Il Maremmano | Italian ‘Apericena’ Bar in Brixton
Italy doesn’t have a lot of portmanteaux – or as they call them, fruit salad words.
But one you’ll probably want to get acquainted with is apericena.
Fusing aperitivo and cena (dinner), it’s basically Italy’s answer to brunch: taking a part of the day when you wouldn’t traditionally be eating, combining the best parts of the mealtimes either side, and ending up with something that, somehow, is a whole lot more fun than either of them.
The good news is, you don’t have to travel to Italy to try it.
Perched on the fringes of Brockwell Park, round the corner from Hootenanny’s, Naughty Piglets, and older sibling Maremma is Il Maremmano – the Tuscan restaurant’s ‘naughty little brother’. As an apericena bar, they’ve set out to create somewhere casual and welcoming where you can stop by for a drink – whether its a spritz or a glass of Tuscan wine – and easily find yourself ordering a couple of small plates, eating enough to make it a dinner, and sticking around till closing time. Do they succeed?
Il Maremmano is a gorgeously cosy little space, with countertops and stools orbiting the main bar (perfect if you’re leaning more towards the aperitivo part) and a couple of larger tables towards the back (perfect if you’re leaning more towards cena). The whole bar is wrapped in warm, cinnabar-hued walls decorated with an array of artwork, from vintage Italian advertising to Chinese propaganda posters and oil paintings. There’s an easy, convivial feel to the place, with friendly service to match.
On the menus you’ll find a selection of Italian wines by the glass and bottle (all hailing from the Maremma region itself, and none of which are available anywhere else in London) and London & Italian brews. The cocktails are all perfectly finessed, from the aperitivi (Americano, Negroni, etc) to the signature drinks – the Aperi Sour is a creamier take on an Aperol Spritz, and you should plump for the Grappa Punch if it’s on the specials board that day; it arrives topped with a flaming passionfruit. They’re all thoroughly drinkable, but – since the Italians have honed the art of drinking in the early evening over many years – won’t knock you for six if you end up staying longer than you’d initially planned.
And with dishes like these, it’s very easy to do that – if you’ve been to Maremma, you’ll know that their chefs knock up some of the best Italian food in London. At Il Maremmano, the menu has been designed specifically with sharing in mind, so they’re all dishes you can order throughout the evening, in any order, whenever you feel like picking at something. There are generously-laden boards of high quality cheese and charcuterie (the latter comes from the founders’ own farm back in Maremma); springy focaccia served with a well of olive oil; and miniature pizzette to fill the gaps if you get really peckish. But there are also more unusual choices on offer – chicken liver crostoni; vegetables served with bagna cauda; and squid stuffed with bread, capers, taggiasche olives and garlic, sitting in a pool of richly flavoured tomato sauce (a regional speciality).
You’ll leave Il Maremmano full of good food, good cheer, and the sense that you’ve just enjoyed a little Italian holiday in miniature.
Which goes some way to taking the edge off everyone’s least favourite portmanteau… Brexit.
NOTE: Il Maremmano is open on Thursday & Friday (5-10pm) and Saturday (12-10pm), with hours set to extend later this month. You can book by emailing [email protected], or just turn up – find out more HERE.
Il Maremmano | 19 Tulse Hill, London SW2 2TH
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