Eat Here: Twist Kitchen, MaryleboneBy Andy Williams
As I take the short early evening walk from Edgware Road station, I am in need of a palette cleanser. I have come straight from St Katharine’s Docks and a coffee with my business partner, which is – by some distance – the worst hot drink I have had in 2019. (Sir, you are a good salesman but can you really call it a ‘Turkish coffee’ if it’s come straight out of your Nestle machine?)
Twist Kitchen, and more specifically our restaurant manager, Giulia, is on hand to save the day. She offers up a sharp Prosecco which banishes the cloying taste of sickly-sweet froth, and the Neopolitan odyssey begins.
Those influences run through Twist like words through a stick of rock.
The space is a throwback to the feeding of enormous Italian families, with head chef Eduardo Tuccillo inspired by his afternoons as one of sixteen grandchildren crammed into a home kitchen, its own high-end restaurant operation. It feels familiar, especially upstairs, where the buzz of an open kitchen demands your attention. The smell of charcoal is inescapable.
But while Twist is every inch the neighbourhood favourite, this is a defiantly international menu: fusion tapas at its finest. Giulia returns to talk us through all twelve options, with sides and specials there to tempt us. It’s suggested that we order six or so small plates between two people. The cold dishes – and there are plenty of them – will arrive first, followed by warmer plates and finally, the hottest entrants. Chateaubriand carpaccio and seared octopus are no brainers. We discuss the merits of the remaining candidates over a plate of salted Padron peppers.
First up are the scallops, fresh out of Japanese waters. They are beautifully presented, finely sliced and carefully seasoned beneath a huge Mazara red prawn. Bright red and green liquorice make for a colourful plate. My dinner companion – a lapsed vegan – comments on how scallops, done badly, can leave one masticating (her words) for what seems like minutes. These melt in the mouth. A cracking start.
Onto the tuna tartare, which also wows in the presentational stakes. It is equally delicious, perfectly paired with togarashi spiced yoghurt. The dish is scattered with vegetable crisps, which slightly jars with a dish whose texture is all-important. A rare bum note. Layer upon layer of carpaccio discs get us back on track, disappearing in a heartbeat amid an explosion of pistachio and ponzu.
And now for the highlights. Like these spring evenings, our dishes are getting warmer and they are improving accordingly. In many ways you can’t go wrong with octopus, but producing a dish of this quality is an achievement. It is not far off crunchy, but juicy nonetheless. Jamon is a perfect accompaniment, and now we are really enjoying ourselves.
There has been little in the way of vegetables so far, for which I take full responsibility. All four vegetable dishes are laden with cheese (my bete noire), so we opt for cauliflower in a coconut and peanut sauce to balance things out. It’s arguably the highlight, and we pick at these like pieces of popcorn chicken. Vegetables are best served slathered.
We could and probably should have left it there, but there is a succulent lamb chop that demands to be taken apart. Two minutes later, a healthy portion of sweet potato fries arrive – we are officially defeated.
The whole thing is accompanied by the freshest wine I have enjoyed in some time – a pricey Greco di Tufo. It is a blank canvas in the best possible sense. These dishes deserved to thrive with the help of a generous partner, and they got it.
We’re well over two hours into our evening, which is my kind restaurant experience. And it really is an experience, but a pleasantly low key one. There is none of the stuffiness that occasionally comes with restaurants who introduce their ‘concept’, and that neighbourhood feel remains. There is no pretending that Twist is a cheap evening, but nor is it going to break the bank like – say – Chiltern Firehouse, less than half a mile down the road. If you’re going to spend an evening in Marylebone, you will have a lot more fun here than at any number of its Michelin-starred neighbours. From cold through to hot, and everything in between, this is a restaurant that has the balance just right.