Tinello is the first venture of brothers who have worked in two of London’s top Italian restaurants. Frederico Sali (ex Locatelli) is the head chef and his brother Max (who previously was at Zafferano, and later at Locatelli) runs the front of house. There is still a financial link back to Locatelli, which has part ownership. The restaurant is on the site of the old l’Incontro in Pimlico, and has wooden floors, exposed brick on one wall and mirrors on the other. The result is a quite noisy atmosphere, and even just two weeks after opening the dining room was full. The dining room seats about 45 diners, and there will be private dining in the basement in due course.
The wine list naturally enough majors on Italy, but there are plenty of French wines too. Mark-ups are refreshingly kind for central London. Cantine Settesoli Arpeggio Bianco was just £13.00 for a wine that costs nearly that retail, my favourite Jermann Vintage Tunin 2007 was £50.50 for a wine that will set you back around £28 in the shops, while the lovely Antinori Tignenllo 2006 was just £77 for a wine that costs £44 to buy. If the prices stay at this level then the restaurant will attract people for the wine alone. The menu reflects the Tuscan origins of the chef, with fairly simple dishes (“Tinello” means the dining area of a family kitchen). Starters were £6.50 - £7.50, supplemented by “small eats”, pasta dishes £7.80 - £11, main courses £15 - £19.50 and vegetables extra at £3. Bread was a choice of white and brown slices, actually supplied from Locatelli, though I have to say they have not selected the best breads in my view (3/10).
A salad of goat cheese, honey and walnuts had good quality leaves and cheese, and the dressing worked fine with the walnuts providing a welcome texture contrast to the rich goat cheese, though a little acidity would also have been beneficial. This was fine, though the salad was very small in portion size (3/10). Swiss chard and ricotta ravioli featured good pasta, but the butter and sage sauce was odd, as the pasta essentially rested in a pool of a sauce that was essentally melted butter, with sage leaves as the only distraction from the richness. If the pasta had been served on its own it would have been fine, but the butter overwhelmed the dish, while more seasoning was also needed (2/10 is kind given the problematic sauce).
Prawn risotto was simply not good. The rice was too hard, not having properly absorbed the stock, and the tiny prawns were a little crunchy; the overall effect was watery and not that pleasant (0/10). Much better was brill with onion, borlotti beans and clams; the fish was correctly cooked, the beans tender (4/10). On the side, roast potatoes were competent (3/10). For dessert, my apple cake with rum and raisin ice cream suffered from dried out apple cake, though the ice cream was quite good (1/10). Vastly better was a genuinely good tiramisu, with excellent coffee flavour and smooth texture (5/10).
Service was attentive, with careful topping up of drinks. The bill was just over £50 a head before service. I found this a frustrating meal. Certain dishes (the brill and especially the tiramisu) suggested talent in the kitchen, yet the risotto was a disaster and the apple cake was also poor. The wine list is terrific in terms of its mark-up level, which is a plus, but the kitchen needs to learn to deliver a much greater level of consistency. Sorry about the murky pictures, which are a function of the equally murky lightring.