Comments: Hi, I booked the private room for a reunion party on Saturday evening (16/06/12). As I didn't get a chance on the night, I wanted to thank the chef and all the staff for a really great evening. Everyone commented on how delicious and authentic the food was. The service was great too, and whilst I'm no wine buff, my more sophisticated friends were very impressed with the wine selection! The feasting menu is a brilliant idea for groups and great value too. For me, the anitpasti cheeses and salami and the beef from the secondi were particularly delicious. The evening was a great success and I would not hesitate to recommend your restaurant for any occasion. Mille grazie a tutti!
27th April 2012
Mennula…a gem of a restaurant
April 27th, 2012 | Author: Franco
Santino cooking in the Mennula kitchen
Mennula is a little gem of a restaurant, with a chef/owner who is as passionate about great, fresh, seasonal food as I am. Last week I paid Santino a visit with plenty of wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables my arm – I try and visit him at the very least at every change of season. What happened next is one of the many reasons what I do should not really be considered work – Santino and I went on to spend the next hour eating our way through the produce.
The unreal Marinda tomatoes which I carry around everywhere I go this year were dressed with some of his own fantastic extra virgin olive oil which he imports directly from Sicily (his real home), some sea salt and nothing else. To this we then decided to add his freshly made ricotta – made every day in the already small kitchen with fresh milk (on Fridays it is goat’s milk…) – and both agreed fresh pepper was needed. One of this year’s great spring vegetables is the Romana courgette, Santino grilled it and we tried it straight of the grill, then with olive oil and salt, and finally with the Marinda and ricotta. We finely sliced a stunning spiky artichoke from Albenga, a little bergamot juice, salt and olive oil, then fresh borage was lightly poached and served with ricotta, and flavourful Friggitelli peppers from southern Italy were quickly grilled and again dressed simply with olive oil and salt.
Santino’s butcher arrived with his delivery of thick veal chops and fortunately there was a little end piece; it rightly made its way onto the hot grill. After a bit of banter with the butcher who had no intention of trying raw tomatoes, Santino said I had to try the freshly made Sicilian Tarocco blush orange granita. Brilliant. As we went on discussing how he marinates the chops in herbs for several hours, we went back to the ricotta subject and logically onto the home made cassata. This cassata redefines the Sicilian dessert, the fresh ricotta is incredibly delicate and smooth with a wonderful sponge and yes, even the bloody candied fruit was made by Santino with the peel of the Tarocco oranges.
Few people cook like this these days, absolutely everything made by the kitchen, a kitchen which is so very small but incredibly full of passion. The cooking which happens at Mennula is immensely seasonal not by fad, but quite the oppsite, it drives the cooking rather than reacting to it. I can’t urge you enough to visit Santino and his little gem of a restaurant in the heart of Charlotte Street – he’s always there, where he wants to be, in the kitchen doing what he loves most.
Last night I had a table for 2 with the 6 course tasting menu.
I just wanted to express how impressed I was with the level of food.
I have wanted to eat at Mennula for about 2 years and finally got around to booking a table.
To top off a fantastic meal I was so touched that as we left, your incredible chef saw us leave and knew what we had eaten and made a point to chat to us about our experience.
I would appreciate it if you could pass on my personal thanks to him for an amazing meal.
I look forward to my next meal!
Comments: My Boyfriend booked a surprise table at Manula following the Gordon Ramsey programme - which by the way, Manula should have won hands down - and we were not dissapointed. The restaurant itself is lovely and cosy, the waiting staff tend to your every need and just watch from afar and the food was exceptional !!
Comments: Last night I had a plate of food I will never forget. It was like a cuddle in a bowl, the most fantastic pork I have ever eaten. Thank you so much!
My Partner and I booked for our anniversary, hoping for an an enjoyable meal and a memorable evening. We were not disappointed! Service was attentive and friendly, just perfect. The food was absolutely wonderful! The presentation of the food on the plate was the equal of any multi Michelin starred restaurant, and the taste was sublime! I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Mennula as a fantastic restaurant to anyone who is looking for something a bit special. It certainly was a meal we will remember! thank you Mennula!
12 April 2011
Sitting quietly three quarters of the way down Charlotte Street, amid the chain restaurants that swarm over Fitzrovia, Mennula is more than easily missable. The pistachio coloured awning and French windows that give Mennula the appearance of an Italian ice-cream café, that would spill on to a buzzy Florentine street on a summer’s evening, is nonchalantly passed in a matter of steps by those not in the know.
