No. 37: Nightingale
As it happens, David Hawksworth wanted to open a pizzeria from the time that he was a teenager. So it should have come as no surprise that when he finally got around to it in 2016—after 25 years in fine dining—that he would overachieve some.
The setting he chose is the Marine Building, near the waterfront, and the space is massive, elegant and modern. Split over two levels, the restaurant is accented with pale wood, tiled pillars and walls dressed with mock-origami birds (not hawks, but nightingales, right?). The main level is dominated by a large bar; upstairs, it’s the madly bustling open kitchen.
There is a wood-burning pizza oven, of course. But the kitchen’s real focus is turning out a thoughtfully conceived, assertively seasonal and unusually sizeable (50 items, give or take a few) selection of contemporary, ingredient-driven Californian-Italian cuisine. These plates are meant to be shared, enjoyed and not fussed over—but they bear scrutiny, if that’s what you’re into.
Salads like watercress and endive with pink peppercorns and hazelnut vinaigrette crackle with flavour and texture. Vegetable dishes raise the bar with a similar formula (see roasted cauliflower sprinkled with crunchy sunflower seeds and sweet sultanas, with turmeric dressing and some brightening cilantro). Classic combinations are smartly rethought (note the unusually flavoursome veal tongue in the vitello tonnato).
The excellent pizzas—say, black truffle, creamed leek and fontina—are built on a Neapolitan-style dough, with a crisp crust and a creamy-soft crumb. Then there are pastas, along with fish and meats from the grill—in short, something for everyone. All the food is wine-friendly, and the list is broad. The cocktail program is sharp. Service is casual, but ultra-competent.
Photo Courtesy of Hawksworth Communications