WHAT IS IT?
London lacks certain things – by-the-slice pizza joints, for example, or non-illicit nightlife that extends past 4am – but a glut of mid-priced Italian restaurants is not one of them. There’s one in practically every neighbourhood: Peckham’s got industrial-cool Forza Wine, Soho’s got candy-striped Lina Stores, London Fields is blessed with the carb maestros at Lardo, and everywhere else in the city is slowly being colonised by OTT trattorias from the Big Mamma Group (Gloria, Circolo Popolare and soon-to-open Ave Maria).
So it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to open yet another casual, seasonal Italian in central London, where competition is savage and standing out is crucial to survival. But the owners of Cin Cin are unfazed by the saturated market – they’ve set up shop in Fitzrovia, within spitting distance of a bunch of well-regarded restaurants, including Foley’s next door. Maybe they’re confident because they’ve already perfected their craft at their other two locations in Brighton and Hove, where their uncomplicated, produce-forward pasta dishes and small plates earned them a Bib Gourmand in 2018 and an AA Rosette earlier this year.
In essence, Cin Cin is a neighbourhood restaurant without the neighbourhood – the bare-bones dining space and blackboard menu make it feel like it belongs in the outer fringes of Zone 2 rather than half a mile from Oxford Circus. The menu is relatively tidy, composed of a few meaty or pasta-based dishes, plus a few small plates and just as many desserts (four) as there are mains.
The compact menu means each dish is given careful attention by the kitchen, and it shows. The high quality of the food is a pleasant surprise – Cin Cin is the kind of restaurant where you land up if you’re in the neighbourhood and hungry, and leave feeling chuffed at how delicious your meal was. More than once, conversation ceased mid-sentence, reverting to heady praise for the food as dish by dish blew away expectations with a swift blast. Cin Cin is a low-stakes, high-reward type of place.
WHAT SHOULD I ORDER?
Your first stop should be the burrata, served with asparagus and salty wisps of truffled prosciutto. The smear of smoky pesto rosso hidden under the fresh, wobbling lump of cheese makes a delightful surprise.
The agnolotti is a menu mainstay – overstuffed pillows, bursting with whatever’s in season. This time around, it was melt-in-mouth tropea onion straight from the Boot, jostling for space with silky, fatty chunks of mortadella.
Dessert is where the kitchen really shines here. The affogato is heavenly – two scoops of salty-sweet date ice cream drowned in oozy espresso. Or, if post-dinner caffeine is out of the question, the satisfyingly rich chocolate pudding is served on a pool of amaretto caramel sauce and topped with honey-drenched amaretti.
WHY SHOULD I GO?
You’re in central London and want a well-executed, no-fuss meal in a space that feels as hospitable as your favourite neighbourhood joint.