Autumn might have meant “seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness” to young John Keats, but to others it signifies the arrival of the truffle. The best or, as Rossini called it, “the Mozart of truffles” is the white truffle, found in the picturesque region of Piedmont. Trifulao (truffle hunters) work their trained dogs over the land, and any discovery is greeted by great excitement – for, with prices ranging upwards of €4,000 a kilo, a serious find equals a serious reward.
But for Londoners, hunting need only take you to South Kensington, where Italian restaurant Daphne’s on Draycott Avenue will, from Tuesday November 12 (until early 2014), be serving a £250 five-course white-truffle tasting menu, each of whose dishes will be paired with a wine chosen by sommelier Richard Rotti.
Just reading about the treats created by chef Mike Brown should be enough to produce the same level of excitement in the guest as in the hunting dog who tracked down the pungent “white diamonds” – for each course is more evocative and seductive than the previous one. Beginning with carpaccio of kingfish with langoustine and truffle dressing, the menu dances through artichoke and buffalo ricotta tortelloni with shaved truffle, fillet of beef with garlic spinach and truffled polenta, and aged pecorino sardo with truffled honey. To finish the meal, Il Gran Finale (first picture) will be served, a truffle cocktail based around Zacapa from Guatemala, one of the finest rums in the world, partnered here with truffle oil and grapefruit zest and garnished with truffle shaving.
Devotees of the white truffle will, I am sure, already be ringing Daphne’s to make a reservation – but for those who have yet to experience its utterly delicious and unforgettable taste, make haste while the sun shines.