Tenore

When I interviewed Francesco Mazzei last summer, he tipped me off about a little-known place he sometimes likes to visit with his wife and daughter. Tucked away in a quiet side street behind the Sainsbury’s in Angel, Tenore is an authentic Sardinian restaurant, with a great little line in wood fired pizzas. Chef Roberto Tonzanu, who worked with Gennaro Contaldo at Passione for many years, has run this little gem in a refurbished Barnsbury pub for the past year.

The decor is all overblown black and white prints, burgundy banquettes, priapic pepper grinders and single roses on the table. It  welcomes you in, in an unpretentious trattoria kind of manner.  Images of the Sardinian flag greet the eye at every turn, and it’s an image I’m eerily fascinated by. It’s basically a St Georges flag with the severed head of a Moor in every quarter. This represents the execution of Moorish kings after the reconquest of the island in the 11th century and was updated 10 years ago. Now the blindfolds on their heads have been replaced with hip hop style bandanas – I have no idea what this represents but it makes me feel ever so slightly uncomfortable.

The other diners were all as you might expect in this part of town.  My friend Matthew (who if you close your eyes sounds exactly like Jack Dee) pointed out that every male diner in the room was sporting an identikit uniform of collared white shirts under navy sweater and all the women were high pitched and well spoken.  Despite the fact that we bucked this trend somewhat (I looked poor and scruffy and he was all suited and booted) the staff were warm and welcoming.

We were given a basket of pane carasau, the national bread of Sardinia, to accompany our glasses of Bovale.  Known in Italian as “carta di musica” this crisp, semolina rich flatbread is the only kind I have ever wanted to eat endless unadorned quantities of. The stuff here was perfect, light and salty with a gentle rosemary perfume. We decided to share a main and a pizza and after much agonising went for a homemade venison agnolini in a butter and sage sauce. This was a great choice and manifested itself in podgy pouches of silken carbs heaving with deer as moist and tender as Bambi’s peepers, all bathed in a plate-lappingly good sauce. That sauce had me rendered into a sort of ambrosial stupor, and I can still taste its deep buttery nectar enriched with the velvet calm of sage. At one point I actually caught myself dipping hunks of pizza crust into it, and inwardly groaning to myself with pleasure while nodding and pretending to listen to Matthew wittering on about some book he’s reading about the ascent of money (Niall Ferguson’s latest, apparently).

The pizza was very good indeed, a nice skinny base, delicious crust and a disciplined hand with the toppings. The chilli and Sardinian sausage were of fantastic quality. I clocked the woman on the table next to us tucking into some gorgeous looking prawns, big, russet beauties covered in a parsley and chilli sauce, and experienced a sudden pinch of decapod envy.  We wrapped up with sevadas,  a large ravioli of “young fresh cheese”, the crisp sun generously spooned with lavender honey –this harboured all of the lush elements (namely sweet salty and deep fried) although I was slightly unsure about the “goaty” edge to the filling. Our bill came to £43 which we both thought was very reasonable.

The menu also featured national favourites like  patata alla bottarge (potato gratin with grey-mullet roe)  sa burrida (marinated rock salmon in white wine vinegar with walnut pesto) and with a bit of notice a whole roast suckling pig, if you’re into that sort of thing. I certainly cannot wait to return and wrap my chops around these treasures and of course, some more of that special sauce.

Tenore Restaurant

14 Barnsbury Road

Islington

London

N1 0HB
Tel: 0207 2786955

info@tenore-restaurant.co.uk

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16 comments

  1. Now you’ve got me wanting to sing “Ten-ore! Whoa-oh! E Cantare! Whoa-oh-oh-oh!”

    The venison agnolini sounds particularly good – I wants it.

  2. Top tip and lovely post. I’ll be sure to check it out.

  3. Have had this place on my list since it opened but have never quite found an excuse to visit! I spent some time visiting a friend in Sardinia in 2008 and loved it. They do a lot of “agriturismo” is Sardinia, which means that farms open up their kitchens for lunch or dinner, which is really lovely. (And a lot of agriturismos let you stay on property–even better.)

  4. I think this might be the ‘secret’ restaurant all the Arsenal crowd go to after matches. Archway/Holloway’s becoming a hotbed of decent Italian, or at least two with 500.

  5. hilary cross

    Great post, all sounds delicious – we three in Hampshire would definitely be up for the suckling pig if ever you feel the call!

    If we all ever end up in Cagliari together I know exactly the restaurant we will go back to, though Ro will have to lead the way as I can’t remember what it’s called, we call it the “fit waiter place” !!

    xxxx

  6. Great description of the pasta – I salivated as I read it.

  7. Wow, mouthwatering and expert prose, as usual! It is all I can do to keep myself here at my desk and not hotfoot it over there right now. Top tip, can’t wait to go.

  8. Ooh what a cheeky little find! That pizza looks a bit good then. Spicy and oily and meaty and…oh I want it.

  9. Have not heard of this place, not that I know Angel at ALL well, but good to know and must try to remember next time am looking for something tasty in that area.
    As always, great review and loving your way with words!

  10. Great find Rej. If it’s good enough for Francesco M…

  11. Great review Reji I must try Tenore as Francesco has mentioned it many times as well as Lello :-)

    I used to go to Olivio and then Sardo for good Spaghetti a la Bottarga and other Sardinain specialities but they both seemed to decline withing 18 months of opening.

  12. gastrogeek

    MiMi – thanks, it was delectable :)
    Niamh – thank you!
    Krista- i really want to go to Sardinia, love the idea of that agriturismo
    Anthony -that sounds horrendous, I hope I never see them in there.
    Hilary – ooh yes please! I’d love to go to Cagliari with you, and anywhere called “the fit waiter place” sounds good to me ;) xxxx
    Lizzie – thanks!
    BSG- you are very kind, thanks!
    Helen – it really was, I want it again just thinking about it….
    Kavey – why thank you, that’s a lovely thing to say!
    Katy – ha! yes, we should definitely go.
    Dino – I hope you like it as much as I did.I didn’t realise that Lello liked it too, then yes you definitely must!! :) Shame about Olivio and Sardo – it’s so annoying when that happens.

  13. Hi Rej, been wanting to go to this place for quite a while, just need to buy a white collared shirt and navy sweater, after all I am a local… or maybe I should do a Rachel Reichl and go as a Japanese tourist?

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  14. Franca

    Hello,this is a great find!The problem with sardinian restaurants is that they only have a couple of sardinian dishes on the menu.Alas Tenore is no exception,although i was especially impressed with the appearance of burrida,the classic dish of my home town,Cagliari.
    Speaking of Cagliari,if any of you ends up there,i have to recommend Cremeria Ritz in via Sassari,the best ice cream parlour i know in Italy.Finally,Hilary,any chance of more info about the restaurant with the fit waiter?Area?Food?
    Franca’

  15. Tom

    Ah hah – so this is the place you mentioned. Jotted down and looking fwd to trying it now.

  16. gastrogeek

    it is indeedy, well worth checking out for that pasta dish alone…

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