Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

Resto 9 Polpo, Covent Garden

March 11, 2018

Odd that I should never have been in Polpo before and this omission was rectified for a birthday celebration prior to Macbeth at the National. After some table shenanigans (we were moved twice) we settled in to look at a particularly appealing menu. Polpo bills itself as small plates so I asked the waiter how many we should order between two. He was of the opinion that if we were five at table we should order five dishes. Which seemed a bit cryptic.

So we used our own judgement. While we worked out what we were having we supped on Bellinis (decent, if not outstanding) and grazed appetisers of olives and smoky nuts. As far as I could see a tagliatelle was good enough for me and we decided to share a salad of courgette and basil. The tagliatelle was excellent – plenty of deep flavoured sauce with good lumps of flaky chicken and mushrooms. I couldn’t resist snaffling a slither of venison meat ball from across the way and that too was top drawer. But the star was the salad! Thinly sliced raw courgette in a yummy dressing.

There’s such a selection of wine that it was very difficult to pick something out. A carafe of 50cl of Soave (we thought we’d stick to the Veneto) went down very well. After a shaky start service improved drastically and a nice touch was a sprig of mimosa brought by the management for the lady in our party to celebrate International Women’s Day. I could do without the tastefully distressed faux authentic trimmings in the room but with superb food and booze coming in at under thirty quid a head I can see why the Polpo CG was packed even at teatime on a Thursday. Likely I’ll be back too.


#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 74 Il Pescatore, Southend-on-Sea

December 24, 2017

Should you find yourself in possession of a stinking cold while on a train to Southend in mid-December I don’t recommend taking a copy of Sartre’s Nausea as your sole source of entertainment. However, any bleakness induced by the the crapulous Gallic miserabilist was blasted away by the bracing gust of tangy air blowing in off the majestic Thames Estuary as we made our way to a family rendezvous at Il Pescatore.

Of all the restos of my acquaintance in Southend (and I’ve known a few) Il P reigns supreme. From the street, were it not for the legend ‘Italian Restaurant’ printed not one but twice on the frontage, it might be mistaken for a moderately successful insurance office. Inside it is a womb of fuzzy Sicilian nostalgia. Its check floored, kitsch-fish clutterbound walls create an indeterminate mid-twentieth century vibe that is becoming more and more difficult to find in the retro-wank chainstore faux-ethnic filled high streets of Britain.

A warm welcome is a good way to start and we were given a roomy table for three in a nice corner from where I could see the clientèle arrive in a steady stream over lunch. It seemed rude not to take the Christmas set menu at £21 a head for three courses and coffee so we did that. Prawn cocktail up front was everything I expected, which is not to say it was a taste sensation. But it did take me back to the days when I thought Paul Mariner was a God amongst Men.


Mariner, to use the terminology of the time, sticks it to the Jocks.

Being full of rheum and halfway into a Christmas week binge I went for fish again for main. This WAS high quality eats. Perfectly cooked bream (grilled golden brown, flaking off the bone) with silver serviced veg. House white (Pinot Grigio, clean tasting, good quality) helped that down and we eyed desserts.

Could I really eat more after consuming my own weight in cauliflower cheese? I could give it a go. Affugato is what Irish coffee thinks it sees when it looks in the mirror. A double espresso after that and we were done.

But The Fisherman isn’t just about the food. You come here for the ambience and the service. The ambience is provided by the people of Southend, who know a good thing when they see it. And the service is the reason why they come back, the professionals at Il P are as good as any I’ve met this year.

To cap off an excellent lunch I went to the loo to make sure that Baggio and the boys from the World Cup were still in place. They were. All is good.


#food #Southend #Italian

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 66 Tasting Sicily – Enzo’s Kitchen, Piccadilly

November 19, 2017

The TV looks small from here but wait till you’re eyeball to eyeball with it.

We’d been to the excellent little free exhibition on Axeli Gallen-Kallela at the National (as well as the also excellent Monochrome in the Sainsbury Wing). Wishing to avoid the crowds, and not finding the new incarnation of the NG’s café-restaurant on the Charing Cross side to my liking, we headed back to Panton Street to give Enzo’s a go. We got the last table for two.


Gallen-Kallela at the NG, celebrating Finland’s 100th year of independence. Not to be taken for granted in these times.

