Tartufo: disappointing truffle tasting menu

Menu lacked excitement, dishes lacked finesse, service lacked professionalism. Winter Truffle Tasting Menu meant shavings of truffle all over every single dish. A rather disappointing experience.

Tartufo is a relatively new restaurant, backed by Alexis Gauthier who won a Michelin star at Roussillon in Pimlico (now closed). If you are on their mailing list, you will know that they have been doing a 2-for-1 offer once a year for their tasting menu. Having had a good tasting menu at Gauthier Soho once, I had high hopes when I received the email from them this year offering 2-for-1 on Tartufo’s Truffle Tasting Menu, normally priced at £65 a head.

Cramped in the basement of a well hidden unpretentious hotel on a small quiet street round the corner from Sloane Square was Tartufo. The restaurant was small with perhaps no more than 30 seatings. There was something claustrophobic about the settings. The interior designed obviously had the same worry and ended up installing large reflective mirrors here there and everywhere. Nice effort, though not sure if it worked.

We had high expectation from Tartufo. The word “Tartufo” means “Truffle” in Italian. A restaurant named Truffle, serving a Truffle tasting menu, backed by the man whose signature dish is Truffle Risotto. Oh boy, my expectations were high.

But – were my high expectations setting me up for epic disappointment? Hmm… Perhaps.

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The amuse bouche was truly unmemorable. The bread were decent, especially their Pane Carasau (Sardinian flat bread that is thin and crispy) has really impressed my Sardinian friend. Then comes the core truffle dishes.

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Prawns were over cooked (dead 50 times over and over again), with slices of winter truffle scattered on top. The components had no relationship with each other – it was like a piece of seafood flapping on the cold winter forest floor next to a bunch of mushrooms with a blob of exotic passion fruit from the summer waving hello.

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The winter truffle tortellini was perhaps the best dish out of all (a hint of Alexis Gauthier here). There was a strong sense of winter truffle oil, creamy mascarpone, smooth, thin perfect pasta, finished with more of the same winter truffle shaves.

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A very comforting and well executed dish. Trout was well cooked, but the star of the dish were the sides. Confit tomato was delicate and soft, the acid from the tomato cuts through trout and I could easily do with another 2/3 slices of them. The earthiness of the purple artichokes paired with the chanterelle mushroom, perfect for a winter dish. No recollection of any truffle flavour, apart from the fact that I see yet more winter truffle shavings on top of the fish.

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Oh dear. More truffle shavings. Wait. What was this dish meant to be? I don’t even see what meat I have on my plate. I have to admit, I don’t remember anything from this dish. Hm.

When do these winter truffle shavings end? Has a truffle dish gotta have tonnes of truffle shavings on top? Could we do something with truffle that is more exciting or unconventional? I started to wonder if we would be getting truffle shavings on the cheese and the dessert (it would actually be very interesting to see how that could or might work!)

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Hurray. Truffle shavings continued. Cut back to one slice.

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Boom. No truffle on dessert.

I liked it though. This dessert is almost identical to the one we had in Gauthier Soho, except this is less pretty. Perhaps I’m just being picky here, but look at that lopsided top. I feel the pain on the chocolate slice. Chocolate work is decent, top was shiny. Never quite understand the purpose of gold plated food but I’m not complaining. Praline is intensely yummy and the lemon ice was smooth and well made.

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Petit fours

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Then came what really bothered me. They started cleaning up. They started knocking plates and glasses. They started striping down their tables. Poor tables they all looked so naked in front of the customers.

Then they disappeared. So far away that I stood up to serve myself water from the jug from the serving table and nobody noticed.

Did I also forget to mention that most dishes were not explained when delivered to the table, and on numerous occasions, our waiter tried to deliver a dish by stretching over 2 people’s faces?

All in all, it was a disappointing experience. The menu felt like any ordinary menu, with every dish topped with truffle shavings. Service was unnoticeable, with the exception of the sommelier who was attentive.

Damage to pocket: £50 per head including wine (£32.50 per head with the 2-for-1 tasting menu)
Number of accumulated visits: 1
Date of visit: Feb 2014
Will we return? I’m afraid not

Tartufo on Urbanspoon

The menu:
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