Not having visited Battersea for many years, I was taken aback by how well the area has been renovated. It has gone from dowdy to a dazzlingly artsy complex of shops and restaurants with installations that shine brightly after dark.
It makes total sense that Battersea would be home to the Art’otel and its Italian restaurant Tozi Grande Cafe located on the excitingly named Electric Boulevard right opposite the iconic Grade II Power Station.
Tozi Grand Cafe is a round-shaped room with floor-to-ceiling windows on one side of the circle, with unusually shaped red lighting mobiles hanging down from a very high ceiling throwing a cosy light over the tables. A matching funky backlit red bar and stools look inviting with the promise of great cocktails. It could very well be a room in an art gallery as it has indeed been curated and designed by Spanish artist Jaime Hayon.
There are his bright colourful tapestries that hang along the window area doubling as separations between tables giving a sense of privacy. We found a table in between two lovely tapestries.
We started with several items from the Cicchetti dishes. These are Venetian small plates. We chose the rosemary focaccia, a Burrata – a ball of soft mozzarella on a vegetable stew with basil and a plate of zucchini – a salty, crunch and as appetising as a zucchini should be.
My co-diner ordered breaded deep-fried slices of fennel which turned out to be “surprisingly crunchy”: I am absolutely not a fennel fan myself.
My co-diner wanted steak and chips. Tozi Grand Cafe is, we were told, only the third restaurant in London to serve Porterhouse steak; the cut where the tenderloin and top loin meet. It is supplied by Peter Hannon’s butchery in Ireland.
The Porterhouse cut is for two people. As I fancied fish my co-diner ordered the Sirloin steak (250g). It was a couple of centimetres deep, perfectly soft on the inside and satisfyingly seared on the outside.
The dish was served with a salsa verde but was so delicious, it really didn’t need anything else.
I ordered the whole gilthead sea bream that the menu said came with, lemon, dill and tomato. I’ve always enjoyed this hefty, meaty fish and when it arrived looked fantastic on the plate topped with rocket leaves. Tucking into fish you can imagine my horror when I found it was stuffed with fennel. Whilst the seabream itself was beautifully cooked the fennel for me, was a downer.
This was a shame. and so I am taking this opportunity to appeal to chefs, that when it comes to major ingredients, only include those stated on the menu.
As a side note, I did have a very small bout of food envy. A diner on a nearby table was served elegant ribbons of pappardelle with a wild boar ragout and it was artfully tuned into a mound by the waiter before serving it on the plate.
On the bright side, the confit layered chunky chips were the best chips I have ever tasted and they deserve a special mention. They comprised many layers of sliced potatoes that have been passed through milk, then baked, then pressed into a large chunky chip and then fried. Simply the best. I am going to give these chips the “The Best Chips in London” award.
Dessert was, I guess, a predictable choice of Tiramassu made with a very light mascarpone with a mousse-like texture and came topped with pistachio. And the Gianduomo tart was a very palatable chocolate mouse.
Anywhere with a choice of three Negronis must surely be applauded: Barrel Aged, Olive Oil Negroni and Clarified Negroni each with their own gins. My co-diner had the barrel-aged Negroni which was a class act of fruitiness and smoothness.
I started with a refreshing Torbato with Absolut Elyx vodka, clarified jasmine tea and passion fruit cordial, and white grape and apricot soda with Prosecco. Delicious. The wine list is predominantly Italian and the sirloin was downed with a very smooth red merlot Corvina Cantine Voipi Venetor 2019 and the delicious Sauvignon Delle Venezie le Pianure Fruili 2020 with lively hints of grapefruit accompanied the seabass.
VERDICT: The name “Tozi” is Venetian slang, for a group of friends and certainly the cosy atmosphere works well for such a gathering. Aside from fennel-gate (which after all is a matter of taste), cuisine is well-cooked delicious Italian food with a view of artworks wherever you happen to be sitting. Not to mention those wonderful chips.
More info: Tozi Grand Cafe