Last month, #teamcoco food writer Hannah Gregory visited Osteria by Searcys, a modern Italian restaurant perched on the second floor of the Barbican, offering views over the iconic lakeside. The menu specialises in bold, ingredient-focused Italian cooking in a true bistronomy style. We decided to share starters because the thought of only having one each was just incomprehensible. Truth be told, I could have ordered every single starter on the menu, but trying to show some sort of restraint – it is a classy establishment after all – we landed on the Burrata Pugliese (because who says no to burrata?) served with pumpkin, Treviso and balsamic pearls and baked figs served with lardo, frisee and robiola cheese. Both dishes served their purpose – an instant transportation to Italy. The burrata was just as it should be, creamy, oozy, luxurious, paired perfectly with the autumnal pumpkin, bitter T reviso leaves (which usually I am not a fan of but in this situ, they just sang) and the sharp pop of the balsamic pearls. I could have licked the plate. The figs were jammy, draped in lardo, stuffed with cheese, creating the most decadent mouthful with welcome lightness from the frisee. If the starters were anything to go by, we were in for a treat when it came to the mains. I went for the pan fried chalk stream trout with potato rosti, courgette, mussels and a fennel cream. It was exceptional – so much so that I am still dreaming of it a month later and furiously trying to recreate it in my own kitchen but never quite hitting the mark. The trout was perfectly cooked, flaking with crispy skin, plump mussels, ribbons of courgette and rich, buttery potato rosti perfect for mopping up the creamiest, velvetiest sauce spiked with fennel and aniseed. My friend chose the pappardelle pasta with braised venison and hazelnuts. She’s a purist, she couldn’t quite get her head around going to an italian restaurant and not ordering handmade pasta. She was right in her decision. On a cold, wet and windy November afternoon you could not have asked for more from a dish. The depth of flavour that I am pretty sure can only be achieved by a Nonna out back stirring a huge pot with love for the best part of a day. Venison that melted in the mouth, a rich sauce that clung to the pasta in a loving embrace and finished with a generous grating of fresh pecorino – this dish was perfection.
Needless to say, we were stuffed and couldn’t quite manage dessert. However, we thought it would be rude not to at least stop at the Negroni bar on the way out. That’s right, you heard, a dedicated Negroni bar serving up ten versions of the iconic cocktail. Our only complaint… we couldn’t quite make our way through all ten of them before closing time. Osteria, you were beautiful. I will most certainly be back.