The last place I’d normally choose to seek out good food would be a stone’s throw from a major railway station, unless of course the order of the day is a quick bite at one of the big chains.
Anything else on offer is often something of a tourist trap, but I’d forgotten how many independent eateries Wilton Road has, a few minutes’ walk from Victoria railway station.
Tozi is a Venetian-style spot, specialising in small plates or cicchetti as the Italians say, and is perhaps a little smarter than I would have chosen for a family lunch, including a small child entering the terrible twos.
The reason for this is not that my little person wasn’t made to feel very welcome – she most certainly was – but I felt slightly nervous that her over exuberance might affect other diners’ luncheon experience.
As predicted, we didn’t get off to the best start, and before we’d had a chance to glance at the menu, said toddler had cracked a glass, spilt another glass of water and sent the pot of pencils crashing to the floor.
Much to his credit, our waiter took this in his stride, promptly dispatching a new colouring sheet as a distraction technique, which worked for a while.
He also suggested we order little one’s lunch – which we did.
Three dishes per person were recommended. Aware that lunch needed to be a speedy affair, we began with a selection of cured meats (£14.75) – Parma ham and three other kinds of ham, including a rather moreish mortadella, delicately studded with pistachios.
A complimentary basket of home-made bread arrived at the same time – sourdough, wholemeal and multi-seeded flatbread.
There’s nothing simpler and more satisfying than this combination. A hearty ball of burrata thrown in made for a rather sumptuous starter.
My first observation is that these small plates are rather on the large side, affording the diner rather a bang for their buck.
Pan fried halibut – cauliflower puree, wild chicory, salmorigli (£13.75) was not quite a main but no way near a starter – a medium course, if you like.
I was particularly taken with it, given my recent love for this meaty fish.
To my palate, its depth of flavour is unrivalled, but for some it may be on the strong side.
I see the word halibut and I’m sold, every single time.
This flavour was only further enhanced by the sweetness of the puree. For me, this was a knock-out dish.
In Italy, cicchetti is regarded much like tapas, a series of plates to be shared over a few glasses of wine.
Calamari is always a favourite, and Tozi’s version was excellent – fresh fish, coasted in well-seasoned flour and lightly fried. Crisp to the bite but soft inside, a squeeze of lemon the only improvement that could be made.
We asked for the most popular dish of the house and were pointed in the direction of buffalo ricotta ravioli, with black truffle (£9.75), which received a warm welcome at our table.
Not by me, I hasten to add, I find truffle far too overpowering but I know I’m in a minority.
Everything about the dish that would make me steer clear, my husband loved. He cited the buttery sauce as a major plus, along with the decadent scattering of truffle.
Tozi is well staffed. What looked like two kitchens were in operation and heavily manned – and womanned, come to that.
Halfway through lunch, I spotted a wood fired oven in operation and took another sneaky peak at the menu.
I hadn’t noticed the many pizzetta – I expected mini pizza but they weren’t far off actual size.
I went veggie – tomato, mozzarella, courgette and pickled mushroom (£7.25) because I wanted to taste the base more than anything else, and was presented with pure sourdough joy on a plate.
It was definitely worth the late order.
Paloma was a guest of Tozi, 8 Gillingham Street, Pimlico, SW1V 1HJ.
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