Eating at the House of Peroni is a singular experience. The venue itself is a surprise, for starters. The last time that I was in the Boiler House on Brick Lane in London, it was full of 9ft-high conifer trees and 3in of snow. The trees were real, though the snow was not, and both were here in service of Rekorderlig cider, who was throwing a do to encourage us all to drink hot cider. So I still had the inexorable smell of pine needles in my nose as I passed the bouncers this time and was met by a smiling man with a clipboard on the door who, if memory serves, used to work as a host at the Chiltern Firehouse.
"Are you here for the dinner?" he asked, all smiley. I said that I was, and we went upstairs to an elegant, long wooden table, covered by a large, temporary cupola around which were as many white, blue and red lights as I have ever seen, save for at a funfair.
Surprises began to arrive with the approximate frequency of drinks at a Catholic wake. Leaning over the vast table, so as to hear my friend over the sound of the band warbling below, I noticed that the table was not all that it seemed. Down its centre was a strip of glass, below which the chefs were working away. We were looking down on their heads as they plated up our dinners and the dinners of the people eating downstairs, in the Sicilian street-food café below.
It was the sort of arrangement I would like to see copied more often. The open kitchen you often see in modish restaurants is all very well, but after approximately four minutes it is hard not to feel oppressed by the chefs who are clearly repressing their own desire to shout at each other about that imprecisely cooked bit of a gammon.
This is a much more civilised arrangement: they can't see you unless they lie on the kitchen floor, and you don't have to see them unless you make the effort to crane your neck forward.
A friendly waitress then brought the drinks menu. While I am a fan of Peroni, I did wonder if it's presence in every single drink might have been a little much. I ordered a Negroni first. It was a surprise. The beer worked. Rather than being a dagger to the heart of the lovely, bitter Negroni, it seemed to work in concert with the other components – gin, vermouth, Campari – and also, handily, diluted it, meaning I could drink three without keeling over or bursting into song.
Of the many surprises, perhaps the greatest was the menu. It cost £55.95 and took in six courses, though unlike most tasting menus, it was themed around a day spent in an Italian piazza.
It presented some challenges, theming it around a day beginning at 6am and running through until 10pm. But they pulled it off, starting with bread and paté at 6am, then a tuna tartare bun of which even the bun was made of tuna, at 10am. On to the warm macco cheese with octopus for a 3pm snack, followed by a 5pm-er of Mezzemaniche pasta in a pecorino, mint, tomato sauce, and an 8pm dinner of medium-cooked pork fillet in hazelnut. The dessert came out in a boiled egg that had been denuded of its centre, filled with set almond milk and injected with a passion-fruit centre.
I am not sure how much the evening mirrored the dolce vita life of the Italian piazza, but I left full, amused and an expert in the many uses of the Peroni Azzurro.Reuse content