8 Gillingham Street, SW1V 1HJ
Victoria, some would say, is not the place for a restaurant. To put it into context, it’s down the road from the scaffold-clad station, opposite a suspicious looking B&B and the restaurant “Spicy World”. Tozi is something of an anomaly.
Tozi is in fact located within the Park Plaza hotel, but doesn’t feel anything like a stuffy hotel restaurant – the separate entrance and fresh design are to thank. The crowd was a mix of fashion types, young guns and sophisticated older groups, as well as the odd few (we suspect) hotel guests. Everyone seemed like they were there to relax and take their time, Italiano style. And it does feel molto Italiano – waiters are charming and the voices coming from the open charcuterie bar and kitchen make it feel friendly, homely and authentic.
Led by head chef Daniele Pampagnin, the concept behind the menu is cicchetti, otherwise known as small sharing plates (“tozi” means a gang of friends after all). The menu is big so difficult to steer – partly because so much of it sounds so good – but the waiters will help with your selection. The charcuterie board is a good starting point (mortadella, Coppa and ewe’s milk cheese were standouts). We wanted everything from the fritti section, but settled for the fritto misto of Sicilian prawns, squid, crab and sardines, which were fresh, crunchy and served on paper. Pesci fans should also try the grilled swordfish, while meat lovers should go for the rich, slow braised ox cheek on wild mushrooms and potato. For all-out la dolce vita luxury, go for the buffalo ricotta ravioli in black truffle or the Venetian style scallops served in a shell. They are soft, chunky and doused in a crunchy garlic, chilli and herbaceous gratin. If you like limoncello, go for the berry millefoglie for desert. Finally, to drink: we went for the summery Tozi Spritz – fresh watermelon, Prosecco and soda with Aperol – for an aperitif, Prosecco on tap (the best) with our meal, and the Amaro Tozi for a digestif, a sugary, medicinal night cap served from a mini barrel at your table.
Grey tones, woods and marble dominate the dining room, which feels open and classy. Details like glassware, black and white photos, lighting and different chairs are as well selected as the menu ingredients themselves. We loved the open charcuterie bar with clay oven and full-sized, postbox-red, ham carver in full view.
Cecconi’s and Russell Norman – there’s a new cicchetti kid on the block. And he’s good.