Tel: +44 (0)20 7487 0750
Address: 118 Marylebone Lane, W1U 2QF
Cuisine Type: Italian
When I heard Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi – the folks behind beloved Marylebone Lane establishments Caldesi and Caffé Caldesi – were opening up a new dedicated kitchen studio for cookery lessons just down the road, I jumped at the chance to give it a go. What better way to learn how to prepare authentic Italian food (never mind homegrown Tuscan) than by one of the best? And being able to do so without the cleanup at home – yup, I was all set to get down and dirty. So we donned our aprons, scrubbed our hands and off we went.
The kitchen itself is compact and intimate, yet laid out quite well to comfortably fit groups up to 15 people. Workspaces are good-sized wooden butcher-block tables with good views of the instructor, and the kitchen is cleverly fitted with domestic-style ovens versus professional equipment so you are actually able to recreate at home what you learn in the Caldesi kitchen.
In this particular session, we started by preparing our very own fresh pasta, humorously led by Giancarlo. A messy, but very rewarding process – eggs, flour, rolling pins and all. I truly discovered upper arm muscles I never knew existed. Is this still the cookery course?
Then we observed and participated when one of the roving guest chef instructors, Franco Taruschio of The Walnut Tree Inn fame, guided us through the steps to make the most mouth-watering (and waist-extending) vincisgrassi, a baked pasta dish with generous portions of Parma ham, porcini mushrooms, parsley and Parmesan cheese. And I noticed superior ingredients are not spared in this kitchen when spying an enormous portion of black truffle being used just as freely as the other ingredients.
What Italian meal would be complete without a delectable pudding to solidify the impending carb haze? This time we were taught by food writer Lindy Wildsmith who patiently explained how to make a summer fruit beltrame and encouraged us through the assembly of its several luscious layers. We enthusiastically chopped fruit, whisked eggs and made sparkly crystallised decorations.
The best part was after all the hard work, we actually sat down and enjoyed the meal we slaved (and not so subtly drooled) over. Initially a scary thought, but the instructors politely ensured everything we ate was, in fact, edible.
La Cucina Caldesi’s specialised courses offer the chance to work with professional chefs, wine experts and artists. The current course schedule includes courses such as ‘Italian meat, fish and poultry,’ ‘Tuscan art, food and wine’ and ‘Make your own pizza and birthday cake’, which would be ideal for children’s parties.
An education in Italian wines is also on offer with expert Chris Loveday, who passionately instructs students on ‘Finding your way through an Italian wine list’ and other wine-related pursuits. When I was there, we tried a diverse selection of lesser-known wines, including a refreshing Prosecco, a crisp Cortese and a luxuriously sweet and smooth Moscato, which perfectly accompanied our self-made puddings.
These hands-on courses can also be specially tailored to accommodate corporate and private functions, and other special events. Prices range from £40 for half-day courses to £120 for a day of cooking.
I can sincerely guarantee you will come away from La Cucina Caldesi content and inspired. You will have learned, laughed and been enveloped in a warm and fuzzy Italian family feel. Mangia!