I had been meaning to visit Leggero, the gluten free Italian in Soho, for some time, and before Christmas, and before busting my ankle, I finally made it! Then this post has sat in my drafts, overtaken by all the seasonal stuff, and cakes because boredom breeds baking. I was a big fan of their previous incarnation La Polenteria, I had wanted to see what their evolution had brought about. And ravioli… Gluten free ravioli… Because I really miss some decent ravioli, and need them back in my life! So after the Pet Finn had a meeting nearby, we popped in and shared some wine and a couple of dishes.
We ordered a bottle of Montepulciano which is the Pet Finn’s preferred Italian beverage, the wine was good as I had remembered from visiting before the transition, and the restaurant was quite busy to say how early (about 4:30pm) it was. We ordered everything to share as we were just popping in for something light.
We tried their vegan focaccia with olives and rosemary, which was quite tasty although maybe a bit spongy, and not quite the texture I remember from a full gluten focaccia, a good effort but maybe not something I would rush to order again, there are other things that I would prefer to give a try, and when I saw the giant arancini being served up to a neighbouring table, I was slightly kicking myself for playing it safe and going for the bread, so that is something I am itching to try on my next visit!
We also opted for the baby octopus with mashed potato. I am a big loved of octopus dishes and will usually order them if they are on the menu and of course gluten free. These octopus really are baby, they were tiny, quite a bit smaller than I expected, although this did make for much more polite and convenient sharing than many previous meals carving tentacles for us both! The mash was creamy and a prefect counterpoint to the tender tiny octopuses in a deep, rich sauce. This is an ideal dish for a cold winter day, especially if you want something small, yet warming!
Of course I couldn’t visit without trying the ravioli, and chose the Black Ink “Sorghum Large Ravioli” stuffed with salmon, served with courgette cream and diced tomatoes. It did not disappoint one tiny bit. It looks bold and dramatic, but tastes sublime, everything all in balance. The Pet Finn was impressed, he often pulls a face at sharing a gluten free pasta dish with me but thought these were great, which is high praise indeed since he is a total pasta pig! The courgette cream garnish and the salmon filling of the ravioli were pleasingly smooth and creamy in spite of this dish being dairy free.
We were quite full but I was still dreaming of the dessert I had eaten on my first visit to La Polenteria, so I wanted to see how their menu as Leggero would stack up. The dessert in question had been a special, and had marzipan, raspberries, sponge cake and chocolate, it was dreamy but it was not a shock to see it missing from the menu, although if anyone knows what this kind of confection is called please remind me because I fell for it HARD. We ordered our standard espressos and a glass of liqueur each, and pondered our options.
I had hoped for tiramisu, because it was always one of my favourite things and I really miss it, but they were out so we shared a massive slab of white chocolate cheesecake instead. No great sorrow, not only was it gargantuan, it was so deliciously creamy and rich we had to go to Bar Italia for extra espresso and some grappa to power us home! Definitely a sharing dessert, or something which would be a wonderful sugar cocoon to prepare you for the onslaught of Oxford Street shopping when paired with a strong coffee or a large wine!
Overall I loved Leggero, it seems that the team behind this restaurant have a really good understanding of delicious Italian food, and it makes a worthy substitution for Amalfi, a long standing favourite vestige of Old Soho, that I loved dearly in my gluten munching days and that was the site of many very fun evenings, but which was eaten up by a Belgo. Aaand since the menu is entirely gluten free, I can have free range over all the delicious dishes without any fears of hidden ingredients or cross contamination! Double YAY!
They have a really clearly written menu which outlines all other allergens including dishes that are suitable for vegan customers. Great to see, as I know many people who can’t eat gluten have other dietary sensitivities. I am though a little sad that polenta couldn’t sneak onto the menu for just a dish or two, especially in the winter. It may not be the prettiest or most Instagrammable dish on the planet but there are few things so warming and wonderful on a cold day as a steaming huge plate of polenta!
Of course I will be back very soon to eat my way through some more of their menu, being as it is one of the few rare occasions when I can eat everything. I have no doubt that this post is very much a case of “to be continued…”!