Wolf Italian Restaurant

“In Italy, food is king.”

It is in our household too.. I knew there was a reason Italian was my favourite cuisine 😉 Wolf is a neighbourhood restaurant in Stoke Newington that celebrates authentic Italian food – and the Italian way of eating. Using the finest local and speciality Italian ingredients, they create seasonal, regional dishes that hail from all corners of the country. As well as good food, they offer an all-Italian wine list, cocktails made with home-infused spirits and freshly ground Italian coffee.

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I love restaurants that offer seasonal menus. It shows a real passion for making best use of ingredients at their prime, and means that you can go back time and time again whilst still getting excited about new and unique dishes on offer. Best of all it means that you’re always guaranteed to have dishes that suit the weather – is there anything better than a huge comforting bowl of carbs when it’s cold outside!?

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I was so excited to go down to try out their new Winter menu. Naturally we had to combine it with brunch – when breakfast-items are on the menu I find it almost impossible to turn them down, so when there’s a brunch menu that offers both breakfast and all-day dining options then it’s a no brainer for me, as I get to eat them all! 🙂

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As soon as we arrived we were greeted by the restaurant manager, Rahul. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely started to place more importance on service – whilst the food is obviously most important part, good service really makes a difference to the whole experience. Rahul took the time to talk to us about his personal favourites, describe the inspiration behind some of the dishes and he was more than happy to recommend some without making us feel awkward if we decided on something else!

We were brought coffees straight away. If I’m honest I found my coffee weak and far too milky – it was even milky in latte terms and I’d asked for a flat white! I was swiftly brought another when I asked for it to be stronger, but that too was weak.

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We looked through the extensive cocktail menu too – and like many other popular brunch spots they offer the option of bottomless cocktails! Marcus was driving though and I decided to stick to coffee, since caffeine beats alcohol any day for me!

We ordered a selection of dishes and sides and were kindly brought samples as well as whole plates to feast on!

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One of the dishes Rahul recommended (we’d been planning to order it anyway as it sounded amazing!) was the fennel sausage with deep fried egg, flat gnocchi and caramelised tropea onions. Deep fried eggs .. what a revelation! What is brunch without eggs!? I’ve had a hell of a lot of eggs at a hell of a lot of brunch spots but not once have I had them like this, and I won’t be forgetting them in a hurry! Perfectly runny yolks surrounded by tiny tendrils of crisp egg white .. a cross between a poached egg a fried egg that was pure heaven. Combine that with a deliciously tasty fennel sausage patty and surprisingly light gnocchi and it was a perfectly balanced plate – possibly my favourite especially given its uniqueness.

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The pasta, as you’d hope from any good Italian, was perfect. Cooked al dente, it had a delicious bite to it, sitting in a rich, deep-flavoured porcini ragu, with huge hunks of tender, slow cooked venison shin finished perfectly with generous shavings of Parmesan. I couldn’t have imagined a much more ideal pasta dish – fresh pasta, soft braised meat and a full bodied sauce.. what’s not to love!? The tagliatelle was incredible too – cooked with butter, parsley and parmesan, served with fennel sausage and a beautifully orange duck yolk glistening on top.

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Other brunch dishes include the broken eggs and the spiced beans. Both are quite similar but we thought the spiced beans would make a better accompaniment to our mains. Like all their other plates, this dish was unique, with chickpeas providing a surprisingly lovely twist to your typical haricot beans. Thankfully they didn’t stray from the standard serving style – I love dishes served in a skillet – they seem so much more inviting! The sauce was rich and packed full of flavour, brimming with chickpeas and finished off perfectly with broken eggs and yogurt that was so thick it was almost a cross between yogurt and cheese. Of course it was served with grilled sourdough, which had been beautifully drizzled with olive oil. If I’m being fussy there could’ve been more of it, but when can you ever have enough bread! Plus there was the option to order extra, so of course we did! Another delicious dish.. a bit of bacon or halloumi could’ve added more flavour, but together with the other dishes it was a great side.

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Of course I wasn’t leaving without dessert, and even though Marcus still wasn’t feeling great (he’d been ill with a stomach bug over Christmas AND had taken a 6am flight back from France that morning!) he encouraged me to order anyway and I clearly didn’t need telling twice! I looked at the dessert menu, which included Italian favourites like tiramisu and affogato, but I’d already spotted pancakes on the brunch menu and when it comes to brunch, pancakes or waffles nearly always win for me! I absolutely love gelato though – when it’s done well it’s so incredibly creamy, so I got some of that too, which turned out to be a great decision (not that extra ice cream is ever not!).

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The pancakes had been given a Wolf makeover, made with polenta which gave them a slightly savoury taste. They’d been fried to perfection – I’ve never had polenta in a pancake before so I can’t say whether it was that or the cooking style, but the pancakes had beautifully crispy edges whilst still maintaining a soft, fluffy middle. They were served with nespole jam and mascarpone cream. I had no idea what nespole was (obviously I guessed some kind of fruit!) and Google didn’t help me much there either (it came back with ‘loquat’ – equally mystifying!) but apparently it’s a popular Italian fruit and it made bloody good jam! Whist I’d never normally choose cream over ice cream, the mascarpone melted onto the pancakes and mixed with the jam it made a beautifully luxurious sauce. I was so glad I’d ordered extra ice cream though, as it added sweetness (the jam was more tart than your typical berry jam), and the combination of the cream and ice cream together provided a much better texture in my opinion. The cream alone might have been a little plain, but as someone who isn’t huge on cream (I know – ironic given my love for ice cream!) I may be biased! The ice cream itself was so creamy – I couldn’t fault it. Not a grain or ice crystal in sight and the flavours (I went for vanilla, salted caramel and chocolate!) were intense and perfectly balanced – sweet but not overpoweringly so, with beautiful flecks in the vanilla and a strong salty flavour coming through the caramel.

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If I had to find a flaw I’m afraid it would be the coffee. It was seriously weak, and as a coffee lover I’m very particular about my coffee, especially if I’m going for brunch. The food itself was seriously good though – the plates delivering the triple win of innovative, beautiful and downright delicious – and that combined with the amazing service more than made up for a slightly sad dishwater-esque coffee – we’ll definitely be back, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store on their Spring menu!

Link to their website: http://wolf-restaurant.co.uk

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