When people ask me what’s the best new restaurant that I’ve recently visited, I answer simply Macellaio Exmouth Market. Meaning butcher in Italian, it’s located in one of London’s top foodie haunts, pedestrianized Exmouth Market.
As the street is pedestrianized, it’s as pleasant to eat outside as it is inside.
In addition to the front terrace, there’s also an attractive rear patio for sunny days.
The decor is very atmospheric in a rustic style, the brainchild of founder Roberto Costa. He is passionate about Italian cuisine and his ethos is to use the very best ingredients, cooked in a simple manner so as highlight the natural flavours.
What really catches the eye though, is the butcher at the front of the restaurant. Diners at Macellaio can select their steak at the butcher counters before it is cooked.
We were warmly greeted by Eugenio, the manager, who explained the concept to us and talked us through the menu. Macellaio Exmouth Market specializes in steak and blue-fin tuna. The latter is known as the “steak of the sea” and prepared in four quarters, just like beef. They buy their tuna directly from Italian tuna fisheries, to ensure that they are completely sustainable. This is the second of the UK Macellaio restaurants, with the other one being in South Kensington, but the only one to have a dual focus on tuna and steak. There’s also a new flagship restaurant coming soon on Union Street in Southwark, which will include an in-house bakery.
If you’re happy to leave things in Eugenio’s capable hands, he will bring you a selection of surprises. Things kicked off in style with some delicious cicchetti. These small bites are the Italian equivalent of tapas and perfect for sharing. I hadn’t tried bottarga before, it’s a salted, cured fish roe, often prepared from mullet but in this case from tuna. It was a revelation, eating tuna that looks like steak but has its own very distinctive taste.
To go with our lunch, we sampled a robust red Muralia Manolibera Maremma Rosso 2014.
Made from the Sangiovese grape, it’s a medium-bodied wine, recommended as working equally well with fish and meat. You may notice the steak knife sticking into the table, that’s a fun thing that the waiters do and certainly sets the tone for the meat feast to come.
The Muralia went nicely with our succulent beef carpaccio. This melted in the mouth, it was so tender and the extra virgin olive oil seasoning was really fruity. The meat at Macellaio Exmouth Market is kept in ventilated cellars at 0o to 4oC, which makes it extremely soft and flavourful.
We both loved the creamy texture of the burrata – it’s not actually on the menu but do ask for it as you definitely won’t regret it!
Our next dish was spectacular both in presentation and taste. Flambéed at the table, battuta is a spectacular steak tartare with a spicy gorgonzola cheese topping. Although I’m not usually a steak tartare eater, this was made much more enticing by the quality of the meat and the contrast of the creamy cheese.
Macellaio Exmouth Market have a way with tuna, just like they do with meat. Their tuna tartare is a delight – incredibly fresh and seasoned with capers, basil, Taggiasca olives, onion, extra virgin olive oil and salt.
Our waiter brought us an impressive piece of sirloin steak that he’d selected for us. You can really tell the quality just by looking at it. Macellaio choose female animals aged over 3, and work only with artisan farms to ensure that they are treated well. The result is extremely tender meat, that is very low in cholesterol and fat.
Once cooked, it was served with a flourish from underneath a silver cloche. It was funny to see this formal dinnerware in such a rustic restaurant. Quite a few cloches were carried out to the very casual front terrace, I guess it was a surprise for passers-by!
Our steak was the perfect size for sharing at 400 grammes. Though it may look rather pink, it was cooked just right. Paul even tucked into some of the fat, which according to him has the best taste, though I was on a health kick.
Alongside our beef steak, was an equally impressive grilled tuna fillet. Unusually served with strawberries and balsamic vinegar from Modena, it was an absolute treat. The tuna tasted really fresh and the hint of sweetness from the strawberries and balsamic vinegar balanced its saltiness well.
We also enjoyed some perfectly cooked purple sprouting broccoli, enlivened with fresh chilli…
and my favourite side, a Sicilian caponata of grilled marinated vegetables. Any vegetarian diners would certainly love this dish, and could ask for it in a much larger size, and there’s also a tasty pasta with pesto, potatoes and green beans.
That delicious balsamic vinegar made an appearance again for dessert, complementing a creamy cheese cake with homemade jam. Paul loved the latte dolce fritto, a Ligurian sweet friend milk dessert that reminded me a little of churros.
As you’ve probably guessed, Macellaio Exmouth Market made quite an impression on us both and it’s somewhere that I’ve been recommending to anyone looking for a great steak or tuna restaurant in London. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some lounging to do!
Macellaio RC Exmouth Market, 38-40 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE
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