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A taste of luxury at Brentwood High Street’s new glamorous Italian

PUBLISHED: 13:55 09 October 2020 | UPDATED: 15:12 09 October 2020

Bottle green velvet booths at the back of the restaurant.

Bottle green velvet booths at the back of the restaurant.

Adriana Elgueta

With bottle green velvet booths and glitzy chandeliers, Brentwood’s newest High Street eatery is the place to go for authentic Italian cocktails and a glamorous take on pasta favourites.

Toasting with Toasting with "the classic negroni" - one of many versions of negroni to choose from!

Figo, which roughly translates to “cool” or “trendy,” in Italian, opened in September and is the second branch to open, after the owners found great success with a restaurant in Stratford, located in the Westfield Shopping Centre. A third is opening in early 2021 in up-and-coming Leyton, both in east London.

Former chef and owner, Tony Manconi has quietly been building up a restaurant empire in east London and Essex and I was surprised to learn that I’d been to almost all of his restaurants. In fact, while living in Hackney, I used to ping-pong between Turkish grill Pivaz — of which there also used to be one in Brentwood — and the Italian, Venerdi, thinking that I was sharing my custom with different local independent restaurants. Manconi’s venture started with Bella Vita in east London’s bougie Broadway Market in the 2000s. Now, he owns nine restaurants across east London and Essex.

Burrata with caponata and croutins - or mozzarella filled with cream and roasted veg. The starter in the background is bruschetta with porcini and black truffle mushrooms, burrata and n'duja and tomato sauce.Burrata with caponata and croutins - or mozzarella filled with cream and roasted veg. The starter in the background is bruschetta with porcini and black truffle mushrooms, burrata and n'duja and tomato sauce.

Figo Brentwood has been carefully tailored to the Essex clientele and although the restaurant sells 80 per cent pasta, in Brentwood they’ve also got a range of steaks on the menu, which operations director, Andy Dempster says they sell a lot more of in the Essex area. The Stratford branch goes big on salads, perfect for the lunchtime shopper. Dishes range from salads at £8 to £27 steaks.

One dish that beckoned me, but unfortunately I couldn’t sample due to my cheese-phobic dining partner, was “La Gran Carbonara,” a Carbonara served from a Parmesan cheese wheel brought to your table, but only available for two.

"La Dolce Vita," inspired by the 1960s film: lemon, rooibos and cacao tea cordial, Select aperitivo, gin and raspberry dust. Tastes a bit like alcohol tea!

Instead, I had the burrata with caponata to start — a great excuse to have an entire ball of cheese to yourself — burrata is mozzarella filled with cream, and was served with finely chopped roasted veg and croutons. My friend, Charlotte, opted for the trio of bruschetta with n’duja (spicy Italian sausage) tomato sauce, fresh porcini mushrooms and burrata, (she makes excuses to her cheese phobia for high-quality mozzarella), “a nice little nibble of everything”.

For the main, I went for the “Tagliolinoi Alla’astice”, egg tagliolini pasta with lobster, served in half a lobster’s shell. The sauce was very simple, all I could really detect were a few tomatoes but it worked well with the lobster’s delicate flavour. Charlotte chose a fillet steak, “Filetto di Manzo,” which came with mash and a rich creamy mushroom sauce. Quite familiar flavours she said, the best bit being the quality of the juicy steak cooked to a T.

Also unique to Brentwood’s Figo is an eclectic cocktail menu, including seven different types negroni, the Italian cocktail of campari, vermouth and gin, in case the classic one was not adventurous enough.

"Filetto di Manzo," fillet of beef, olive oil mashed potato, sautéd girolle mushrooms and crispy shallots.

All the cocktails are made up mainly of Italian aperitifs with an innovative spin. For example, there is “the Olivetti”: Martini Bianco Ambrato, made up of vodka, olive oil, basil and black pepper tincture — “What a martini would look like if it were made in Naples,” it says on the menu. Or the “Figo spritz” with Luxardo Bitter Bianco, elderflower liqueur, prosecco, lemon oil and thyme.

Tony Manconi’s vision is to create a unique dining experience for every venue and although he’s decided to run with the same brand name, Figo, for a third time, I’m assured that the upmarket Brentwood experience will be dramatically different to the Leyton restaurant still in the works, which will have a more casual city vibe and a deli.

"The Loft" - soon-to-be private venue hire above Figo restaurant.

In fact, Figo Brentwood hopes to be one of the most exclusive eateries in the town. Upstairs, “The Loft” area is decorated with just about as many chandeliers as you can fit into the space, with big velvet armchairs and its own exclusive bar. Andy says that once the pandemic restrictions are lifted, they intend for this to be a venue for private hire - birthdays and corporate events.

All the design is done by Tony himself and although his restaurants don’t look the same, having frequented most, I would say that they all have his trademark style, embracing a 20s art deco design look, with lots of velvet, patterned tile hallways, chandeliers, dark furnishings and pots of leafy indoor palm plants placed in corners.

"The Loft", soon-to-be private venue with its own bar.

This place is all about the glam evening out: Instragram-friendly, affordable elegance with high quality ingredients. You’ll find your friendly favourites of pizza and pasta classics but also a degree of authenticity not often found in average high street Italian chains. A good place to spoil yourself for a special occasion.

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