Toni’s Kitchen opened in 2018. Located at Bisley House in Stroud, it’s owned and ran by the team behind Fat Toni’s Pizzeria. Yes, the Fat Toni’s behind the amazing 20” sourdough pizza.
Owner Jason Orsi runs the kitchen, with sister Samantha running the front of house. The idea being ‘Italian roots with French style refinement’.
Toni’s Kitchen were voted into the Top 10 Places 2018, so to celebrate their awards win they invited us to try a tasting menu of some of the best food on offer.
The tasting menu was 6 courses each, featuring smaller versions of their favourite ‘primi’ and ‘secondi’ menu items, with a trio of desserts to share as the final course. They have a great selection of vegetarian and vegan options (a whole menu of them in fact), which meant vegetarian Sophie enjoyed her own tasting menu. So we're trying out a new 'shared article' situation, with Sophie's thoughts in italics.
We both started off with some of their homemade bread; classic sourdough and rosemary focaccia. The team behind Fat Toni’s pizza obviously know how to knock bread out of the park, but still our expectations were hit for six with the incredible focaccia.
Both menus led with a Jerusalem artichoke and truffle velouté, with a shard of fennel music bread (Italian crispy flatbread). The truffle artichoke soup was deliciously creamy, and paired wonderfully with the fennel flatbread. A great way to start.
I then had a lobster, salmon and crab filled ravioli, in a creamed lobster bisque, with samphire and a tempura prawn. Okay, this blew me away. Fresh and indulgent all at once. The ravioli was delicious, the sauce creamy, with the samphire adding its classic salty element and the tempura prawn adding some crunch and decadence. I could eat this for days.
With vegetarian Italian food, it can be very easy for places to stick with the basics, thankfully I didn’t have that problem at Toni’s Kitchen. My starter was a slice of wild mushroom and cep lasagne which was absolutely delicious. It was super creamy, and the woody, earthy tastes from the wild mushroom and cep were complimented by the fresh, salty samphire. It was an amazing way to properly start the meal and left me excited for what was to come…
Next up I had Nduja Glazed Rib, with Homemade Sausage on a small bed of lemon and herb pearl barley. The sausage was crumbly (clearly had a very high meat content) and balanced, the rib was sweet, sticky and smoky, easily falling off the bone. Both of these paired beautifully together and with the pearl barley, which was fresh and zesty, cutting through the rich flavours of the pork.
Following on from my starter, I had two types of bruschetta. So, full disclosure, I am usually fussy when it comes to mixing sweet and savoury together, so I will admit that I was a little worried when I saw that one of the bruschetta on my menu was pear, gorgonzola and walnut. It turns out, I really enjoyed it! A delicious combination of tastes and textures.
The other bruschetta was slightly more traditional with mixed tomatoes, creamy buffalo mozzarella and pesto, with sweet candied endive. I tried both pieces with their incredible Aggazzotti balsamic vinegar, which definitely took them to the next level.
My first taste of the mains was roast duck. It’s safe to say that I think Duck is one of the best meats available. This was perfectly cooked, accompanied by a blood orange sauce to cut through the deep flavour. The accompanying veg paired very well, but the shining star was the ‘potato leg gateaux’ – basically a stack of dauphinoise potatoes, topped with shredded duck leg and wrapped in parma ham. Yes to this.
After my bruschetta, I was looking forward to what came next; and my pea and soft herb risotto served with a crispy yolk looked so promising. The presentation was so well thought out, and the whole plate looked delicious. This plate was another example of how vegetarian food doesn’t have to be boring! The risotto was beautifully creamy with subtle herbs that added extra depth. What really made it special was the addition of crispy tempura green beans and samphire, which gave the dish new textures and flavours, and the "crispy yolk” - a tempura egg yolk, which was soft and creamy. Every part of the dish was amazing and was completed with a drizzle of oil and sprinkled with basil leaves.
Onto another course, at which point I’m feeling the effects of so much food. I’m full, but I’m here to eat, and I will eat it all. Mustard and herb venison Loin, on top of braised venison ragu, both incredibly rich, sitting on top of velvety smooth butternut squash and parmesan polenta. As with all the courses up to know, all the elements paired brilliantly together for a complete dish.
My final savoury dish was a delightful rigatoni dish with Sicilian caponata. Simple, yet so delicious. I’ve always loved caponata and of course this was no exception; the aubergine, and the accompanying vegetables had enough flavour to make even the most hardened carnivore give up meat. Topped with a crispy, herby crumble, this dish was the perfect lead up to our desserts… which of course were desperately awaited.
Then we hit the desserts, which meant activating the second stomach that we all know definitely exists for sweets.
Before we could get to the trio, we tried out an amazing 'rhubarb and custard' cocktail. It tasted like exactly like the classic sweets, made from Chase Distillery rhubarb vodka and a deliciously tart rhubarb sorbet, with rhubarb crisps.
Dessert #1 from the trio was a Chocolate nemesis torte, with salted caramel popcorn ice cream. This was incredibly decadent, so I struggled after my rich meat courses. No trouble for Sophie though!
Absolutely no trouble whatsoever; and we found out from Jason afterwards that this was made without flour, and to achieve such a rich, gooey texture without flour really is incredible. Is there anything these guys can’t do?
Dessert #2 was a treacle tart, with bitter orange sauce and crème fraiche ice cream. This was extremely balanced combination of flavours that left us both with a smile.
Dessert #3 was an absolute hit. Vanilla panna cotta, with rhubarb, rhubarb sorbet, caramelised white chocolate and rhubarb crisps. Sweet, creamy, sharp and perfect end to the meal. It was one of those perfectly balanced puddings that even though you’re already full, you can easily take down without a question. Obviously paired well with the cocktail as well!
But we didn’t stop there. We spent the next hour chatting with Jason over Italian coffee, or in Sophie’s case an affogato made using Cotswolds Cream Liqueur ice cream, topping off a wonderful meal with great memories to boot.
Toni’s Kitchen is as good for a refined Italian dinner as Fat Toni’s is good for pizza... perfetto!