Another day, another dinner… This time at a new Italian restaurant from Kurt Zdesar, the chap behind Chotto Matte in Soho and Black Roe in Mayfair.
Fucina is unmistakably as modish as Zdesar’s other well-known establishments (with the crowd as achingly trendy too), but it has a soft and inviting feel to it which fits right in with surrounding Marylebone.
Marble and burnt steel intersperse with brick and timber, with the interiors reflecting a sense of nature (the word Fucina in Italian can be traced back to meaning “forge” in Italian).
Overlaid with stained Italian glass, a striking floor-to-ceiling screen runs around the perimeter cocooning the restaurant from the outside world; while the ceiling is all exposed-brick, featuring the curves and distortions typical of the innards of a traditional pizza oven…
… So as you’d expect wood-fired pizzas are definitely a focus here, alongside handmade pastas and large meat cuts too (from the wood-fired pit downstairs). It’s a good thing then that the divide-and-conquer menu emulates the increasingly popular sharing concept, allowing you to try as much of the enticing options as possible!
We (my mates and I) kicked things off with antipasti, bubbles and small plates before moving onto more substantial things. To cut this review short, I’ll simply say that overall our dinner was an altogether… whelming affair, swaying (in)consistently between a few hits, average dishes and disappointing misses.
A selection of cured meat (from Fucina’s artisan butcher in Siena) was fresh and moreish, but as Sam remarked, a few more trimmings wouldn’t have been amiss – whether in the form of pickled veggies, spreads or paté.
Spiced yogurt added a tangy edge to a soft and creamy wood-fired sweet potato, but it could have still done with a bit more seasoning. Lightly flavoured with garlic, fennel seeds and sweet chilli, another veggie plate of burnt purple broccoli turned out to be pleasantly palatable.
From the signature menu, the pork shoulders were incredibly well-received. It was served rare – which I’m told is unusual for pork – with a smoky and beautifully-flavoured crust that went down a treat. On the other hand, the wild boar ragout was… alright. There was no bum note which Megs and Sam could pin-point, but nothing special to report here either.
Meanwhile my veggie main course – spinach and ricotta tortellini – arrived full of promise. The generously-sized parcels were laced with a rich and nutty ‘walnut salsa’ that I couldn’t help but spoon up on its own! But the tortellini itself was a bit too al dente for me, tasting almost a tad undercooked.
We all shared the funghi pizza, topped with mozzarella, forest mushrooms, spinach, chilli, black olives and stracciatella.
The intense flavour combination (earthy, bittersweet with pops of creaminess) was ultimately let down by a stodgy pizza base. As Megs pondered, perhaps Homeslice has forever spoiled our perception of the perfect wood-fired pizza?
As for dessert, we tucked into a surprisingly light cheesecake paired perfectly with a tart rhubarb and strawberry preserve.
Seeing as we were just on the cusp of #ChocolateWeek, the chocolate pralinat was also in order. I particularly liked the crisp wafer base which added a crunchy dimension to the creamy ganache-like layers of smooth chocolate!
Both desserts were good, if not spectacular enough to still be dreaming about the next day – unlike the chocolate melting cake at Black Roe, for instance. I suppose the downside of eating out so often (experiencing something exciting or instantly endearing each time), is that one can’t help but hold a new restaurant against high standards… especially one backed by a name as eminent as Zdesar’s.
Spurred on by the convivial setting, friendly service and of course, the great company, we admittedly had a good Friday night out. But it’s safe to say that Fucina won’t be replacing our local or favourite Italian any time soon.
Fucina, 6 Paddington Street, Marylebone, London W1U 5QY.