So too, inside the décor is simple and understated; aubergine purple contrasts against white walls and tablecloths as slick as the Italian welcome. My best friend and I are swept to our table – a booth cleverly making the most of the limited space here – our coats disappear, and a welcome flute of Sicilian Prosecco is fizzing across my palate. We are nibbling at olives, bite-sized squares of focaccia and signature toasted almonds – the namesake of the restaurant – when we find time between the unfinished sentences of our girly babble.
Head Chef, owner and Sicilian native Santino Busciglio evidently looks to strong roots for his dishes. Popping up from the basement kitchen to survey his filling restaurant and greet his guests, Santino shares his recommendations for the evening’s menu. He tells of how his ‘nonna’ taught him to bake and relates an afternoon telephone call to his sister in Sicily, who was creating a supper from broad beans and artichokes – it is no coincidence that these are also the star of this evening’s menu.
Before he’s barely left our tableside, a slate of baby artichokes in a Parmesan and mint tempura has been recommended, sent from the kitchen and gulped down, too good to resist for long. Busciglio is a strong believer in the power of fresh ingredients, championing British produce and following the Italian seasons where he can, and it shows.
After an unusual selection of breads – some stuffed with capers, other slices sweetened with raisins – my gnocchi with broad beans, rocket and Sicilian pecorino arrives. I’m trusting Santino here, charmed by his unexpected Bolton twang (he grew up a Lancashire lad) and the foodie knowledge and authority carried on the lapels of his chef whites.
The gnocchi is light, and the taste as vibrant as the green of the broad bean puree, while a tartar of beef, topped with a perfectly poached quail egg and ‘bianchetto’ truffle, draws my gaze across the table – best friends we may be, but this is no dish of which she’s ready to miss a scrap.
My main course of pan-fried fillet of cod is delicately perched on tender purple sprouting broccoli and accompanied by soft clams, just the right side of sea-salty. Opposite, English veal sweetbreads don’t last long. I was tempted by nearly every dish on the menu; eight ‘Secondi di pesce e carne’ options each offered their own piece of Italy – to go with Santino’s picks was the only option to save agonising choices.
A trio of gently warmed ‘Sfinci’ – Sicilian doughnuts – with white truffle honey and black winter truffle plays to my sweetest of tooths for dessert, the unmistakable scent of truffle pairing delicately with these sugared delights and I manage to sneak a spoonful of the most delicate Tiramisu, encased in it is own crisp shell and too tempting to resist.
Mennula’s magic comes from the pride that it takes in its Italian heritage, delivered with understated charm. The service is attentive, the restaurant simple, letting the food shine, just as Santino intended. The menu is printed with today’s date; it is as fresh off the press as the dishes it heralds. While there may not be much of a draw from outside, once Mennula has you in it’s claws, it will be sure hard to release the grip – not least if you make the mistake of taking the menu home and leaving it on the kitchen counter to tease you at every opportunity.
Drawing on his Sicilian roots,
chef patron Santino Busciglio
has created an intimate dining
experience in a popular corner of
With just 40 covers, Mennula offers a lively
taste of the Mediterranean in a compact but
modern setting. And as one of the UK’s top
two Italian restaurants, according to (Gordon)
Ramsay’s Best Restaurant series, the food is
certainly worth a mention too.
Complementing the restaurant’s elegant
white and aubergine décor is an impressive
changing menu, with the freshest seasonal
ingredients and Busciglio’s pick of the best
Sicilian dishes. With stuzzichini, antipasti,
pasta, secondi and dessert selections all hinting
at the head chef ’s roots, it is easy to forget the
capital’s busy Charlotte Street outside.
After discussing the house specialties with
Busciglio, who is a familiar and encouraging
presence in the restaurant upstairs, it was time to
sift through the extensive selection of meat and
fish dishes while sampling some arancini con
formaggio (deep fried rice balls with cheese; £3).
With a complementing glass of Sicilian
Sauvignon Blanc, chosen by manager Mino, my
guest and I enjoyed the buffalo mozzarella with
aubergine caviar and grilled courgettes (£10.50)
and scallops with lentils from Pantelleria,
spinach sauce and pancetta (£12.50). As with
everything at Mennula, from the flavours to the
personalities of the team, the portions are big,
so pace yourself if you want to enjoy the full
talents of the kitchen.
