The thought of coming together around the table is nothing new, but that feeling of belonging is something most of us have been craving for, now more than ever. A true neighbourhood restaurant must be familiar, comforting, and satisfying. In an intimate spot on Fulham Road sits Manuka Kitchen, a neighbourhood bistro that serves up modern European fare to its loyal clientele. Not everyone can say that their local is listed in the Michelin Guide or was a favourite of renowned food critic AA Gill.
“AA Gill would come in a lot at first, and then he decided to write about us,” says owner Joseph Antippa. He tells us how Gill helped Manuka Kitchen get nationwide attention to the point that it became a must-visit restaurant for anyone traveling to London. Antippa walks us through the menu and tells us about how they have coped during the difficult months of lockdown. “We started Manuka at Home straight after lockdown, maybe after two or three weeks. It was just the right thing to do; it’s convenient, everything’s ready, there’s no need to chop or follow a recipe. The idea was that you’d get the restaurant at home,” he shares. Every Manuka at Home customer receives a menu to recreate the full in-person experience of ordering a started, main, and dessert. Antippa is passionate about creating dishes that are naturally healthy without sacrificing on flavour. He tells us about the meticulous care that went into finding just the right suppliers for each and every protein, fruit, and vegetable that went into the seasonal dishes on the menu. “The biggest challenge is keeping the food tasty and innovating. We need to keep changing the menu on a weekly basis to encourage people to come out of their houses because they know they can’t make them at home,” he explains.
We start our meal with strawberry bellinis and share a toast to the warm weather outside. The street is starting to get busy with people and Antippa waves to someone he knows who’s passing by. For starters, I decide on the English burrata with pea, lemon, and orange oil, and Prosecco. I had never had Prosecco with a cheese dish before but was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked with the burrata. My husband opted for the grilled squid with chili and garlic and an herb salad. The squid was perfectly cooked, fresh, and tasty. The rest of our meal continued to deliver high notes with special mentions to the house favourite Wagyu beef Bolognese and the absolutely delicious chocolate pretzel tart, which came highly recommended and was exceptional. Antippa recommended a bottle of the organic, vegan Vitese Nero D’Avola from the Colomba Bianca winery in Sicily. He gave us some background on the Sicilian grapes and the fact that they’re often under-rated. The wine went perfectly with our meal and we left Manuka Kitchen feeling like we had discovered a well-known neighbourhood secret that we could not wait to return to.