Macellaio RC – Chop and change on Northcote Road

Working in the restaurant business sometimes seems to have all the stability and permanence of a career in snow clearing. Not so long ago there were two excellent Spanish eateries on the Northcote Road, the more upmarket Lola Roja and its tapas bar sibling, Rosita. First Lola Roja shut its doors and then more recently, within the last couple of months Rosita also joined it in the great Zagat directory in the sky.

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I have to admit that I only liked Rosita, whereas many of my friends appeared to love it. Yes the food was good, and the sherry dry, but service was often chaotic and to me it always seemed slightly busier than it really deserved. It was however easily the best tapas around, but it wasn’t really up against much competition. Anyway that’s a rather long winded way of explaining why when Rosita closed its doors for the last time, my reaction was more of a slightly disappointed shoulder shrug than the gnashing of teeth and wailing that seemed to emanate from a number of my acquaintances.

I was actually more excited to learn of what would be replacing it, the new Battersea branch of Macellaio RC, the upscale Italian steak mini chain. I had dined previously at the Knightsbridge branch and had been so impressed I decided not to review it. Gathering up the Ultimate Rugby Fan (URF,) and my boss who we’ll call the VP, we made our way over to try out this latest incarnation.

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As the restaurant was still in soft launch mode, there was an offer with 50% discount on all food. This meant that as walk ins we were very lucky to get seated, and actually ended up on outside table. The interior though seemed well done, with a butcher counter now at one end of the room (macellaio in Italian apparently means butcher, well so claims the VP who also claims to be of Italian extraction,) with the tables rather more comfortably spaced than was the case with Rosita. This will mean that booking in advance will probably remain sound policy even once the soft launch offers expire.

The table outside was nice, if rather wobbly. My birthday was fast approaching and the VP and the URF seemed to take this, coupled with the age gap between us as licence to act like naughty school children. The menu at macellaio is really rather offal friendly, featuring such delicacies as tripe, heart & liver to frighten those of a less adventurous dining disposition. The URF channelling the  spirit of a 12 year old child, thought that it would be hilarious for me to start with a lovely plate of bulls testicles, which she duly insisted I order. Well the joke was on here, as these items were in fact so popular that they’d actually sold out.

IMG_4266Instead I was presented with plates of both the heart and the liver, neither of which hold much fear for me in the munching stakes. The liver was sweet, juicy and succulent, everything that you dread liver won’t be. I thought it was great. The heart, was in comparison rather bland, the meat was fresh and of good quality but lacking in any seasoning.

The URF & VP were sharing some steak tartare and croquettes. The tartare had sounded beautiful in the description, a regular bloody Mary tasting concoction of beef, Worcester sauce, Tabasco, capers, but tasted under seasoned. The meat was obviously of good quality, but the garnishes rested like a beermat underneath not contributing enough to the overall experience. The croquettes were tasty, but rather dry, not the best I’ve tried.

For drinks I’d chosen a Pinot Nero, which is an Italian synonym for Pinot Noir. It was rather more full bodied than you’d expect from a wine of that varietal and went well both the starters and the main course. The wine list is both extensive and expensive, encouraging you perhaps to experiment but not too wildly. Like most modern restaurants, at this level I’m confident that there isn’t a bad choice on any of the pages.

For the main event the VP went for a chef’s salad with bresaola, which he was more than happy with, saying that bresaola was of excellent quality. The URF had a smaller steak, which she claimed was lady sized and was tasty but again perhaps a bit under-seasoned. Myself I had 500 grams of rib of beef, which was again lovely and fresh tasting and the size of a small car, accompanied by purple broccoli and sauted potatoes.

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Service was a bit clunky, as you’d expect in a soft launch, but enlivened by the obvious interest the manager showed in telling the story of the restaurants, the provenance of the food and talking us through the options with the after dinner drinks. The bill when it came was about £94 which is a good value for 3 people, but would have been about £140 if the 50% offer hadn’t been on which is still reasonable but not great.

I have to say though that I hope that they succeed, the obvious pride that they take in the ingredients, the presentation of the food, the breadth of the wine list means that this represents something more sophisticated than usually found on the lower reaches of the Northcote road. I look forward to returning in a couple of months and seeing how they’ve grown and perhaps having another one of their interesting fizzy ports, I might even claim it’s my birthday once again.

Rob


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