Blackfriars’ Crowne Plaza has been in a constant state of flux these past few years. A cosy new champagne bar opened in its basement last year; the reception area has had a complete makeover; there are plans to sell rums and whiskies in the lobby; a new Italian restaurant named Diciannove replaced Giorgio Locatelli’s Refettorio in September, and last month, the restaurant opened its own deli.
Deli Nineteen at Diciannove – the word also means ‘nineteen’ in Italian, so it's really emphasising the street number here – is squarely aimed at local office workers. Open only Monday to Friday, 11.30am to 3pm, the venue provides an alternative to lunchtime sandwiches, and is a handy place to shop for ingredients if you’re cooking Italian in the evening, too. It’s a tiny (yet somehow roomy) space located to the left of the restaurant, with its own separate entrance and a couple of tables.
The deli’s USP is ‘doughzettes’: pizza-dough pastry parcels that look like square pasties, filled with assorted pizza ingredients. Choose from the tasty and filling Milanese (gorgonzola, tomato and rosemary), Tuscan (black and green olives, ricotta, tomatoes and anchovies), or Sicilian (‘nduja, mixed herbs and mozzarella). Costing £2.50 each or £4 for two, they’re heated in a small, special counter-top oven for five minutes, then wrapped in waxed paper to takeaway. The doughzettes were invented by the restaurant’s executive chef Alessandro Bay for customers’ lunch earlier this year – and they were such a hit that they’re now a permanent feature on the deli menu. Bay, who hails from Genoa in north-west Italy, was also the chef at Refettorio, and currently oversees the hotel’s main kitchen.
Additionally, there are freshly cooked pastas from the restaurant’s own kitchen, ready in 6-7 minutes, available to takeaway. We liked the robust flavour of pappardelle ai porcini (pasta ribbons with mushrooms, garlic, chives and parsley); but there are a number of other options too, including gluten-free. A small portion will set you back £6, and it’s £7.50 for large. Well, it’s not every day that you have your lunch cooked by an Italian chef. The salad choice changes weekly – gorgonzola, bresaola and spinach (£6) on our visit – and there’s also alcohol-free tiramisu (£3). The daily lunch-to-go menu is listed on the website; and you can phone or email your order in advance.
There’s a changing selection of cheeses and salumi, too, including mozzarella, gorgonzola, parmesan and smoked ricotta; plus pancetta, ‘nduja, and lardo di colonnata (cured pig fat). We sampled a platter of wonderfully fresh and squidgy burrata sprinkled with a little pepper and olive oil, aged pecorino drizzled with honey, young primo sale with black pepper, ubriaco aged in red wine, some bright green castelvetrano olives and delicious marinated artichokes. Breads baked daily for the restaurant, such as crusty cornmeal, ciabatta, brown and gluten-free are also available in the deli. Fresh, crumbly own-made amaretti costs a mere £1 for three.
There’s more good news if you’re avoiding or cutting down on gluten: there’s gluten-free and low-gluten dried pasta, too, made from chestnut flour and kamut. These sit alongside a wide selection of regular pastas, plus other artisanal and commercial products from all over Italy. You'll also find olive oils, vinegars, arborio rice, polenta, anchovy paste, bruschetta toppings and ragu sauces. These share shelf space with jars of antipasti mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, marinated grilled peppers, artichokes, black olive sauce and a variety of olives, such as the prized taggiasca. There’s a range of pesto too – we’re told the Punto Verde brand (£4.50) is pretty special. Luxury items such as truffles and caviar can also be found.
The deli also has a license to sell wines from the restaurant, so you’ll find the likes of Morgassi Superiore Gavi di Gavi, and Fratelli Barba Colle Morino Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Additionally, try the popular Italian brands of canned sodas and soft drinks. Nicoló Casiraghi, who’s in charge of the deli and takeaway, says: "In future, we’ll be putting out a big platter of olives, mozzarella, sundried tomatoes etc. on the bar counter, with a box that customers can fill in themselves". In the meantime, bespoke picnic hampers are available from £19; and the chef’s recipe cards can also be picked up.
Deli Nineteen at Diciannove, Crowne Plaza London – The City, 19 New Bridge Street EC4V 6DB. Tel: 020 7257 8346. The images have been kindly provided by Deli Nineteen at Diciannove.
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