Tuscany, we know. The Maremma, no longer so much. Most reactions to the name are at a loss for words.
Even many of individuals who know the coronary heart of Tuscany well enough do no longer realize its coastal, southernmost area, “Maremma” meaning an area of low marshy land near the ocean. This region remained malarial until an eradication program after the conflict (it did for Caravaggio, who died in Porto Ercole). Yet the Maremma, each its idyllic coastland and wild hinterland, has ended up more and more elegant lately, especially with weekending Romans. Just a couple of years ago, Emiko Davies published the first smooth English-language manual to its delicacies, Acquacotta: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany’s Secret Silver Coast.
Maremma, a labor of love devoted to the location’s food and wine, is the creation of Brixton’s Dickie Bielenberg, who has a second domestic in Campiglia Marittima, with an accomplice, co-founder and executive chef Alice Staple, and head chef Dominique Goltinger. They aren’t even Italian, then — but we’ve surpassed beyond the idea that only natives can claim authenticity, haven’t we? At least in cooking. The determination to it here is impeccable.
Maremma, close to Naughty Piglets, the natural wine-and-small plates pioneer at 28 Brixton Water Lane, is on the web site of what become the Montego Inn, a “Caribbean & English eating place” with a wine bar underneath, whose proprietor, Bruce, ran it in ramshackle style, starting up handiest while he felt find it irresistible and inventing fees on a whim.
The conversion of this corner site is welcoming, mild and open to the street, with easy wood tables and chairs, coppery pendant lamps and a metallically distressed wall ruled by using a big print of a wild boar — the logo of the Maremma, overrun via them due to the fact ancient times. The room is focused around a light marine-painted bar, with all of the cooking going in the back of it, someway, even though there seems to be hardly ever sufficient area to deliver even this brief, carefully taken into consideration menu.
On Saturday lunchtime Maremma become still on smooth opening, with the meals half-price and the wine bar place beneath now not quite finished, but the cooking became already polished.
From the antipasti, we idea we needed to attempt the “acquacotta Maremmana with poached bird egg” (£7) because that is the enduring dish of the region. Yet it is also a lot peasant fare that it’s miles slightly a restaurant dish in any respect, consisting of no extra than diced vegetables lightly stewed in water and olive oil, topped with an egg.
In The Classic Food of Northern Italy, Anna del Conte writes poignantly approximately this “Cinderella of all soups” earlier than finding out not to include a recipe for it “because, greater than some other soup, it needs greens grown in earthy soil and ripened by the solar” and no longer the light imitations of them we’ve. She thinks “an acquacotta made in Britain could taste just like its name implies: ‘cooked water’”. Jamie Oliver, on the other hand, starts up his acquacotta with dried porcini, squash, and vegetables and says “yum”.
At Maremma, the acquacotta is as easy because it is meant to be, albeit peppery, with an impressively orange-yolked egg, served in the correct earthenware bowl — perfectly first-class and maintaining, in particular with the good bread and Fonte di Foiano olive oil brought to the desk, but rarely a large hit of flavour.
A tentacle of chargrilled polpo with a fava bean purée and parsley oil and a scattering of cress (£12) was really yum, although, just the proper mix of textures and tastes.
Far from a boar: The indoors of Maremma (Matt Writtle)
From the prime, we deftly didn’t order the cheese and ricotta filled Tortelli Maremmani, kicking ourselves when we note, send them — but the pappardelle with wild boar ragu (£10) made up for it, extensive ribbons of amazing eggy pasta with a richly savory long-simmered sauce, rendered tender without turning dry or stringy, which vegetarian Catherine appeared to get pleasure from simply as a lot as I did.