Stirling admires art, cocktails and Anthony Demetre’s latest menu while pondering if there is such a thing as too many negronis…
Looking out from the Osteria restaurant The Barbican presents itself in all its cubist concrete glory. I love spending time gazing at its architecture and admiring the design by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon in that so delicious Brutalist style. Hard on the eye, powerful, strong – it’s iconic. But gazing out the window is probably frowned upon this particular evening, because adorning the wall of Osteria is a selection of the finest, classic works from a different iconic archive: Campari art.
Osteria is exhibiting a collection of the most representative artworks from Campari’s rich history. The exhibition recounts the story of the brand through modern and contemporary expressions of work in an initiative conceived by the gallery’s artistic director, Marina Mojana. But this is a three-way love affair. Artwork, cocktails and food: a ménage a trois of true wonder. Cocktail enthusiasts are invited to sample a flight of negronis – the most renowned Campari cocktail – or sip on the aptly named ‘Spiritello’ cocktail in homage to Leonetto Cappiello’s 1921 piece. A piece which you can admire while dining – and the original no less.
When it come to the food there is no messing around. Michelin-starred chef Anthony Demetre, a firm favourite of ours, has designed a bespoke tasting menu with an emphasis on seasonality and Italian produce. Salt-baked sea bass, a roast saddle of rabbit and, for the sweeter tooth, the Italian classic vanilla and Strega panna cotta paired with late summer berries. Anthony will also be highlighting the intricate and botanical tones of Campari, hinting at the closely guarded ingredients, throughout the menu.
“To be able to work so closely with one of the most iconic Italian brands is truly an honour,” Anthony tells me. “The depth of flavour in Campari is something I’m really excited about translating into the dishes.” As much as I’m excited about tasting them, good sir. “We spent a lot of time developing the menu to make sure each plate was just right – the focus remains on quality produce and an Italian influence, but with a nod to the botanics of the drink.” And he’s got them spot on, I can assure you.
The exhibition is a journey into the evolutionary culture and tone of Camapri through the years, displayed via the nine works of art exhibited. From Marcello Nizzoli (1887-1969), creator of the Post-Cubist Campari poster, to the young Futurist Fotunato Depero (1907-1998), to Leonetto Cappiello’s original 1921 piece ‘Spritello’ – one of the most innovative creators of advertising art who is being exhibited for the first time in the UK at Osteria.
A print of Graphic declination of the name Campari by Bruno Munari (1907-1998) will also be displayed – a poster created in 1964 for the inauguration of Milan’s first metropolitan line and is currently part of the permanent collection at the MoMA in New York. Other artists include Marcello Dudovich and Giovanni Mingozzi – who produced a number of artworks here represented by Dame e ufficiali and CampariSoda e Bicchiere respectively.
It’s a heady combination. Perhaps another negroni is needed? And, as you sip it, you can start to speculate about Camapri’s secret recipe. The recipe, which has remained unchanged, originated in Novara in 1860 and is the base for some of the most famous cocktails around the world. I forced myself to drink possibly one too many negronis, just to try and nail that recipe myself. Possibly.
The recipe may be elusive, but one thing is not; this is the largest collection of iconic 1900’s artwork to be displayed in the UK, ever. So, feast your eyes, your tastebuds and your eternally elegant appetites. You will not be disappointed.
The Galleria Campari On Tour exhibition will be on display at Osteria until the end of the year.
For more information about Osteria London at the Barbican, and to book a table, visit www.osterialondon.co.uk.