Featured Restaurant: Incanto

5th May 2017

41 High Street • Harrow on the Hill • HA1 3HT • 020 8426 6767

Reviewed by Jill Glenn

Tucked away behind its delicatessen frontage in the Old Post Office on Harrow on the Hill, a stone’s throw from the public school, Incanto has an enviable position, both geographically and culinarily: on all my previous visits it has never failed to deliver wonderful food and a great atmosphere…

… although this time I approach with caution. Incanto has changed hands and has both a new chef and a new menu. Can its current incarnation match up to those of the past?

Its tag line – fresh, contemporary Italian cuisine – is promising, as is the ambience. It’s brighter and buzzier than before, but it’s still recognisably Incanto.

We begin with a glass of Prosecco and an amuse-bouche: smoked salmon, with avocado purée and a radish slice (perched atop jauntily, like a little sunshade). It is everything an amuse-bouche should be – light and bright and fresh on the tongue, awakening tastebuds dulled by the day, promising good things to come. The menu is short, but perfectly formed.

A starter of Insalata Formaggio di Capra (red, candy and golden roast beetroots with a Dolcelatte cheese mousse and walnut dressing) is beautifully presented and full of textural contrasts. The mousse is creamy without being cloying, and the beetroots cooked to perfection. It’s all very light and beautifully balanced. Insalata Branzino (sea bass, shredded crunchy fennel, orange segments, cucumber, red radish, dill and citrus vinaigrette) is equally delicious – a great collection of flavours, with the fish very tender, and full of the taste of the sea.

We try, too, the River Dart Salmon (with avocado purée, apple jelly, red radish, lime gel, potato crisp and coriander cress): three little parcels of utter deliciousness. Rarely do I put down my cutlery, look at the food with real respect and say ‘wow’. But I do now. The salmon is full of flavour, the crispy coating is inspired, the lime gel astonishingly good. Fabulous components, beautifully assembled: who knew culinary collage could be this good?

Main courses – Carré d’Agnello (rack of lamb with a mixed herb crust, dauphinoise potatoes and kale) and Sea Bream Fillet (with fennel sauce, scallops and cauliflower) – are so pretty that it seems almost a shame to eat them. The knife slides through the lamb with no effort; the crust adds a little lift to the tender meat, and the accompaniments all relax into one great background flavour. ‘I could have gone on eating this all night,’ says my guest as she clears her plate. ‘I’m very sad to be coming to the last mouthful.’

I feel the same about the fish, which arrives with everything neatly nestled together. There’s meltingly soft fennel, perfectly-roasted cauliflower and scallops that are as light and lovely as you could wish. But the star of the show is in the centre of the plate; bream is probably my favourite fish, and Incanto has done it proud. It’s so moist and fresh, flaking apart at the merest touch of the knife. A side order of garlicky kale makes me very happy.

For dessert, opposite me, a Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding (so new that it hasn’t even made it to the menu yet) is reported as light and fruity. I steal a piece and find it a touch stodgy, but my companion assures me that it’s just right, and is stern about sharing no more of the delicious accompanying ice cream. My own choice, a deconstructed Tiramisu, hits the spot exactly. There’s the rich flavour of dark chocolate, plenty of alcohol, a biscuity crunch, and something soft and creamy and beguiling that holds the whole thing together.

I am – can you tell? – loving Incanto’s latest reinvention.

Find Your Local