The story of the Salmontini brand is a journey of exquisite flavours, one that has crossed oceans and continents leaving behind its legacy of fine gastronomic experience. It is a story of exceptional ingredients, of passion, and culinary flare of a simple love for fine food. It is a story that has ben shaped by the friendship of its owners and creators, Joe Bassili and Hussni Ajlani.
I was very kindly invited to the restaurant to taste some of the fine food they have on their menu, and upon first arrival was blown away by both the restaurant’s location, and its interior and exterior decor. Salmontini de Resto is located in the rather delightful Belgravia region of London which is an area that always impresses me when I visit London whether it’s the fabulous clothing I often see on display, the high fashion outlets, or the collection of high powered super cars that often line the streets.
After entering Salmontini de Resto the staff were very friendly and took my array of winter clothing in order to hang in their cloakroom. The restaurant itself is beautifully furnished with very modern yet classy looking furniture, and some rather delectable paintings placed by a person with an eye for both taste and interior design.
I was seated at my table and presented with what is a very impressive menu consisting of some very fine dishes. However as I was in a restaurant that was known for its fish and fish smoking I did feel I needed to sample seafood for both my starter and main course.
The kind staff offered me a selection from both the Rainbow Maki and the Dragon Maki. The Rainbow Maki consisted of crab mix, cucumber, 6 slices of fish, tobiko mix, a rather delightful wasabi mayo, and something called unagi sause which I thoroughly enjoyed and found very light. A perfect start to a meal. The Dragon Maki was a selection of some of the most stunning looking sushi I have encountered in some time. The delectable looking plate contained ebi katsu crab, avocado, lettuce, salmon, tonkatsu sauce, and sesame seeds.
The Sushi was presented in a rather impressive smoking bowl and each piece of fish was resting peacefully upon a stack of crushed ice. It tasted just as incredible as it looked; the fish was beautifully prepared and was so soft it simply melted in the mouth!
As well as the fish courses I was also brought a small portion of the Lentil salad which was a very fine mix of red onion, lentils, cherry tomato and a balsamic glaze; a very clean and refreshing dish that worked rather well alongside the sushi.
For main course I opted for the Lobster Amaranth Risotto (photo unavailable) which was a very different take on risotto to what I, and many of you may be used to. Rather than the usual Arborio rice many of us would expect I was presented with amaranth which is a browny red like grain that added a delightful sweetness to the dish and it worked perfectly alongside the beautifully cooked lobster.
Unfortunately I did not have room for desert but if I did I would have had to opted for the Tiramisu that 2 diners were devouring next to me at the time. I cannot recommend this restaurant enough, and the prices are not as high as you might expect. The meal I had was around £100, and I can honestly say I have eaten some of the finest seafood you can whilst in London. However if you don’t want to dine and feel you just want to sample some of the fine cocktails in this place, do so! They look incredible!!!
Besides eating in the fabulous restaurant the owner, and son of the founder, Jason Bassili answered a few questions about the Salmontini brand and what he has planned for 2015.
Hi Jason, many thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about your fabulous restaurant. What have you been up to with your day so far? I believe you have recently been over in Dubai?
I just got back from Dubai, business is booming over there and formula 1 weekend was cool! But love being back here as this is my first restaurant here in the UK and hate being away from it for too long a period of time.
When did you first decide that you wished to follow in your father’s footsteps?
I have been around my father’s businesses from the age of 4, helping him out in the summer holidays whether it be on the vacuum machine in the smoke house or running around his restaurants. To be honest I can’t see myself doing anything else than what I’m doing right now.
Salmontini is broken down in to two products, Salmontini Le Fumoir, Salmontini Le Resto. Can you tell us a little about what each offers your clientele?
Well Salmontini Le Fumoir is our beating heart, this is the brand which our smoke house operates under producing 12 tonnes of Smoked Salmon per week! We supply 5 * hotels, restaurants, airlines and supermarkets across the UAE and the GCC. Salmontini Le Resto is the restaurant side of things that started in Beirut in 2001. We then opened a branch in Dubai in 2005 and this is still going strong, doing over 350 covers per day. We took the decision to open in London last year and opened the doors to our first UK based venue on 1 Pont Street at the end of October 2014. Although we have only been open for a couple of months, we have found that our local residents are fast becoming regulars and our client base is growing every day.
You pride yourself on your smokehouse which was established by your father when he learned the skill up in Scotland. Can you talk us through the process, and why you only source your salmon from Scotland?
My father learned to smoke salmon in the Shetlands in 1991 and till this day still uses the same traditional techniques that seem to have been lost by a lot of smoke houses today. We use Scottish salmon because of the fat content and the waters they live in which keep them active and at the right temperature. We fly the fish in whole and fresh from Scotland. Then we hand fillet and salt the salmon over night before slowly cold smoking it for 24hours. The smoked salmon is then left to rest and mature for a day before going in for HAND SLICING, something we are very proud of, and doing 12 tons a week by hand is no simple task.
Salmontoni has been certified by the Scottish Sea Farms association, and has a very impressive array of clients. When did the business first get certified, and can you talk us through some of your current clients?
The Scottish sea farms association certified us back in 2010 once they visited our site and were blown away with how we do things. Our client base now has over 450 outlets which include Atlantis, The One & Only Group, Le Meriden Grosvernor and the rest of the Starwood group, Sofitel, Hyatt Group, Carrefour, Ethiad Airlines.
What are some of the differences in terms of your menu between the locations?
The menu’s are still very similar but prepared differently as clients in the UAE prefer certain foods to be cooked differently to the way our UK a clients do. My father joe created all the menus at all our venues and still oversees any new additions to our menu.
Besides the fantastic food you offer you also appear to pride yourselves on the quality service you offer to your customers. What sort of training is given to your employees to bring them up to the standard you expect?
All staff go through an extensive training program, some of which fly out to Dubai for ‘on the Job’ Training. The team are constantly trained on the menu, wine knowledge, and sequences of services to keep them sharp.
Your restaurant in London also offers a superb cocktail bar where you have already hosted some big parties for various fashion and TV profiles. What can our readers expect if they visit your restaurant for a few cheeky cocktails?
Salmontini has had some big names through the door and still does. I guess this comes with the location and what we have on offer. The lounge is comfortable and the cocktail menu is very creative offering our customers a huge selection of some of the most creative cocktails, whether it be a Magic Monkey or an Aladdin’s wish!
Your current location in London has been used previously by a couple of restaurants that have previously not done too well. What do you think you can offer the area that the previous tenants couldn’t?
Drones was a Huge success in this location and established the venue as a high end well-loved location, it just needed someone to step in and offer the local residents somewhere that they can come and feel welcomed and valued in a refined but still homely surrounding. Which is what we do with our menu, decor and friendly staff.
What have you got planned for Salmontini in the New Year?
For New years eve we are throwing a party with Live Jazz Band and singer followed by a DJ till the early hours of the morning. This really is the start of an amazing year and I know 2015 will see Salmontini grow and hopefully the opening of another restaurant in London. Watch this space!!!!
I would like to thank Maria for the invite to the restaurant, the chef for the truly delightful food, and Jason for the taking the time out of his very busy schedule to speak to me.