Quick Monday lunch
I have been wanting to visit Princi since it opened a while back. So, deciding there is no time like the present, I trekked over there today during my lunch break.
This latest venture of Alan Yau, which is a joint venture with its namesake Rocco Princi (who runs the Princi chain of bakeries/eateries in Milan), certainly looks impressive, even from outside. It is a large, open and beautiful space, which oozes Italian style and flare. On Monday at lunchtime, the place was buzzing, and the very long counter of food – starting with pastries, then deserts, then savories, then pizzas, then salads – was extremely appetizing and sexy.
Upon walking in, one of the (presumably) managers exclaimed ‘buon giorno’ as I walked down the counter, and I felt almost like I wasn’t in London. After gazing over the various options, I opted for the salad bar. You can get 1 or 2 of the salads on a large plate for £6.50 – so definitely not cheap. My Italian server, who began conversing with me in her native language and soon realized I couldn’t keep up :), was very pleasant, and I choose the rucola (rocket), beetroot, walnut and gorgonzola & the endive, pear and parmesan salads. At the last second, I decided that this might not quite fill me up and opted for a slice of margherita as well (£2.50 for a large rectangular slice).
She efficiently put everything together for me on a nicely designed wooden tray and I headed off through the sea of eaters to find a place to sit or stand (they have small, square raised tables that 2-4 people can stand at). I found a spot at the counter along the wall, and dove in.
The beetroot salad was the clear winner for me: the vinaigrette was perfect (with a very high quality balsamic), and the gorgonzola was literally to die for…it was quite firm and not crumbly as you often get, and had a creamy richness to it with that good ol’ gorgonzola kick. The rucola was also great: strong, slightly bitter and peppery. The endive salad was very fresh too, and the combination of the bitter endive with sweet pear was definitely a winner.
Unfortunately, the pizza was less successful (which you wouldn’t expect from such a self-promotional bakery). It was barely warm (granted, I probably should have asked for it to be put through their little rotating oven behind the counter), and while the dough was good quality, it was an average slice, and not particularly satisfying.
After finishing, I realized I had £3 left and figured, what the hell, and scoured the sweet section of the counter. After much vacillation, I finally decided on the lemon chi…something (oops, forgot to write it down!), which was basically a tart base with a thick layer of egg whites infused with lemon. I took it ‘to go’ and ate it in nearby Soho Square. The desert was a little bit of a let-down if I’m honest. The egg whites were a good texture and the pastry base was good, but the lemon flavor tasted slightly artificial to me – which would be weird, as the place is very in-your-face about how natural all of their ingredients and processes are. Also, there were lots of fine granules of caster sugar around the base of the desert, which seemed a bit weird. It left a not particularly nice lemon sorbet flavor in my mouth on the long walk back to the office.
Overall, my first impressions of Princi were very good, though. It fits the bill in terms of design and presentation (both in terms of the interior design and the way the food looks). The salads were great, and maybe the other pizzas were better, once warmed up (?). The breakfasty pastries look very good (and I am not usually of fan of Italian croissants vs. their French counterparts), and the rest of the deserts certainly looked divine…I guess I’ll just have to go back and taste them!