My wife was fortunate in having her back to the giant screen at the end of the room, whereas I was forced to be mesmerised by this monster throughout the evening. Interspersed with mile high technicolour shots of the Sicilian landscape and yummy looking ingredients were slightly disconcerting screenshots from The Godfather, that charming tale of murderous drug dealers. I was hoping that they’d mitigate these with some Montalbano but the management don’t seem to have caught up with his show. At least, in the week of his death, they hadn’t gone the whole hog and included Salvatore ‘Toto’ Riina among their rogues gallery.


Toto Riina. Not as charming as his photograph would have you believe.

Anyway, that was the downside. If we’d booked I’m sure I could have got a seat where I wasn’t blasted with cliché the whole evening and I would have been perfectly happy as the food and wine was very good. The room itself is bright, with cheerful paintings dotted around the walls that would provide more than enough visual splendour without any electronic input. I liked the table too – plenty of room with a pleasant pattern on the tiled surface. Just the thing to make you feel warm on a grey November evening.

I believe this restaurant is part of a group specialising in products from Sicily and so the mixed antipasto seemed a good way to start. At £9 a head this was a generous size (especially compared to Dalla Terra) and really was a meal in itself. There was a good variety of meat, cheese and veg – with the veg being the star. Juicy olives and smoky aubergines went alongside a sweet pickled pumpkin that was something I’d not had before and would definitely get on board with again. And slithery mushrooms were also something I wanted more of.

For main a handmade pasta with pig’s cheek was too salty for my liking, but it was a hearty portion of food and I was to play football the following day so I stuffed it down. The wine list highlights Sicilian products and we went for a mid-range number made from Carricante grapes which went down a treat. The service was excellent and at around forty quid a head, inclusive of a more expensive bottle than usual this is a good option in this area if you want something more interesting and authentic than Bella Italia or similar. If it wasn’t for the tv this would have been an 8.


#food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 45 Ristorante Villa 600, Torcello

August 20, 2017


We were in Torcello on the recommendation of a friend to see the churches. Torcello Cathedral, pictured below, is quite easily the greatest work of art that I saw during our stay in Venice. Outside it’s a great barn of a thing that is an extraordinary sight in modern times as you approach the island. Imagine what impact it would have had in the eleventh century.


Torcello Cathedral, a maginicent sight.

If you think the outside is extraordinary wait till you go through the door (sadly something that few tourists manage owing to the extortionate 5 euros entry fee.). Above the door a three storey high mosaic of the Day of Judgement, complete with a bonk eyed devil ordering the consumption of identifiable rotters by various fabulous beasts and demons while the saved polish their nails on the other side and go, ‘Good riddance.’ Above the altar Christ in Majesty and the Apostles and Saints ranged in equally spectacular glory. Utterly breathtaking. And then a troop up the bell tower for a great vista of the Venetian marshes which gives you a perspective on the isolation of the founding community when it came here in the (not so) Dark Ages. All that culture made me hungrythirsty.


The Devil.

My friend had also recommended a restaurant, the Locanda, but it was shut owing to it being Assumption Day. Fortunately Villa 600 was open across the way and although they seemed reluctant to take on extra diners at first (I’m guessing the staff wanted to get along to the festival at some point, we’d seen a bunch of musicians arriving all day on the boat) the waiter kindly gave us a splendidly appointed table in their shady garden. The rest of the clientèle was mostly Italian, a good sign.

We four ate like kings. First up we shared a mixed seafood antipasti. When we ordered one only he did seem a little crestfallen and when it arrived we found out why. A prawn, no matter how king-sized it is, is not easily quartered. We should have got a couple of platters. However, we managed, and sloshed a bottle of Pinot Grigio as we did so.

For main the turbot was a magnificent thing, a big chunk of fishmeat cooked to perfection with courgette crisped and a bean sauce. Nay stodge but we were loading on bread so that was okay. The mixed salad was a dress your own affair and all the better for that. I sprinkled a bit of balsamic, olive oil and pepper on that and it was good.

A second bottle was near termination by now and we were in an expansive mood. Yes, we would like dessert, we very much would. Sorbets with liqueur seemed a winner. I plumped for the pistachio. It was like the ice cream soup of your dreams, staring up at me like a crocodile’s eye. I wanted to linger over it but it tasted too good, I wolfed it down greedily.


