Fine Dining Guide first reviewed Latium in June 2014, finding an establishment exemplifying high quality Italian dining on an affordable and intimate scale.
The Fitzrovia establishment occupies an unassuming plot on Berners Street, just north of Oxford Street, and opposite the gaudy facade of the Sanderson Hotel. With intense competition, many independent establishments in the area have struggled in recent years (for example Simplice which closed in 2012). The fact Latium has survived and thrived since its opening in 2003 testifies to the quality of the offering and loyal following this has garnered.
Small is very much beautiful when it came to the finely honed craft of Chef Patron, Maurizio Morreli (together with restaurateur Claudio Pulze) and the front of house team, led by Alex Trumcin. A keenly priced menu, accommodating service and highly skilled cooking all demonstrate respect and authenticity for the cuisine of the Chef’s home region, Lazio.
Knowing of Maurizio Morelli’s passion for cooking game, we took advantage of our second visit to sample the winter menu, which includes a number of game options in season.
Fine Dining Guide visited Latium on a Friday evening in December.
Remembering from our previous visit the wonderful selection of breads and antipasti at the beginning of the meal, we were not disappointed to see this on offer again, with a light and crumbly foccacia being a particular highlight. In addition there were plump green olives, salami and ricotta made on the premises.
The menu was left to the discretion of the chef, with accompanying wines chosen from the predominantly Italian selection, which is impressive both for its breadth and reasonable prices.
Our first dish, a Bresaola, was lean and tender with a wonderful sweetness that was punctuated perfectly by the saltiness of the accompanying anchovy and mild bitterness of the wild chicory. Generous shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano gave the dish richness that was in harmony, with the other ingredients. This was a perfect progression along the antipasti food chain and whetted our appetites for what was to follow.
The next course; of roast Sicilian octopus was well cooked, avoiding the many potential pitfalls to render the meat tender but not without texture. The octopus had been finished using a grill, giving a wonderful caramel flavour on the outer edges. The overall dish was well-balanced with gentle purees of red onion (not too sweet) and chilli (not too hot). Green Beans lent both freshness and crunch.
The first couple of courses were accompanied by Pino Bianco Doc La Prendina from Lombardy. This was one of a number of excellent wines that are also available by the glass.
From the octopus we moved on to the first of the eagerly anticipated game dishes; a guinea fowl ragout served with fresh Stracci pasta. This was a triumph of a dish with real depth of flavour to the ragout and excellent broth. The meat was tender and flavoursome and enhanced by a crumbling of salty Pecorino on top. The vegetables; predominantly chicory and other winter staples, gave a satisfying variation in texture from the soft meat and slightly al dente pasta.
It was hard to imagine this was a dish to be surpassed, however the next course of venison was equally as impressive.
The roasted haunch was served atop Savoy cabbage and sauteed potatoes. The game was precisely timed to be beautifully pink and had clearly been well-rested. The sauce, a venison jus, was rich and intense and helped to bring out all of the flavours of the meat. Although this dish did not have a distinctively Italian feel to it, it was beautifully executed in a way that can surely be appreciated the world over. Not to be overlooked, the cabbage and potatoes were well cooked and perfect accompaniments for soaking up the many flavours of the dish.
It seemed amiss to visit Latium and not partake of at least one of the innovative ravioli dishes, which are a house speciality. On this occasion we sampled a range of the sweet ravioli from the dessert menu (each available separately).
There were three different varieties. The first was stuffed with apple, raisins and pine nuts to give a distinctly autumnal character. This was resting in thin vanilla custard, which contrasted with the slight acidity of the fruit. The other varieties were more adventurous; orange in a chocolate ravioli and pineapple in mint pasta. Both managed to achieve subtlety of flavour without any of the strong flavours dominating the others. The syrups and sauces ensured there was a sweetness to counterbalance the sharpness of the fruit and a wetness to balance the starch of the pasta. Although perhaps an unusual concept to the uninitiated, the sweet ravioli was a definite success and credit to the creativity of the kitchen.
Coffee was accompanied by a generous selection of chocolates and traditional biscotti, produced to the same exacting standards as everything else.
As with our last visit, the service from Alex and his team was attentive and charming without being obtrusive and it is clear that the front of house team is as much a selling point for the regular clientele as the excellent and varied cooking.
With three courses on the evening menu for £35.50, not to mention the three course lunch menu at £22.50, which we will no doubt sample in the future, Latium offers the sort of value that really shouldn’t be overlooked.