Review : Lasagneria Italiana at Number One Royal Exchange Buildings London

With 17 hand-crafted lasagne recipes by Chef Antonio Sanzone, at Lasagneria Italiana, there is no shortage of seasonal options to try.

 is a French word to express the sensation dinners have when well provided with food and are very relaxed. And replète I was, after my visit to the newly opened Lasagneria Italiana, situated in the heart of the -old- City of London, at number one Royal Exchange Buildings. 

copyright and authorisation by Lasagneria
courtesy of Lasagneria Italiana

Prior to my visit, I had never heard of a Lasagneria and to my knowledge, this restaurant dedicated to lasagne is a first in London -Mister Lasagna, around the corner, is one of the same company- 

Expect lasagne filled with scented black truffles from Piedmont; crispy onion toppings in a nod to Genoa, the obligatory spicy N'duja from Calabria and from around Milan, the creamy blue-veined deliciousness that is Gorgonzola cheese.  

Contemporary twists on the classic dish that hails originally from Naples include a salmon and avocado lasagna, a big breakfast version fully loaded with a fried egg and sausage. Vegan and vegetarian options are available. They even have dessert-lasagne filled with Nutella and topped with chantilly cream. In case you are wondering, we ate that too!

Every deliciousness is bought to your table in attractive individual ceramic dishes, also called 'lasagna'. At first it's confusing, but it becomes easy when you know that the pasta dish is called 'lasagne' and not 'lasagna' which is the word for a single sheet of pasta or the cooking pot. Got it?

What should you expect from Lasagneria Italiana?

The décor: Italian elegance, everything screams 'Bellissima, from the water glasses to the clean-lined geometrical design on the wall via the copper chandeliers. 

It was heart-warming to see Chef Sanzone in attendance. I like the open kitchen, for me it's an extra touch bringing the punters and the kitchen staff together. There is a terrace outside with a canopé, heaters and I wouldn't let it pass the staff to provide blankets.

The service: Youssef Hayaya, our dedicated waiter, had one aim only that evening and it was to make sure that we were happy and comfy. Observing the team at work was a delight, they hover around never drawing attention to themselves, always being there when needed. Fast and efficient which is a plus when it comes to the busy lunch service.

The food: 

The starters are almost as intriguing as the lasagne. We started with an arancino, an orange-shaped risotto ball stuffed with mozzarella and speckled with bolognese. Followed by focaccia and olives, although I was not a great fan of the former, the olives were amazing. I learned that they were grown for their size and not their oil content. They were gigantic....for olives, and pleasantly dry on the surface. Perfect for early evening customers who can enjoy a cocktail and a snack to share before heading home.

You know what they say about a picture and a thousand words, the following is a case in point:

To make sure that we were doing the job properly we both ordered a trio of lasagne, thin layers of pasta, melting in the mouth, delicious fillings. The portions are generous but don't worry, you can take home what you can't finish. My recommendation would be Tartufo Nero, Ragu of British beef mince with mixed mushrooms and Black truffle paste, bechamel sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese....and probably stick to one dish rather than the trio. Having said that trios are fun.

The other nice surprise are the price tags, the lasagne dishes start at £8, a trio is £12. Very reasonable for a tasty and delightful experience. Check the menu here and in Youssef's words, 'enjoy and relax'.

Details: 1A Royal Exchange Buildings, London, EC3V 3LF
Phone: 020 7929 1212

Humble Poire Belle-Hélène meets Flamboyant Gelato

We are all familiar with images of poached pears, fragrant with winter spices and standing proud on a sweet reduction of red wine, such as the one pictured in The Guardian by the talented Felicity Cloake.

Poached pears – just perfect. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian
Picture by Felicity Cloake

The name 'Poire Belle-Hélène' is intriguing enough, one could imagine that the creator of this glistening dessert was an admirer of a beautiful lady called Hélène
 but, this is far from being the case. The reality is far more prosaic: renowned restaurateur and recipe developer, Auguste Escoffier, 19th century, was commissioned a dessert for Jacques Offenbach's satirical operetta La Belle-Hélène which premiered in Paris in 1864. The dish was simply named to promote the operetta that told the story of Helen of Troy. No secret love affair, but a job to do and a job well done as this dessert looks opulent, taste delicious, and can be made easily...and cheaply, as I found out.

Not always inclined to use red wine in cooking because cheap wine, even when reduced to the maximum. I decided to replace it with a fruit syrup leftover from cooking apples, but a light sugar syrup will do nicely. To give it its colour, I used the juice of half a pomegranate. In spite of looking like a pear recently run over by a train at high speed, the result tasted delicious.... partly due to the gelato.

To complement this dish, I used two Hackney Gelato flavours: Mince Pie and Chocolate (the latter for the less adventurous member of Pebble Soup HQ). The brand was created six years ago by a couple of chefs who met at the Michelin-starred Locanda Locatelli. They make everything in their East London kitchen and won 22 Great Taste Stars in the last three years. Their beginnings were a little bumpy but they now provide gelati and sorbets to restaurants and supermarkets. Consumers can be found tubs of Hackney Gelato, in Tesco and Waitrose. In my opinion, this is a brand to watch.

Poire Belle-Hélène in Sugar Syrup

How to make a sugar syrup for this recipe?

Dissolve 80g caster sugar in 350ml water over low heat. 
Add cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, peppercorn, pick one or any combo, personally, I like cinnamon and peppercorn. 
If you want to get the colour closer to wine replace the water with pomegranate juice.
Once dissolved, peel the pears and cut them in half, then add them to the syrup and simmer until the fruits are tender, it could take up to 30 minutes.
Serve cooled with a topping of your choice.

The traditional method using red wine requires 700ml of wine for 125 gr sugar



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