It turns out Maremma travels well. Very well. Thanks to chef, Alice Staple, and her partner Dickie Bielenberg, this small, unsung region in Southern Tuscany is having a moment. A stone’s throw from Effra Road, Maremma the restaurant has just opened in Brixton and we’re hooked.
Maremma hugs its corner spot, painted a no-nonsense shade of green – a proud nod to the pine and juniper palette of its namesake. The green and softly industrial style continues inside: burnished brass pendant lights, distressed, exposed plaster, open shelving; the kitchen/dining area is presided over by a large black and white boar. It’s a small, snug and very friendly space.
If you want to feel the heat of the kitchen – quite literally (and it wasn’t warm out) – opt for chef’s table, a quartz-topped bar bordering the cooking area. Otherwise, small oak tables – a wood native to Maremma – dot the room, each with its own bottle of award-winning Maremma olive oil. Gratifyingly, almost everything here is either sourced directly from, or in homage to, the Maremma region.
Dinner was bookended elegantly with a notable Rosemary Old Fashioned – a fresh, rosemary- infused gin cocktail – and an exceptional gelato of neatly layered pear sorbet and ice cream, flecked with delicate shards of salty parmesan. The menu offers many well-loved Tuscan classics, including grilled octopus on velvety fava bean puree, charcuterie, squid ink risotto, tagliata – all excellently turned out. It’s the ingredients that really sing here: the buffalo mozzarella has distinctive density and cheesiness, simply adorned with a primavera of peas, asparagus and broad beans. The wild bear ragu – cooked overnight – packed a bold fennel punch and the wood-baked hake with clams and samphire united under a glossy blanket of perfectly balanced aioli.
The star of the Dolci was the aforementioned gelato, although the Grappa panna cotta with strawberries came a close second. Dessert wines, coffee and Liquori – Grappa and Limoncino – provide the last hurrah.
As with almost every item on the menu, the wine list is committed to provenance. The majority of the whites, roses and reds on offer are sourced directly from small Maremma winemakers – prices are low and the choice wide – and are all available by the glass. The Elban blend, Alicante Rosso Delle Ripalte, deserves the whole bottle.
Brixton offers some of London’s most exciting and eclectic food scenes. It has a new star.