Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

Resto 11 Pizza X Drink, Stroud Green

April 16, 2018

On the site of the now defunct Gustavo’s (not missed) Pizza X Drink has another go at the bargain pizza market. They pull it off nicely. They’ve decluttered the room, a good thing, and kept the big windows so you can do some people watching.

Water was delivered immediately I was sat down (good call as I had a raging thirst from watching Middlesex crush Northants on the hottest day of the year so far) and I perused the menu. It looks more complicated than it actually is. Either you pick your own sauce and toppings or you take one ready made. I went for a Mexican with a side salad and a pint of Stella.

The beer was chilled and delivered by the manager himself (a cheerful feller who was also busy training his staff, good thing). The pizza was good without being amazing but at £5 for a man-sized portion I wasn’t complaining. Properly fiery jalapeños, ground beef and onion were perfect for me. The disappointing thing was the base, which was a bit on the pale side, I’d have liked a bit more crunch. The salad was a generous measure and they remembered to hold the red onion.

All in all Pizza X Drink is perfect if you want a quick pit stop to meet friends or on the way out. And for a total of £13 you’d find it hard to eat that well for that kind of money elsewhere in Stroud Green.

8/10

#Food #London #N8

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

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.

8/10

#Food #London

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

Resto 4 La Giaconda, Hornsey

February 6, 2018

Hornsey is an area on the up. Developments in and around the New River water treatment plants mean that the High Street is starting to lose its bleakness and gain a level of spangle that will be welcomed by some but strike dismay into others. Pubwise there’s still plenty of pleasant grot to be had but you can also pay £6 a pint if you’re looking for somewhere more upmarket.

So La Giaconda, which predates the March of the Estate Agents, is in an interesting position. Do they make a bid for the new market, or do they stand on their trad Italian values? At the moment it’s the latter.

It being early evening on a cold Sunday there were few customers other than for the takeaway side of the business so we had the pick of the tables. We had for company a guy in a Napoli tracksuit top who muttered ‘Cazzo!’ every time someone went out without shutting the door (it was a very cold draught), which I found lent a welcome layer of authenticity to the atmosphere.

Mixed antipasti up front was very good, plenty of cold stuff with some especially good mozzarella. To be frank the wine (a Trebbiano) was ropey, if not lethally so. Star of the show was a grilled sea bass across the way. My diavolo pizza delivered the required heat and had a good base. They were also happy to make a green salad up for me, which is a plus. The waiter was a charming feller though it was clear that at slow times like this the kitchen is more focussed on satisfying phone orders rather than those in the room. But we weren’t in a hurry so I wasn’t fussed.

The mystery was how they could have made such hideous coffee! It was simply the worst coffee I’ve ever had in an Italian but in an indescribable way. It looked like coffee, and even smelt like coffee. But it tasted like filth. Which is why I knocked a further mark off. My wife, who didn’t have coffee, would’ve awarded a 7.

#food #London

6/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 3 Prezzo, Trafalgar Square

January 23, 2018

Prezzo

Looking for somewhere near the Playhouse Theatre prior to Glengarry Glen Ross we chose to walk towards Trafalgar Square rather then the cluster of places by Embankment. Prezzo was the first resto we came to and it being January we ducked in for fear of worse weather ahead.

First impressions were not good. The room is cavernous like a provincial airport lounge. And peopled like one too – the air rang with an estuary twang and I realised that we were in the heart of a specific locus of Tourist London.

The menu is standard Italian – pizza, pasta, risotto and a few meaty/fishy things. We like to share a calamari up front but as I was quite ravenous we opted for breaded mozzarella too. The calamari was average, the flaw was in the batter not being crispy enough. The cheese on the other hand was pure evil. Like deep fried Dairylea. It was a struggle to eat it but being a completer/finisher I stuck it out to the end.

Mains were better – pork belly across the way met with a thumbs up while my Vesuvio pizza, if not quite Vesuvian in heat, was at least a recognisable pizza with plenty of pepperoni.

I couldn’t resist getting a bottle of Andrea Bocelli’s Pinot Grigio, as I suspected it might not be worth the 10 quid premium over the house white and wanted to be sure. Were Prezzo scooping the profit or was it Bocelli himself, spurning his public image as the Stevie Wonder of opera (actually, that’s a disservice to Stevie, who is/was a bona fide genius rather than a bland populist) to chisel mid-table restaurant grazers? Well, whoever it was they’re robbing folk, it was on the level of a Tesco BOGOF.

