With the constant influx of new restaurants it’s inevitable that some fall through the cracks to meet an early demise. One of the latest casualties is Café Luc on Marylebone High Street (the writing was on the wall really, with all their ‘£1 for 3 courses’ deals) which has been taken over with minimal redecoration by Bruno Barbieri’s Cotodie. A bit of a celebrity in his native Italy thanks to appearances on the local Masterchef series, Barbieri has accumulated 7 Michelin stars over the course of his cheffing career thus far, most notably holding 2 stars when presiding over both Il Trigabolo and Ristorante Arquade. Despite his accomplishments the Italian chef’s first UK restaurant opened without much fanfare earlier this week and when SB and I popped in for lunch on Tuesday the vast dining room was relatively empty.
The daily changing à la carte menu (Cotidie is latin for ‘Everyday’) is divided into Pesce (fish), Carne (meat), Verdure (vegetables) with starters, pastas and mains all in the same section – quite unusual we thought and would have caused some confusion had our charming waiter not taken the effort to explain it all. We ordered as the Italians would (a starter, followed by pasta, then a main) then tucked into the complimentary small plates of cold cuts (mortadella, salami and pressed tongue) and rustic lentil soup. The former was the tastier of the two and I especially enjoyed the meaty cube of pistachio-studded mortadella.
A starter of Lightly Scrambled Eggs with Hazelnuts and Gorgonzola Fondue had an odd texture (as if the mixture had split) but was pleasant flavour-wise and I found myself dunking bread into the shells to mop up the eggy remains.
I preferred the Tartare of Piemontese Beef cured in spices with Taleggio and Pistachio Fondue which was like no tartare I had ever eaten. A curious juxtaposition of lightness (raw meat) and gutsiness (curing spices) that came together well on the palate. The cheese fondue complimented the beef quenelles while the nuts provided crunch.
We were proudly informed at the start of our meal that Barbieri’s speciality was pasta and the Traditional Tortellini in Capon Broth was a testament to this. Simply presented, it was a beautiful bowl of utter comfort – clear, well-seasoned poultry broth with soft expertly-made al dente parcels stuffed with moist minced capon meat.
Fregula cooked in Sea Water with Shellfish Stew was also a delight – bouncy pearls of pasta and succulent seafood morsels mingling in a flavoursome turmeric-enhanced sauce.
Sadly, the two mains weren’t as strong. Stewed Red Baby Octopus with Capers and Tomatoes, although rich and tender, suffered from being paired with a Corn Cream that had been salted over-zealously.
SB was equally disappointed with his virtuous choice of Braised Seasonal Vegetables served with Piadina flatbread. A few measly slices of roasted (not braised, as advertised*) peppers, courgette and aubergine with half an onion and some bread hardly warrants a main course, never mind one priced at £15.
Sensing our displeasure with the mains the attentive staff served us a lovely glass each of Moscato d’Asti with our shared dessert of Fried Beignets caramelised with orange zest (they helpfully portioned them out onto two plates for us). The wine made a perfect match for the dreamy vanilla custard-filled puffs fragrant with citrus.
A generous petits four selection was left mostly untouched (four courses was definitely one too many) but I did manage a coffee brûlée chocolate cup which was delicious.
Despite the hiccup mid-meal my overall experience at Cotidie was a positive one. The quality of the hand made pasta alone is enough to motivate a return visit, but I also found the knowledgeable staff warm and welcoming, and Barbieri’s modern cooking quite different from other Italian offerings in London. I will be back (soon).
*on a more recent visit I noticed the description had been amended.
50 Marylebone High Street
London W1U 5HN
t. 020 7258 9878