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Zilli Fish

Zilli Fish opened at the beginning of June with quite a splash - not surprising since Aldo Zilli is well known as an ebullient host who presides over his other two Soho ventures, Signor Zilli and Signor Zilli Bar with humour and panache. He is a popular TV chef and his new series Aldo's Italian Job will be screened in September 1997. Aldo grew up in an Italian fishing village near Pescara and his menus have always featured seafood strongly.

Londoners have certainly taken to the new fish restaurants that have opened over the past couple of years - people are more health conscious, so I'm told, and are turning to fish as an alternative to meat. Not true so far as I personally am concerned, but I love fish just as much as I do meat, game and all manner of vegetables. For me it's the freshness and the cooking that counts. And the cheerfulness and helpfulness of the staff and the comfort and ambience of the dining room.

Zilli fish is spacious and light with submarine colours and textures. It occupies a corner site on Brewer Street with big windows through which, from time to time, people ogled the marvellous food on our plates. There's a very large fish tank over the bar where lobsters and bass lurk, waiting for their culinary apotheosis. Fishing them out looked a dangerous operation, there's so much beautiful coral in the tank. Tables are small but well spaced, mainly because of the luxurious chairs. The napery and cutlery are elegant, but the fish knives were so round edged that I couldn't cut the crisp leaves of my salad!

The menu is nicely balanced with nine antipasto dishes, eight pastas, nine main dishes and four meats including Aldo's famous suckling pig. As soon as you arrive, shimmering green oil is poured onto your plate, delicious breads are offered for dipping and there was a delicious puree of fresh sardines, anchovies and herbs to spread. My starter was a beautiful marriage of large Mediterranean prawns with a salad of roasted sweet and sour peppers with crisp, blanched dandelion leaves. This was perfect in its simplicity, enhanced quite sufficiently by some super home made herbed mayonnaise. Another antipasto dish was made from chargrilled king scallops that had been threaded onto rosemary stems. A salad of fresh baby spinach leaves with a vintage balsamic dressing provided just the right support.

I couldn't resist trying a fishy pasta dish, so we shared an intercourse plate of squid ink ravioli whose generous sized parcels were a sophisticated jet-black, stuffed with minced crabmeat. They came floating in a rich pomodoro sauce with plenty of cream, basil and prawns.

My main course of wild salmon had all the flavour and texture of a fish that's earned its living. It was perfectly grilled, deft timing is great skill that I appreciate. A wonderful touch was a garnish of little morsels of Mostardo di Cremona. What a place - Cremona - birthplace of Monteverdi, Stradivarius and Mostardo. They're little pieces of crystallized fruit and they were a brilliant foil for the salmon. There was also green samphire which I love, (even if it had to be eaten by hand - please sort those blunt knives out Aldo!).

Opposite me, there was much crunching of crustacea shells as my wife tucked into her mammouth seafood platter. There was half a lobster, half a crab, a langoustine, oysters, mussels and a whole lot more. She was in heaven. We shared a portion of vegetables, all roasted and caramelised, and we drank a bottle of Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio 1996 from Mastroberadino at Stg 17.00 a bottle. There wasn't much room left for desserts, but I did manage an interesting capuccino flan, which was light and delicious. Zilli Fish deserves to be succesful. From the numbers of people I've already observed crowding in there when I went past on my way to the Rainforest Cafe the other evening, I'd say that Signor Zilli has come up with another winner!

Our dinner for two with a bottle of wine, coffee and service came to Sg 65.00

Zilli Fish, 36-40 Brewer Street, Soho, London W1
Tel: 020 7734 8649
Open every day for Lunch from midday to 3pm and for dinner from 5.30pm to midnight, except Sundays. The Bar is open all day from Monday to Saturday.

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