Born of Paola Sibilla and located in the heart of Brixton Village, Casa Sibilla is a cosy Italian restaurant with a modest range of deli products on offer too. Paola’s food philosophy is “…exalting food in all its goodness and simplicity, to avoid spoiling it by adding too many ingredients or flavours.”
The core ingredients are sourced on a weekly basis from Italy, hence the menu changes frequently to showcase seasonal produce. The menu is limited (in a good way) with several choices for starter, main and dessert and a separate menu for drinks and nibbles.
We came on a Sunday afternoon and the restaurant wasn’t too busy, compared to some of the competition with queues leading outside the doors. A little squashed inside, this was more endearing than annoying with most of the restaurants in Brixton Village sharing the same characteristic.
To start with we shared an antipasti for 1 – the size was much bigger than expected so we were glad we chose to share. The cold meats were salami and mortadella, accompanied by various warm nibbles – roasted aubergine with tomato and black olive, stuffed mushroom, red pepper and tomato and baby courgettes topped with breadcrumbs, a little square of omelette/fritatta, a meatball with tomato ragu, and finally, new potatoes topped with something (i’m not sure what it was!). It was all quite tasty – non-fussy and rustic italian flavours.
For main, my sister opted for Ravioli with Tomato Sauce, and I chose the slow cooked Lamb Belly with Parmesan Mash and greens. My lamb was incredibly tender and melted in the mouth, simply cooked with herbs and carrots for a little sweetness. The Parmesan Mash, speckled with fried onions and parmesan was tasty and added a savoury note without overpowering the lamb. Two types of green were served – stems of Chard, and what I think was Barba dei Frati aka ‘Monk’s Beard’. This was the first time I’ve tried Monk’s Beard, cultivated mainly in Sicily, Spain and Northern Africa from March through to July and I’d like to see more of it in the UK. It adds an earthy, mineral rich flavour and has a more delicate texture than other leafy greens. I think this showcases Paola’s dedication to sourcing seasonal ingredients from her country of origin.
The Ravioli dish was not the one advertised on the menu for the day since it had run out. Unfortunately I can’t remember the filling of the ravioli – I tried one and it wasn’t especially distinctive or memorable but the pasta was well cooked and still al dente. The accompanying Tomato sauce was flavoursome and quite light.
All in all, from the dishes I sampled today I think Paolo Sibilla demonstrates her food philosophy by serving rustic dishes based on seasonal produce without over complicating flavours or sacrificing the essence of an ingredient. The service was friendly but I have to comment on the slow turnaround times – in a restaurant less than half full we waited 40 minutes for 1 starter and another 40 minutes for the mains to arrive which I did feel was excessive given that the dishes we ordered would have largely been cooked in advance. At £41 for 1 starter, 2 mains and a bottle of sparkling water, it wasn’t especially good value for money. That said, I would try it again – but next time I’ll remember to put that extra hour on the parking ticket!