People have always sensed there was something more to life, something just out of reach. John Stuart Mill summed up humanity’s quixotic grasp for knowledge with the maxim, ‘Better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied, better be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.’
But if Socrates had come across Zilli’s artichoke chips, this pecking order would never have entered the philosophical consciousness: the old fellow would have eagerly swapped positions to end up rolling around like a pig in – well, happiness, too busy to succor angst or agree to neck a shot of hemlock.
Seriously though, these artichoke chips are the most delicious little things ever, and an excellent introduction to the food at the new Zilli Green on Dean Street in Soho, an exclusively vegetarian and vegan Italian restaurant.
Yes, an Italian vegetarian, a novel and refreshingly open-minded development from the Zilli chain with an established presence at the helm. Their charming chef Enzo di Marino, having done the rounds at London’s top veggie restaurants, knows exactly what constitutes good food.
I think that in judging restaurants, food quality and price are two of, if not the two, most important criteria, and in terms of both food and price, Zilli green is the best restaurant I have visited for some time. And by some time I mean a long time. It certainly ranks alongside Jamie’s Italian on both counts, and Jamie’s really is streets ahead of anywhere similar.
Starters at ZG fall around the £5 mark, and none of the mains comes in over £10. The food on offer changes all the time to take advantage of new ingredients as they come into season. The menu we sampled was packed with attractive choices showcasing the best of Italian food, as well as other more exotic cuisines. We particularly enjoyed the brodetto di legumi, a rich bowl of winter beans, life itself, the black truffle lasagna, and a rich tiramisu (which I seem to remember was non-dairy, though I’m not sure how).
Small criticisms would be that the open raviolo was pretty salty, with both olives and sun-dried tomato, and, having tinkered towards the perfect Thai curry for many years I’m afraid the real thing does need fish sauce (though I loved the garnish of spring onion strips and puffy rice noodles). In terms of the restaurant itself the upstairs dining space is quite long and thin, though the downstairs is more open.
But basically, whatever you normally like to eat, there really is some top food to be had here. It is innovative yet uncomplicated with fresh produce and proper pasta, decent and very reasonably priced wine, all delivered by friendly Italian staff. I will have already been back by the time this goes online, and I’m sure there will still be a huge amount I want to try. Just go!
Three courses with wine, for two: £50
Artichoke chips: priceless.
41 Dean Street
Tel: 020 7734 3924