Diners cluster around the counter bar and the absurdly small open kitchen chatting to executive chef-co-proprietor Alice Staple, who has spent much time in Maremma researching ingredients from niche producers who wouldn't otherwise have their produce in London. In another life, Maremma's head chef Dominique Goltinger worked with Bruno Loubet at The Grain Store. Here, the credentials of the ingredients and the kitchen are inscrutable.
Those after a ringside view of the kitchen juggling orders with calm assurance should opt for a seat at the bar. A caution: the stools are high and not the most elegant to clamber onto or perch on. But this is a small inconvenience worth putting up with. Those who book well ahead sit at rustic repurposed tables for an evening focused more on their fellow guests, though the food is likely to be a major conversation point. There's also a basement aperitivo bar, available for larger dinner parties too.
The intense extra virgin olive oil from Maremma (politely left on the table for extra dunkings) and exceptional bread are a good indication that a treat of a meal is in store. A pleasingly short, wholly enticing menu adds to the sense of anticipation. If panzanella is on the menu, it is imperative to order and likely to be the best version of the salad you've tasted: intensely perfumed Isle of Wight tomatoes, fragrant basil, and ultra-fresh mozzarella (flown in a couple of times a week) with a striking creamy yet tangy taste plus the finest Italian anchovies.
It is not considered greedy in an Italian restaurant to order a pasta course as well as a main. Maremma tortelli, a large single tortelli filled with spinach and ewe's milk ricotta, is impeccably silky and served with San Marzano tomatoes and basil – an inspired dish. A more hearty choice would be the wild boar ragu with properly eggy tagliatelle made that morning. Tagliata, a favourite Tuscan choice for steak devotees, is served simply, as it should be, with plentiful peppery rocket. For the full splurge, indulge in bistecca Fiorentina for two. Equally tempting is chargrilled hake and clams with saffron aioli. Vegetables are a treat in themselves: crisp rosemary scented potatoes are moreish in the extreme and the sauteed spinach with tomatoes, salted ricotta and basil, makes for a serendipitous garden lover’s combination.
Chocolate and hazelnut cake is somewhat dense and didn't quite reach the heights of the River Café's famed chocolate nemesis. A good choice of ice-creams or cheese may be the better option. The latter can be complemented by the reasonably-priced wines sourced direct from wineries known to co-owner and consummate bon viveur Dickie Bielenberg, who has long had a second family home in the Maremma. The only caveat here is the chattering classes of south west London who clearly already adore Maremma and have become regulars, so tables in its small dining room must be reserved well ahead.
|What||Maremma restaurant, Brixton review|
|Where||Maremma , 6 Brixton Water Lane, Brixton , London , SW2 1PE | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Brixton (underground)|