Newly opened, Elgano is now run by a team of Italians clearly passionate about their food. “Cooking is love made visible” runs the legend over the kitchen, which pretty much sums it up for me. There are no surprises on this menu: it’s like a rundown of Italian restaurants’ greatest hits: spaghetti bolognese, farfalle with salmon, pizza. Lasagne, prawn cocktail, garlic mushrooms. Caprese salad. Bruschetta with tomatoes.
But who cares, when they’re done as well as this. Who cares? It’s like going to see The Stones: you want Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Satisfaction, Start Me Up and Sympathy- not the ‘B’ side to their fourth single (frantically Googles their discography to check that wasn’t another classic…).
We had a thorough poke around the menu. A selection of breads to begin, some of them liberally dosed with chilli and olives, were excellent. Squid, as ever, is my litmus test: easy to ruin, but a thing of real joy when handled with care. Happily, these were absolutely spot on, the batter barely there and the flesh melting. Happiness on a plate.
With a huge portion of garlic mayonnaise, it all made for a promising start, even more so when most of the table passed up on the chance to try it, which meant more for me. With a cold beer. a plate of these and plenty of lemon, I’d have been happy enough: this is contentment on a plate.
Caprese salad- again, one of life’s joys when done well- was next. The Food Nerd in me was pleased to see the precise ratio of mozzarella to tomato to basil leaf had been observed (these things are important) though I tend to prefer a slightly heavier hand with the extra virgin. A prawn cocktail was huge- chunks of avocado tossed in with the dressed shellfish, dusted liberally with paprika and all sitting in a lettuce leaf. Not sophisticated, maybe, but certainly generous.
Meatballs, rich tomato sauce and all, came in a large parmigiana regiano crisp (or ‘chestnut’ as our hostess informed me): these had an excellent texture which yielded easily- not too easily- and had plenty of flavour. One of the pleasures of this plate was picking at the last fragments of the cheesy shell, the last pieces saturated with the sauce and all the more tempting for it.
We tried a selection of mains: a seafood spaghetti with white wine and pomegranate seeds; new on me, but apparently a typical addition in Sicily. Heady with garlic, this was a beautiful-looking dish, studded with sweet rubies among the mussels, clams and fish. Easy to cock it up, but skilfully accomplished here.
A plate of mixed grilled meats followed: rack of lamb tender as you’d wish, chicken bearing the marks of the grill and sirloin steak. This last was cooked too thoroughly for my taste, though it suited others in our group. The lamb was superb: although all three grilled mains are separate as menu items, a mixture can be ordered. The simple lemon and olive oil dressing was another nod to the simplicity that runs throughout the menu here.
Next the fish course, another substantial helping. Salmon and seabass, served several ways, were dressed with coarse basil pesto. The cooking of each element was again spot on and testament to the freshness of the fish.
Belts groaning under sudden pressure, we managed to sample three desserts. A buttery-based cheesecake was oddly light- thankfully- and a raspberry pannacotta had the wiggle of a beautiful woman as she walks away, knowing eyes are on her.
The tiramisu, though, was in another class altogether; an exemplary version here, which put me in mind of nothing less than the dessert served at Casamia a few years ago. Yep, that good.
I thoroughly enjoyed Elgano- and tellingly, we were the only non-Italians in a busy restaurant. It’s simple, it’s unpretentious, it’s delicious. What’s not to like? If you’re looking for radical reinvention, for some trendy reinterpretation, give this place a miss. There’s nothing ‘deconstructed’ here; nothing radically reinvented; there’s a lack of fancy, let alone schmancy. If you want your food good and happy and plentiful- make like a bee and buzz along to Cathedral Road.
I was invited to dine at New Elgano and all food and drink was complimentary. However, this did not oblige me to write a positive review. I call ’em as I see ’em.
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.