Is it just me or are some restaurant names getting more and more obscure? Sometimes I tell a certain someone the name of our dining destination and get a fleeting look of puzzlement followed by a shrug in return; he knows to just go with the flow by now. Friends, family, and colleagues however, seem to dwell a little longer. Superstar BBQ raised questions about whether the gimmick involved chefs who were also DJs, Tootoomoo caused a giggle or two, and The Pony and Trap led to a long discussion about Cockney slang – I can assure you that the restaurant itself is far from crap! You can probably imagine the queries when I mentioned we were going to The Other Naughty Piglet…
No, it isn’t a restaurant just for pork enthusiasts (though we don’t object to that kind of thing), and yes, there is an ‘original’ naughty piglet to this ‘other’. The first of the Naughty Piglets is in Brixton, and has been somewhere we’ve been eager to visit for some time; regular readers will have realised by now that we have a penchant for seasonal small plates, and this is what they specialise in. That, and good wine, both in a casual kind of manner; all music to my ears and stomach.
The Other Naughty Piglet is in The Other Place, the rather swish, recently relaunched theatre in Victoria. While we’re talking about Victoria, when did it suddenly become a restaurant hotspot? The whole area seems to have had a relaunch with shiny new places to splash your cash everywhere, though I think this one might be the least cookie-cutter of them all. The dramatic marble staircase leading up to the dining room did everything to raise my expectations with each step; it was such a relief to find they were easily met by the food.
An elegant pile of Devon crab, white cabbage, and peanuts was a valiant introduction of the kitchen’s intentions; simplicity and flavour are definitely the focus here. On sight, the delicate crab looked lost amongst the shreds of cabbage and sprinkling of crushed nuts, but its sweetness was unmistakable in taste. I’ve still never met a beef tartare I didn’t like, though I thought this rendition of raw beef fillet with spring greens and tarragon could have done with a little more zing. The crispy fried greens added a welcomed touch of texture to the dish, but I still prefer my raw beef to come with all the usual tartare condiments. That said, the beef itself was uniformly chopped and simply divine.
I like to take credit for introducing a certain someone to many (weird and) wonderful foods, but I must thank him in return for the introduction to black pudding. Not sure how or why it took us so long to meet, but I was smitten at first taste and since then have enjoyed it in a number of interesting pairings. The boudin noir with cuttlefish and capers was another exceptionally enjoyable combination; similar to the scallop and black pudding double act, the contrast of sweetness and earthiness worked well. I find that boudin noir is often softer and more oily than other black puddings, and when cut through almost became a creamy paste which enveloped the pert pieces of cuttlefish.
Then we came to the business end of the succinct menu; beef rump with roasted bone marrow and madeira, and BBQ pork belly with sesame and Korean spices. We agreed that both were immaculately executed but the beef just lacked a certain pizzazz when compared to the pork belly. Sure, a perfectly pink piece of rump is always going to make it a tight race but even the unctuous marrow couldn’t get it to pip the melt in the mouth pork. The cabbage on top added a bit of lightness, but it was the dollop of gochujang (Korean fermented chilli paste) that brought the whole dish to life and sealed the deal.
To finish, I twisted a certain someone’s arm and convinced him that we just had to share the chocolate mousse with blood orange and almonds. We may have regretted the extremely decadent mousse after the already rather filling dishes which came before it, but the blood orange sorbet salvaged everything, us included, from going over the edge. It was sharp and zesty, but just sweet enough so I didn’t have to scrunch up my face from the sourness; the perfect last mouthful from a very satisfying meal.
The Other Naughty Piglet was a fine example of that old adage to KISS; just ‘keep it simple, stupid’ and all will be well. Each of the dishes had only a handful of ingredients but were so carefully conceived, all the elements shone individually yet still worked harmoniously together. If you haven’t yet ventured to the revamped Victoria, this would be the perfect excuse to, but if you’re further south of the river, the original piggy is undoubtedly a good bet too. Judging by this performance, I can only presume that its older, more established sister is even better? Well, I am a first born, so of course I would say that!
Have you been to either this Naughty Piglet or the other? Or have you ventured to any of the new Victoria restaurants – where’s good?