Story and photography by Manos Angelakis
Additional photo curtesy of CHI Hotels & Resorts.
Massimo Restaurant & Oyster Bar,
10 Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5AE
+44 (0) 207 998 0555
If lasagna… or spaghetti with meatballs and gravy… or pizza… is your idea of Italian food, you should spend a few hours at Massimo, the Italian fish and seafood restaurant at the Corinthia Hotel in London, and try their Antipasti, Pastas, and Secondi Piatti, and educate your palate about modern Italian fare.
Crudo di pesce, is Italy’s answer to sashimi (Japanese) and ceviche (South American) – two preparations of raw fish that have become very popular in the United States and around the world. Crudo means raw in Italian, and the dishes are made from raw fish or raw crustaceans that have been drizzled right before serving with a citric sauce and/or citrus slices and extra virgin olive oil, plus other flavor enhancers and micro greens. The crudo di pesce I had was made from thin slices of sea bass sprinkled with chives and coarse sea salt. Barbara’s crudo had slices of scallop with micro-greens sprinkled with saffron as well as coarse sea salt. You can watch the crudos being created at the raw bar near the entrance to the restaurant that is manned by a skilful chef trained by Massimo to bring the best out of the locally and sustainably sourced, daily fresh ingredients.
Our appetizers were also beautifully prepared and served. Mine was grilled octopus and avocado slices with carrots, cherry tomatoes, potatoes and aioli. Barbara had an insalata di gamberi e carciofi con menta, olio e limone i.e. prawns and artichoke slices with mint and micro greens with a lemon and olive oil sauce. I liked the octopus very much but, to be honest, I prefer sun-dried octopus charcoal grilled with olive-oil and red-wine vinegar, the way they do it on the Greek islands.
Chef/Owner Massimo Riccioli and Corinthia Hotels worked with David Collins, one of the most distinguished interior designers of today, to create the striking interior of the restaurant. The basics were already there from a previous incarnation of the space – imposing Corinthian columns from the Victorian era. What the designer brought in was a feeling of grandeur but with a sense of current style, thanks to the choice of soft fabrics and graceful lighting fixtures that are reminiscent of lighthouse and nautical luminaires.
Primi and Secondi Piatti are simply-cooked fish dishes that showcase their natural flavors. Again, the ingredients’ quality is of outmost importance. For example, the pasta in my Spaghetti alla Carmelo, with Clams, Prawns, Squid, Mussels and fresh tomatoes is made from organic durum wheat and flown in from Italy. Our waiter, who was extremely knowledgeable about all the dishes, noted that there was supposed to be linguine on the plate but the kitchen had run out of that particular dry pasta and chef Massimo did not approve of fresh-made pasta, as it would not give the appropriate “al dente” texture to the dish.
Barbara’s main was Sea Bass in lemon sauce, with crispy red Prawns (the tails enrobed in shredded kataifi) and fagiolini i.e. green beans. It was picture-perfect on the plate and it really tasted as good as it looked.
Here I should mention their wine list. It was very comprehensive and included wines from grape varieties that would pair perfectly with the food. I looked mostly at the whites – there were numerous reds available as well – because I felt that the wine’s heft and acidity as well as the aromatics would complement our meal. I ended up ordering a fresh Sauvignon from Italy’s Alto Adige and I believe that it was the perfect foil to the sea flavors and aromas. Actually, the list was so well designed that I found many of the whites were from the producers I would have recommended, were I asked to shape their cellar.
By the time the dessert list was brought, we were both very full. But who could pass on the Chocolate mousse filled with mascarpone panna cotta, served with almond sorbet? So one order was requested… with two spoons! There is a large and very interesting variety of coffees, teas and infusions that can be ordered with dessert, and a sweet wine list that is second to none, including an 1997 Château Suduiraut and a 2007 Moscato di Pantelleria, or if you are into Ports, a Taylors 10 year-old Tawny Port, from Portugal’s Douro valley.
All in all the meal was stunning as was the ambiance and service and should you find yourself in London, by all means drop in for a memorable evening.
© December 2011 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.