Sunday, 21 March 2010

You can’t always get what you want...

As Julie Christie might have said in the film Darling, “Chelsea is so gay” (well not in the modern sense of the word, but then again, I was surrounded by interior designers and arty folk so who knows?) Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Instantly trendy places come and go like shooting stars, and older ones from the time of Darling exist but never adapt. And, two minutes walk from the King’s Road is such an establishment.

Pellicano sits behind the lumbering blocks of flats on Sloane Avenue, and is frequented by the transient clients staying there or local people. Although it had a modern feel it was still very old fashioned. So it was with a certain apprehension that, dressed to pull and surrounded by the arty and interesting crowd, I accepted a glass of light and apple and lemony Prosecco and joined in the revelry. But that was where the problems began.

I was hungry, very hungry, so I decided on a starter of Tagliatelli with Rabbit; visions of creamy yellow tagliatelli contrasting with pale pink fleshed rabbit and flecks of maybe, parsley or thyme. However, reality kicked in the moment it arrived.

This was a rather hearty portion for a starter (serves me right, I guess), and my vision of pale yellow pasta and meaty ragu was distracted by a rather mean desert spoon serving of shredded and cheesy rabbit meat placed in the centre on top. The pasta itself while glistening was slightly over-cooked.

Over-cooked? Well that might be a bit harsh, but I wonder; were they catering for an English palate or were they too busy to cope? Either way, it is meant to be the genuine Italian article. Regardless, it was just a little too soft. Not al dente enough. (I once went to a place near the Vatican that served pasta so al dente that I wondered if water had actually been applied. But I digress).

I guessed that this was farmed rabbit, rather than a fuller flavoured wild rabbit, as it didn’t have that slightly woody, gamier quality that I thought it should have (it has been a while since I last had rabbit so please correct me if I am wrong), and it is the end of the hunting season. Drowned by the flavour and made slightly greasy by the cheese, it tasted more like the meat in a tin of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup, so a desert spoon was more than enough. I was left with an acrid after- taste and the desire to dive into a glass of the red wine staring back at me in a wanton manner.

My main course Quail with Fennel and Pancetta on Polenta. Again, I imagined pancetta wrapped roasted birds on a bed of golden polenta. This was close, presented with Italian panache and looking quite appealing, there were two pretty, boned, roasted-to-a-chestnut colour quail nestling in soft, creamy mash and surrounded by a rich meat jus; two bronzed bathers on a golden atoll surrounded by a dark sea; parmesan and sweet saline smells from the polenta and pancetta. Ah, but again, what met the eye failed to meet the expectations of the mouth and mind.

The quails were stuffed with the fennel and pancetta giving them a plump cuteness and keeping them moist. Sadly, however, the overwhelming flavour was of pancetta; pancetta, pancetta, pancetta. The subtlest hint of aniseed and the tiniest meaty taste of the quail struggled to rise above the bacon. Nor were they helped by the not-so-subtle parmesan in the polenta, nor the jus. Keeping with the sixties film quotes, Michael Caine’s “you were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” cry to his bomb expert for a more subtle approach to cracking a nut comes to mind, the complete lack of balance in flavours and excessive use of bacon was equally heavy handed.

Will I go back? Let’s put it this way, the only things that came out tops were the prosecco and the postcard that came with the bill.

Pellicano, 19-21 Elystan Street, London SW3 3NT

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