wooden board, using flour from the local mill. It was unapologetically satisfying, muscling its way into the spotlight rather than just acting as the understudy for a sauce or topping.
I didn’t get as far as desserts – next time, after the egg yolk ravioli, I promise – but this has gone straight into my little black book of London gems.
67 Whitfield Street
by Amanda David