I ushered Ben into the spice shop, ostensibly to fnd rose water for our meringues, but mostly for the joy of buying spices from a store where they still weigh everything on oldfashioned scales
‘There will be cauldrons of thick, dark hot chocolate,’ he said, ‘but infused with aromatic spices that tap into Venice’s Byzantine heritage.’ And frittelle, the sugar doughnuts peppered with raisins, candied peel and pine nuts that in Venice we eat only during the weeks of the carnival, will be on ofer all day, every day.
As we sat down with friends and family to enjoy our banchetto, Ben made it clear that no detail would be too minor to tend to, no ingredient too troublesome to import – down to the moeche (softshell crabs), which are not only highly seasonal but local to the Venetian lagoon, and which, Ben informed me, must be fed with batter before being deep-fried in more batter to bring out their favour. The best of Venice, transported somehow into the heart of London. I would not have imagined it could be done, but then I would have been wrong. Salt Yard Group’s Veneta restaurant will open in St James’s Market, London SW1, this year at the edge of the market, where more often than not queues spill out on to the street, as does the enticing aroma of safron-infused cheeses. Later, I ushered Ben into the spice shop, Mascari, ostensibly to fnd rose water for our meringues, but mostly for the sheer joy of buying spices from a store where they still weigh everything to the gram on oldfashioned scales and then carefully wrap each purchase in elegant printed paper.
As we ambled through the streets, we talked about Ben’s ideas for the restaurant; they are indeed grand. There will be all manner of seafood crudo, tartare and carpaccio. ‘The best dishes I’ve had in Venice have been the raw or semi-raw fsh and shellfsh,’ he explained. ‘I want to put my own slant on them.’ He’ll serve the very best cheese from the Veneto, including Gorgonzola layered with mascarpone – the kind that draws queues at Casa del Parmigiano and is nothing less than decadent.