"Tuscan wine bar is right at home in well-to-do Primrose Hill"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
Primrose Hill locals refer to Regent’s Park Road as their high street, but you won’t find a Tesco here, or even a Waitrose. Instead there is a deli where food is x4 more expensive than anywhere else, a fur shop and a boutique with chairs and tables outside, presumably so you can think about your expenditure. It’s also home to upmarket restaurants Odette’s and Lemonia, and a Tuscan wine bar and shop called Negozio Classica that’s owned by a winery (there’s a branch in Notting Hill
The winery in question is family-run Avignonesi. Their specialty are Montepulciano wines made from the sangiovese grape grown in their vineyards in Tuscany – not to be confused with the better known Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, made with the Montepulciano grape from central Italy.
But back on chic north London soil (pun intended), we’re here for dinner, as there is a fully fledged restaurant on two floors. Meat and cheese are the focus of the menu, which has clearly been designed to go with the wines on offer rather than the other way round.
A dish of culatello and Parmesan has sizeable rashers of the prized Parma ham, which is aged for longer than other varieties. Large chunks of salty, nutty Parmesan pair exceptionally well with plump grapes drizzled in honey and a heap of peppery rocket. Fine ingredients like these come at a price of course, and the platter is £14.60.
The tonno del Chianti is not tuna at all but lean pork shredded and cooked in olive oil (rather than Chianti) to look like tuna. This tasty, light version of the red meat is served on a bed of cannelloni beans and tomato. The Parmesan basket with red cabbage and gorgonzola fondue sounds very clever: the basket is literally just that, a cheesy crisp that cradles a heap of cabbage drizzled in cold blue cheese sauce, with some thick slices of gorgonzola placed over the top for good measure; on the side they’ve added a couple of grilled artichoke hearts that suffer from having a slightly bitter aftertaste. Sadly the whole thing doesn’t quite come together.
But the wine is tremendous. There is smooth prosecco for starters, an oaked Chardonnay called Marzocco paired with the first course, and the fruity red Etna Rosso, which as the name suggests is made from grapes grown on the volcanic soil of Mount Etna. With the mains we drink the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2010, a bold and oaky wine we like very much, but nothing prepares us for the intensity of the Vin Santo, which is like drinking flambéed molasses. It’s priced at almost a tenner for a tiny serving but trust us, you won’t need any more. Such a fierce dessert wine might not complement most sweet courses, however it’s a perfect match for the baked ricotta cheesecake we’ve ordered, as it’s rich without being overly sweet.
Diners seem to be well acquainted with the place; some ask for their regular tables, some eat full meals and others just pop in for wine or coffee. Negozio Classica is right at home among its well-to-do neighbours.
Leila reviewed Negozio Classica on Tue 19 Mar 2013