Despite initially overlooking the Sicilian
blood orange salad with mint, fennel and
mullet bottarga (£9), a sample from the kitchen
revealed this starter to also be an unusual
but refreshing combination and well worth
considering next time.
Following Busciglio’s advice, for mains I
sampled the signature strozzapretti, braised
Scottish lamb and bianchetto truffle (£12.50),
while my guest opted for the succulent honey
roasted middle white pork, white polenta, savoy
cabbage and truffle honey (£22) and a side of
the unusual but delicious Monks Beard with oil
and lemon (£5). Again extremely generous in
size, I could have probably eaten very well on a
starter portion alone.
Despite the elegant decor, Mennula feels like
visiting a close friend’s for dinner. In addition
to its welcoming team, which works together
like a real family - Busciglio junior is even in
the kitchen – you can be safe in the knowledge
that you will never leave hungry.
Encouraged by the waiting staff, who exude
real pride over the menu, my guest and I
finished the evening in true Sicilian style
with a tasting of traditional desserts (£8.50).
The pistachio semifredo and cannoli were
The culmination of Busciglio’s varied career,
Mennula is a tribute to the best cuisine that
Sicily has to offer, executed with passion and
delivered with pride. Everything a restaurant
Mennula, 10 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 2LT,
Basil Fawlty Tracks Down a Decent Eatery, London's Mennula: Richard Vines
1st January 2011
Chef Santino Busciglio prepares dishes from his native Sicily at his London restaurant.
There was something about the diner at Mennula that caught my eye as he stood up rather stiffly and stretched his long legs before starting to cross the room. It was John Cleese. The only time I’ve previously seen him in a restaurant was playing Basil Fawlty in “Fawlty Towers,” whose comic portrayal of British food and service still strikes a chord, about 35 years after it was first shown on television.
I’m happy to say that this Sicilian establishment on Charlotte Street bears no relation to those bad old days. Rather, it represents one of the most exciting developments in food in London: The fact that unpretentious restaurants now often serve food of a quality that Britons would have needed to travel overseas to enjoy in the era of Basil.
Mennula is home to Sicilian-Lancastrian chef Santino Busciglio, who opened it in November 2009 on the site of Passione, whose owner Gennaro Contaldo helped create the Jamie’s Italian chain. Gordon Ramsay features Mennula in his search for “Ramsay’s Best Restaurant.” The warmth and talent of the chef are evident: Busciglio is a charming and generous host who will chat with customers only until it is time to cook their food.
The menu is contemporary Italian, featuring seasonal dishes such as a starter of smoked venison with potato, winter black truffle and ricotta (13.50 pounds/$20.79); or there is a warm salad of Dorset crab, crushed potatoes & poached quail eggs. Among the pasta courses, sea-bass ravioli, marjoram & razor clams is hard to resist. Mains include pan-fried fillet of Scottish beef, celeriac cream, wild mushrooms and asparagus with winter black truffle (29 pounds).
If you’re on a budget, there’s a set lunch I have tried, at 17.50 pounds for two courses and 19.50 pounds for three. I’m more tempted now by the six-course winter tasting menu, featuring dishes such as seared Cornish squid, roasted peppers filled with potato and salt cod and roasted pumpkin sauce; and honey-roasted middle-white pork, white polenta, savoy cabbage and black truffle. (There’s also white truffle if you are fast.)
The desserts are strong, ranging from tiramisu with espresso creme anglaise through to a Sicilian tasting plate and exotic options such as a samosa of figs, wrapped in frangipane with caramelized onions, zabaione and semifreddo. There’s also five types of cheese, though this is a pan-Italian selection.
Apart from Champagne and Port, it’s an all-Italian wine list with about 100 options, many available by the glass and with plenty of space devoted to Sicily, including the top-priced Chardonnay Planeta 2007, at 51 pounds. The markups are ungreedy.
It’s a small restaurant -- seating 44 at most -- with tables outside in the summer and the booths at the back offering a good option if you’re looking for a bit of privacy. It’s simply decorated -- designed by Busciglio and his business partner Joe Martorana -- the walls featuring an almond-tree motif. (No surprise there: Mennula means almond in Sicily.)
It’s easy to miss Mennula on Charlotte Street, which is filled with restaurants and is much-changed from the Fawlty days of the mid-70s, when it was known for Greek eateries where you could round off a boozy evening with a little plate-smashing.
While Mennula is small, it’s not insignificant. It is warm and friendly and it’s doing its bit to help improve the standard of food and service in London restaurants. If spotting John Cleese is a reminder of the bad old days, Mennula makes it easy to forget.
