Peter Morrell and his wife enjoy authentic food from Puglia, one of Italy’s most exciting culinary regions
I have a very good friend who was born and raised in Puglia. When she makes trips back home her social media feeds are a showcase for the region’s cuisine, we all drool enviously back in London planning our trip to Italy. Well now, without having to travel to southern Italy, we have an opportunity in London to enjoy the culinary delights of Puglia, famous for its world-class olive oil, and one of my favourite red wines, Primitivo.
My wife and I recently dined at Pulia in London’s Borough Market, and a thoroughly enjoyable experience it turned out to be.
The dining space is bright and appealing, we had a very friendly welcome from the charming staff, and the atmosphere was buzzing, with nearly every table occupied.
If you want a drink before dining there is a range of aperitivi – prosecco, spritz, negroni, and martini, and you can pair these with focaccia, or olives while you choose your food.
The menu features many very attractive dishes, and to prove the point here is a little anecdote. My seat allowed me to look through the front window, as the evening progressed I saw many people stop and read the menu outside, 90% of them came into the restaurant!
There are options for both shared and individual starters. Burrata, octopus, and beef carpaccio, are three of the individual dishes. We chose a sharing plate, the Tris di Friselle, three slices of rustic bread, with a selection of toppings, think extra-large bruschetta. The first was crowned with Pachino tomatoes, garlic, and basil, the second had thinly sliced pork loin, Cacioricotta cheese and grilled artichoke, and the final Capocollo ham, rocket, and balsamic vinegar. Cacioricotta cheese is an intriguing mix of hard cheese and ricotta and Capocolio ham thinly sliced cured pork made with the head and collar of the pig. All three Friselle were excellent and gave us the opportunity to sample multiple Puglian ingredients.
If you are hungry you can choose a primi piatto before the main course, dishes available are all based on pasta with sauces of meat, fish, cheese, and vegetables. One very Puglian dish was Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa. Fresh Orecchiette ‘little ears’ pasta with turnip tops. You may also consider the pizzas on the menu as a small main or an alternative primi piatto.
There is an array of very interesting mains, several of them using Podolica beef. This is a southern Italian breed with an intense, slightly sweet taste. My wife chose the Cotoletta alla Pugliese di carne Podolica, a breaded cutlet of grass fed ‘Podolic’ calf. I considered the Aubergine Parmigiana before deciding on the Polpo con Vellutata di Ceci, boiled and pan-fried octopus with a chickpea velouté. We also shared a couple of sides, the Pachino tomato, red onion and basil salad; and oven baked potatoes with rosemary.
Both dishes were highly satisfying, The Podolica cutlet was huge, covered in a subtly herbed breadcrumb coating, it had a lot of favour and served with Parmesan sprinkled beetroot tops. My octopus was very fresh and tender, and I particularly liked the chickpea velouté.
My wife matched the starter with a refreshing prosecco, and I chose the inky Primitivo, full bodied, with bags of dark fruit and smooth, well-balanced tannins. I stayed with the Primitivo for the main, but my wife paired her cutlet with a very citrussy and aromatic Fiano 2020.
The dessert menu listed favourites like tiramisu, torroncini and cassatine, for those with a more savoury taste the mixed Italian cheese was an option. As the portions for the starter and main had been so generous the large desserts were beyond up, but we did share a bowl of pistachio and vanilla ice cream.
This meal worked at every level, great atmosphere, friendly service, a wealth of authentic Puglian dishes to choose from, and delicious wines.
The quality of these dishes has increased my desire to visit Puglia, I know I will be guaranteed good food as there is also a Pulia restaurant in the region’s capital, Brindisi.
36a & 36b Stoney Street
London SE1 9LB
0207 407 8766