A slice of Milanese magic on Kensington High Street, with a colossal all-Italian wine list
Should you wander off the beaten track in Milan, you may find yourself descending the stairs to Il Cinghiale Rosso, an underground wine bar beloved by locals and tourists alike. Famed for its cheese and meat platters as much as it is its varied vino offering, the tiny enoteca has earned itself a stellar reputation – so much so that a dozen of its most loyal fans recently clubbed together to bring their favourite hangout to their second favourite city: London.
You’ll find Enoteca Rosso in a far less unassuming spot than its Italian twin, perched on the Design Museum-end of Kensington High Street. On first impression, it seems less wine bar and more wine shop, although this is no criticism. Sure, it hasn’t quite got the same cosy vibe as its Milanese counterpart, but the floor-to-ceiling bottle racks that line the walls are still an inviting prospect. Each harbours Italian wines made by small-batch producers; name your region – and your grape – and Enoteca Rosso is likely to have it.
The accompanying drinks list is divided thus, and is so extensive it outruns the food offering by several pages. Thankfully I visit during one of the restaurant’s monthly wine-tasting events, and the sommelier on hand suggests three tipples to try. The standout is the Cuvée Tradition Riserva, a crisp fizz that puts prosecco to shame.
But I’m not just here for the wine. At the neighbouring table, five hearty signori sip flagons of Aperol spritz between bites of bread, meat and cheese. We take their lead, splitting a board piled high with salty prosciutto and mortadella ham and ribbons of shaved raspadura cheese as thin as tracing paper. A bowl of creamy burrata sits on the side, served with a sweet and sticky balsamic vinegar jam. We spread them both liberally onto slices of focaccia, so thick and dense they could be mistaken for Madeira cake. It’s gluttony at its finest.
The pasta is another highlight. The lamb ragu is melt-in-the-mouth and piled high on chunky spindles of tagliatelle. It’s delicious. The ravioli stuffed with savoy cabbage is less so; the pasta is delicate and fresh, but its filling does little to excite the senses.
No matter, though, as the dolci make up for it. We finish with Enoteca Rosso’s take on tiramisu, deconstructed and served in three bowls: one filled with shortbread fingers, another espresso and the last a thick pool of mascarpone cream, dusted with cocoa powder. The dip-and-dunk dish is as novel as it is tasty, and when the biscuits run out I can’t help but devour the remaining cream with a spoon.
As I go to leave – belt several holes looser than before – I’m told that they’ll soon be offering a weekend brunch menu and I vow to return. After all, there are several chapters of the colossal wine list that I’m yet to sample...