The Bloomberg Questions
Cost? The six-course winter tasting menu is 49.50 pounds.
Sound level? Not noisy: 70-75 decibels.
Inside tip? The booths at the back are comfortable.
Special feature? Sicilian wines.
Will I be back? Yes.
Date place? Yes.
2nd December 2010
Comments: Thank you so much for making our lunch and Jean’s (my partner Andy’s mother) anniversary visit to us yesterday so spectacular. It was fabulous and I really do mean a place of fairy tales! I’ve urged people in my TopTable review to visit you to receive not only incredible Sicilian food - it gets better every time I visit and squid is now rivalling cheese in my affections!!, but the warmest of welcomes in a wonderful environment - Mennula can’t be bettered and I wish I could have scored you 11 out of 10. In my partner’s mother’s eyes I can now do no wrong after booking us in to Mennula for our celebration - thank you Angelo and every single one of the staff too. xxx
British Airways, Business: life
Food, Nicholas Lander recommends his favourite reinvented London Restaurants
Here is a case of one Italian restaurant replacing another. Mennula means almond in Sicily, and both the chef Santino Busciglio and his backer Joe Martorana were born in the same small Sicilian village. While the black-and -white photos on the walls evoke of a bygone era, Busciglio’s menu incorporates many indigenous ingredients but gives them a modern twist. Two pasta favourites are thin tubes of maccheroni with braised lamb and mint and bucatini with sardines, saffron and pine nuts. And while the kitchen handles both fish and meat expertly, it is with the desserts that it really comes into its own: a luscious tiramisu, tubes of sweet biscuit filled with ricotta and a chocolate cake with mascarpone ice cream and Amaretto.
22nd November 2010
I just wanted to thank you for the lovely lunch we had today at your restaurant. The service and food was excellent and we will definitely be back next time we are in London.
22nd November 2010
Comments: to all the staff at mennula, i would like to take this opportunity to thank you for what i would say was the best dinning experience my wife and friends had, it was great to see the chef and talk to him and the front of house staff were excellent the minute you walked in the door, and what can i say about the food only excellent, again thank you for everything i will be recommending this restaurant to everyone who takes a trip to London thanks again Evan Ireland
9th November 2010
Comments: Fabulous,we visited from liverpool on sat 6th nov. We ordered the taster menu which was absolutely gorgeous,the wine was recommended by our waiter and he chose a mid priced wine (which we were pleasantly surprised by) and also was very nice. Loved it,loved it,loved it.
16th September 2010
Comments: Since we only stayed for 3 nights in London we really hoped you had a table available. On the 8th of September we had back luck, but fortunately we were able to make a reservation for the 9th. When we arrived we really felt welcome. My wife is pregnant, and you made a lot of effort to make her feel comfortable (spacious table + airco). The food and service where absolutely perfect. A real treat of La Cucina Italia. Next time we visit London we will come to your restaurant again.
Thank you !!!
14th September 2010
Comments: We came to Mennula to celebrate our daughter's graduation in September and had the most delicious lunch with impeccable service. The restaurant was bathed in sunlight with guests eating on the terrace.
It was a memorable meal and I hope to come again soon, although sadly it's a long way from Devon!
27th August 2010
Comments: We ate at Mennula last night and the food was incredible - escpecially the scallops and lamb. Its probably one of the best meals we've ever had and the service was also very attentive and friendly.
Thank you for a brilliant evening, we will definitlely be coming back!
31st July 2010
Comments: thank you for a wonderful dinner (for five) this past Thursday. All the staff were polite, professional, courteous and attentive. The food was delicious and the wine was amongst the best white wine I have ever had anywhere in the world, delicious. I will definitely be coming back. A rare find in London, great food and great service at a fair price.
27th July 2010
Comments: Dear all
i just would like to say a BIG Thank You.
The food was amazing, compliments to the chef and thank you for the wonderful personal service you all gave to my party of 9 celebrating my sons 18th birthday. you helped to make his birthday truly special and we were so comfortable with your friendly service we were late for our next event. the whole party will be highly recommending your restaurant to everyone, 10 out of ten!
6th June 2010
We had a great time yesterday. The food was superb and as always the service was impeccable, the staff were both attentive and friendly. Please pass our compliments on to Santino and the other members of staff. My cousin felt the trip down from Dunstable was well worth it and already wants to me to arrange another visit.