Italy is one of my favourite countries in the world and holds a lot of special memories for me. I spent my 21st birthday in Rome, thanks to an incredible surprise birthday present from my parents. Florence is where Tim got down on one knee and popped the question! And we’ve had incredible holidays along the Amalfi Coast (Sorrento, Amalfi and Positano). Venice, Lake Garda and Tuscany are still on list. But after last week, I’ve had to add another place to that list – Puglia.
I was invited to dinner at Pulia Restaurant just around the corner from Borough Market, with the lovely people at Zomato. As soon as I walked through the door, I knew it was going to be an excellent evening. Pulia is designed to be as authentically Italian as possible – the decor was just beautiful, with white wood, airy open spaces and shelves brimming with Italian produce.
Their furniture is imported from Puglia (a shame, as I had my eye on a gorgeous kitchen worktop/island and had hoped it had been sourced locally!) and all of the products they sell are from local businesses in Puglia which are imported and branded in Pulia’s own style. In the window stood a red flower called a Pumo, which is a symbol of good luck in Puglia, and has been discreetly incorporated into the restaurant’s own product branding and design.
I was soon introduced to the couple running the restaurant, Georges and Sarah. Georges is originally from Lebanon and Sarah is originally from Athens (so we immediately hit it off, sharing Greek/Cypriot stories!) So you might wonder why they decided to set up an Italian restaurant in London, and how they managed to make it authentic. Quite simply, they have a passion for the Italian region and saw an opportunity to bring fresh Italian ingredients to the area, producing delicious food while keeping things fairly simple. As we ate, their love for the food and culture was very apparent as they discussed what we were being served and the stories behind the dishes.
And oh, the food. Where do I begin on the food? It was some of the most flavoursome Italian food I’ve ever eaten, beating some of the food I’ve actually eaten IN Italy! The chefs are Italian and clearly know their stuff – there’s very much an Italian ‘family feel’ to this restaurant.
We started with taralli (a bit of a cross between a bread stick and a pretzel) served with a number of dips, including aubergine and black olive.
This was served with a number of divine hams and a wonderful collection of cheeses, including whole burrata, the inside of the burrata (mozzarella and cream), and my personal favourite, nodini – cheese tied into a ‘knot’ shape with quite a salty flavour. Another highlight had to be the scamorza – smoked cheese served baked, all gooey and delicious. Perfect for dunking – if I’d been by myself, I would definitely have taken a bread roll to it 😉
We were also treated to various pizza-style dishes, including a few different kinds of panzerotto, before moving on to the pasta course (as if we hadn’t had enough food by this point!)
We were given a quick lesson in how to make orecchiette semola pasta by the chef. It involves smoothing out each piece of pasta with the back of a spoon, holding it in place and curling it around, before popping it inside out with your finger. The chef made it look incredibly easy and was flying through them – us lowly food bloggers unfortunately struggled a lot more, although it was quite reassuring to see that even Sarah and Georges found it as difficult as we did. It clearly takes practice!
We got to tuck into some capunti pasta with a simple but lovely tomato sauce – it was the first time I’d tried this pasta and I really enjoyed it. It was quite al dente but it worked, with a very unusual texture – a harder edge and slightly softer inside.
Just when I thought I was going to explode, out came the desserts! We were treated to a number of cakes with different fillings and when Georges recommended I try mandarin-infused olive oil with one of them, I was intrigued. But my goodness, it worked! I’m now trying to think of other things I can manage to dip into that beautiful oil!
And I haven’t even got around to the wine yet, which was the best I’ve had in a long time, full stop! The white wine (Bombino) was dry yet slightly sparkling. For me it was just perfect – I like my white wine to be dry, but I can’t take too many bubbles (much to the annoyance of my friends who can live on Prosecco and champagne!) The red (Nero Di Troia) was stunning with the exact depth of flavours I love in a good red. I can’t wait to go back there and stock up on a few bottles!
I’ve since been on Pulia’s website and have seen that they also have restaurants in New York, Florence, Milan and Turin. So if you’re ever in any of those places (or London, of course!), I would highly recommend a visit. You can find out more on their website here.
A big thanks to Zomato and to all of the other lovely bloggers who attended – you were great company! You can find their blogs here:
If you haven’t heard of Zomato, you can visit the site here. In summary, it’s an awesome restaurant discovery guide whose focus is building a community of people who love food. With 24,500 restaurants, it’s a fab way of finding everything from your local kebab shop to booking Michelin-star establishments. And you can leave reviews to help spread the word about good (and bad!) places you’ve eaten. Fellow food bloggers, if you haven’t signed up yet, give it a go!
I was invited to Pulia Restaurant by Zomato UK but did not receive any payment. All views are my own.