Since I moved back from Italy, there’s been a rather noticeable, food-related hole in my day-to-day. I miss the fresh fish, I miss aperitivo (and apericena), I miss the simplicity of Italian home-cooked food.
Veneta wasn’t all of those things, but it certainly helped to fill a gap.
I would always choose to have a taste of everything rather than one, very full plate to myself. And I think more and more people are beginning to have their heads turned by eating in this way, with sharing plates, and a tapas-style of dining, regardless of cuisine.
On paper, it might not appeal to all. A character that is distinctly of the Salt Yard Group, Veneta offers a mix of charcuterie, small plates, a wine list fully stocked with Spanish and Italian wines, and a conviviality that blends both nations. A similar concept to previous Salt Yard restaurants, but not without some of its own unique flourishes.
When we dined at Veneta, it has only been open 5 weeks. The name is a nod to the strong influences of Venetian cuisine, with fish and seafood being the main attractions on the menu. This, however, transplants off of the page and onto the fish scale tiles that line the bar, the marine blue sofas, and the shimmered glass that stands on the back of the leather benches, an almost-powdered texture that seems to roll over itself – I can’t quite decide if it resembles tumbling sand or rolling waves.
The mezzanine floor made me strangely feel as though I was below deck in an old ship. I’m not sure if it is intended in the design but the low, timber ceiling over the bar and the glass tulip lampshades hanging down.. it wasn’t claustrophobic, it was like the very classy, very distinguished (but cramped) quarters of a ship. All the way down (or up?) to the driftwood hanging from the ceiling beams.
Does the thick brass beam remind you of a handrail? Something we’d be sure to find an board the old Titanic, remnant of a grand stairwell graced by the feet of the ladies and the sweeping petticoats under their evening dresses. Maybe I’m romanticising a little…
In a place that makes you feel so wholly underwater, inspired by the most famous city on the sea, we hastened to order from the raw menu. Our choices included the Red Tuna, Cumin and Apple Vinegar (£7.50) – so good we had it twice – and Gambero Rosso with Lemon and Rosemary (£12).
We also went for the scallops which, though delicious, disappeared rather quickly as there were only two of them – not so ideal for a sharing plate. I’m not too big on mackerel, but the Cornish Mackerel cooked in Laurel with Grapes, Samphire and Riesling Vinegar (£8.50) went down quite well.
Italian isn’t Italian without pasta, so naturally we went for a broad selection.
The Kid Goat Ragu with Fresh Pappardelle (£8) was my choice. I love wide-ribboned pasta – it was one of the first dishes I ate with my au pair mum when I moved out to live with the family, and it always reminds me of those early days by Lake Maggiore in June.
Back in the day, before dairy-free life, burrata was no joke. I made sure my family tried the Burrata and Sheep’s Ricotta Ravioli, with Porcini Sauce, Mushrooms and Hazelnuts (£8) – and the porcini sauce alone was more than satisfying.