Zafferelli Restaurant31-32 New Road
Tel: +44 (0)1273 206662
Cuisine types: ITALIAN | INTERNATIONAL
Over the last eighteen months Zafferelli's (which has a fabulous central location - right on the corner of North St and New Rd), has undergone a huge amount of changes. It's always been, to me at-least, a sort of non-descript restaurant, the sort I've walked past without even noticing. Pah! Yet another pizza/pasta joint - well not anymore.
Under the new ownership of Nick Elvidge - a City-boy moved south for some good life - it's metamorphosed into a sparkly chi-chi kind-of a place. The exterior is immaculately painted and boasts shiny new signage, and the ironwork pavement furniture looks inviting in front of the great plains of glass.
"Table for two?" asks the waiter.
"Under the Picasso?"
I look around for the 'Picasso'. Ah there it is, amongst the other typical restaurant style prints (Picasso, Egon Schiele, architectural and botanical drawings), above a spacious table on the side wall. Nick is yet to revamp the interior, but it's not bad by any means. The walls and ceiling are calming sandstone colours, the floor terracotta, the lighting gentle and recessed and there's unassuming beech furniture.
Nick greets us, offers us an Italian aperitif "two Carpano Punt e Mes?"
It clearly draws a blank look on my face.
"like a Martini?" He expands.
Oh, a Vermouth. "Alright then"
He joins our table and it's immediately clear that he's very enthusiastic about his restaurant; he spoke avidly for half an hour about the menu before we could decide what to eat.
Nick firstly sold me Ravioli Salvia e Burro (handmade ricotta & spinach ravioli in a sage butter sauce) from today's Theatre Menu (more about that later). My meat-eating partner Marc took little persuading that he really ought to have the Vitello Tonnato (thin-sliced cold veal fillet in a tuna & caper sauce) also from the Theatre Menu. Alongside this we ordered a good old fashioned Insalata Caprese £4.95 (buffalo mozzarella, vine tomatoes, basil and olive oil).
The starters arrived promptly. My ravioli was very tasty indeed; the sage butter fresh and pungent with a mysterious bite (maybe a tiny bit of chili oil?), the firm ricotta pressed between one yellow, one green square of handmade, fresh 'al dente' pasta and all topped with a generous sprinkling of parmesan.
Marc's veal was a "very good choice". The unusual sauce wasn't fishy tasting as expected, despite the tuna input and the combination (together with just enough capers for an appropriate salt fix) worked very well. All was served with good chunks of lemon. Nick's impressive chef was living up to Nick's spiel!
The salad, which is so simple it's perfect, can easily go either way; rubbery mozzarella and tasteless tomatoes and you might as well chew on some grass! But when it's good, its heaven, and this was good. The mozzarella was very fresh, flaky, creamy and moist, the deep red tomatoes well-ripened and the basil straight from the plant. Simplicity at its best.
For mains we chose a very similar dish. In-fact it was basically the same dish but one for a non meat-eater with cod and the other full-flesh chicken based. Why? Well, Nick, who I was beginning to think could sell sand to the Arabs, talked so passionately of the Fiorentina (a spinach and cheese sauce - which he likes to have himself at-least once a week), that both Marc and I wanted it. Neither of us was willing to back down. I went for the Bacalla alla Fiorentina £10.95 (pan-fried cod on a bed of spinach with a cheese sauce), and Marc the Petto di Pollo alla Fiorentina also £10.95 (pan-fried chicken).
The Fiorentina's we both agreed were delicious despite a few gritty bits of spinach and some killer fish bones! The char grilled bitterness set the cheesy sauce off marvelously. The cod had lovely big flaky pieces of freshness and the chicken was moist and juicy. All served with some herb and onion fried potatoes. I'd order it again without doubt but next time - remember to order the veggies on the side.
Now the Italians aren't know for their skills with puddings, but the ones they do make, they do well (if you've had ice-cream in Rome, Venice or Milan you'll understand the deal). I plumped for an old favourite of mine - the 'pick me up' tiramisu and Marc had a chocolate fix with the truffle cake.
The cake was a very rich firm truffle, with a dry yet creamy texture and a powdery finish. It was good. The raspberry coulis gave it the tartness it needed. My tiramisu was very moist with plenty of cocoa powder splashed about the large white plate - just what you would expect.
All of the desserts including the ice-creams are homemade.
Zafferelli's Theatre Menu offers its customers two courses at £14.95 or three at £16.95. Most people plump to come back after the theatre for dessert or at least a coffee and amazingly, if they chose to do this, Nick allows his customers to wonder off into the night without even opening their wallets until they return for the sweet! Nobody has failed to return so far. Now isn't that great.
Dinner for 2 approx. £35
House white £10.
Zafferelli's 31-32 New Road, Brighton, East Sussex.
Vanessa Eley - 19 April 2004