Pistachio sorbet. Looks like a crocodile, tastes like heaven.

By this point I was glad I’d been for a run in the morning. Coffee next. Proper espresso. And what about grappa? When the waiter said they had two kinds of home made grappa it seemed rude not to take an option on both of them so we did that. One was golden and slightly briny, smooth like a real tequila. The other was white and flavoured with rosemary from their own herb garden. I supped and tried to decide which was the better. They were both good.

It was a treat, and at €50 a head objectively it wasn’t cheap. But it was the kind of meal that was not just a highlight of this holiday but of holidays for years to come and I didn’t begrudge giving a decent tip. We got back on the boat to visit the hell that is Burano before making an inspired decision to decamp to Mazzorbo for a glass of wine at the Venissa Ristorante. Also recommended. Go to Torcello, it really is worth the hour long boat ride.


To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 44 Hostario All’Ombra, Venice

August 19, 2017

Apologies for the blurry shot, it was taken during a morning jog.

Famished after a hard day’s art-looking we couldn’t get a table at the three places nearest our hotel so we had to widen our scope to a more touristy part of Venice, Via Giuseppe Garibaldi. This is a proper high street with shops and restaurants intermingled and we just plumped for the closest on Hostario All’Ombra.

Don’t let the picture fool you, it looks a lot more glamorous in the evening when they have shutters up and plenty of tables out on the street for you to watch the world go by. The menu is a standard selection of Italian fare with. I made a mistake by going for pizza. Theirs wasn’t a patch on Vecia Gina’s, it was bland and doughy with a scarcity of topping. Fellow diners who’d opted for liver and squid ink pasta respectively were far more satisfied though so I guess my tip would be to stick to trad Venitian fare rather than the Neapolitan pizza.

The service was idiosyncratic I’d say … the manager (I assume) gave us a burst of dialect Venetian in what could have been a rather unnerving way but wasn’t. Otherwise the wine was pretty good for the price and there are worse places to go on this street. We had a villanous set of drinks in Bar Cin Cin up the road that rather improbably nearly put me off booze for life.


To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

#food #Venice

Resto 43 Caffè la Serra, Venice 

August 15, 2017

Having consumed plenty of hotel buffet breakfast we were looking for a quick bite, and more importantly cold beer, in between Biennale sites. Talk of dick-walloping muppets* in the Finnish pavilion put us in a merry mood and so when it came to ordering we weren’t organised at all.

But rather than getting the rats our waitress was charm itself and returned when we’d focused attention on the important stuff.

This was a good slug of draught lager with a  sandwich classico (or croque monsieur) for me and Kas, and ‘salad pies’ for the rest. We speculated about what salad pies could be. Turned out they are a kind of quiche so all good. As was the croque. We sat half shaded, half scorched in the garden with other Biennale goers.

So, the Biennale? I might blog on it if I can summon up the energy. My top three were the Finns (natch, I didn’t know what the sh*t it was about but it was a fun ride), the Austrians (interactive sculptures are always a winner in my book) and the Uruguayans, who followed up last year’s hole in the ground with a wooden animal pen this.


*Kas’s summation. I think it was described  as a playful investigation of contemporary society or some such in the blurb.

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

#food #BiennaleArte2017

Resto 42 Vecia Gina, Venice

August 15, 2017

Dog tired and hungry after a day of travel we were looking for good, simple food within staggering distance of our digs. And we found it at Vecia Gina.

A terrace from where we could watch the local kids play football was where we sat under a crepuscular sky. We went big on the order. Three plates of antipasti, a salad and two pizzas.

The antipasti – three helpings – arrived quickly, followed seemingly immediately by the rest of the food, necessitating a complex rearrangement of wine and table items to fit them all on. It looked liked the world’s largest tapas.

But it tasted good. Quality meat,  big carves of melon (I could see the cook cutting up a fresh one in the kitchen) and plenty of salty cheese. The pizza had an excellent crispy base and a decent smattering of sausage. Wine was passable but cheap.

The food had been delivered in such a hurry that we assumed they were closing imminently. But no, closing time was 10.15 so we laid in another bottle and chatted in the dark, enjoying the warmth of the Mediterranean and the light nibbles of hungry mosquitos.


#food #Italy

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

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