Service was the star of the visit – friendly and efficient for a place this size – and we left with plenty of time to take a digestif in the excellent Ship and Shovell. As to the play, Christian Slater may nowadays resemble a hamster in a toupée but he’s got star power for sure. And a convincing American accent. The rest of the cast lacked the ferocity that I was expecting from a Mamet show – those boys wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes on the IPE.

#food #London

4/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 1 of 2018! Pizza Pernety, Paris

January 8, 2018

After a very quiet festive season on the eating side of things (apart from visiting some old haunts like the Gilbert Scott and Bun&Bar) it took me a trip to Paris to try somewhere new for 2018.

With an evening at the excellent Entrepôt in mind we wanted to lay in some ballast against a long evening of Malian music and the local pizzeria seemed a good option. Pizza Pernety wasn’t too busy on a Saturday evening – à emporter seems to be as popular as dining in la salle – so we had plenty of room for our elbows as we perused the menu.

They do pizza (obvs) but also the usual Italian standards for carnivores. I had a tuna pizza and we shared a green salad. The salad was a good size and fresh. The pizza had a crispy base and plenty of topping. The only disappointment was a fairly ropey Orvieto but for around 15 quid a head I guess that was inevitable.

The owner is a bit gruff but friendly and I’d recommend PP for a cheap bite if you’re in the area. And if you are in the area I would especially recommend that you catch some music at l’Entrepôt. World class world music for €10 entry is hard to beat.

#food #Paris #pizza

8/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 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.

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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.

8/10

#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.

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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.

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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.

7/10

#food #London

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

Resto 64 Orsini, Brompton Road

November 13, 2017

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Coming out of the V&A on a Saturday, having seen the excellent exhibition on opera we were not keen to get into the bunfight of trying to find a quiet table in South Ken. So we started to wander towards Knightsbridge. Since the demise of Racine (much missed) I haven’t been back to eat in this area of London, partly because it’s too close to the horror that is Knightsbridge.

We drifted past Orsini at first but were then bounced back westwards by the sight of hordes of Vernasty-wearers sucking down gelato outside a gaudy bit of cafftattery. Such things could only get worse the closer we got to Harrods so we turned back to see if we could get a table in more civilised climes.

We were lucky. We’d secured the last table as there were two large parties imminently arriving. Orsini’s room is simply decorated (a rarity in these parts) but that shouldn’t lead one to think that the food is any less well-crafted than at more opulent places around about.

A soup to start was a good idea as it was a pretty chilly evening. Hearty vegetable soup with a nice chunk of toasted bread alongside was just the job. I followed that with a squid ink tagliolini alla vongolè – plenty of clams and the most perfect home-made pasta swimming in a richly flavoured sauce. It was at this point that I considered going through the whole card to see what the chef could do with meat and fish but having not run a marathon that day i thought it might be a bit self-indulgent. So we had some ice cream to share (pistachio and hazelnut, both good) and an espresso to round things off. The wine, a Fiano from Puglia, was excellent and decent enough value at around 25 quid.

The service was excellent; when the groups arrived I’d feared that our less significant orders might be lost in the melée but not a bit of it. Orsini’s food is not complicated but it is executed with elegance using delicious ingredients. Next time I’ll book and make a full evening of it.

9/10

#food #London

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

Resto 56 Estorick Café, Highbury

October 10, 2017

I nearly forgot my visit to the Estorick (more of which in another post) as it was a bit of a pit stop but since they brought me the bill I should add it for completism’s sake. And also because the service and food is always excellent.

On this occasion I just stopped by after the exhibition (Arte Povera, recommended) for a quick coffee. So I got an espresso and then was tempted into having a custard tart by the very cheerful waiter. It was too cold to sit outside but now that they have a conservatory style fitting it feels like you’re in the garden anyway. Even if you’re not visiting the collection it’s worth having a pop in to do the crossword or chat with a friend.

Though why you wouldn’t want to look at the art as well I don’t know. It’s one of my favourite places in London.

8/10

#coffee #London

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

Resto 55 Dalla Terra, Covent Garden

October 8, 2017

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We were fortunate enough to have had tickets to Michel Hazavanicius’ latest, Le Redoutable, on Saturday. Contrary to what Jonathan Romney insisted on saying time after time in the Q&A with the director afterwards the film is not a comedy. It has plenty of comic moments (and I mean plenty, though the scenes of Godard repeatedly breaking his glasses, while funny, brought back some painful memories) but at its core it is a tragedy. It describes the quotidian tragedy of a marriage breaking up.

The radical politics of May ’68 in Paris act as a backdrop to the couple’s growing apart but it is gender politics that inform the moral of the film. Godard’s wife, Anne Wiasemsky, realises that the revolution that would enable her to attain personal autonomy is not Maoist but feminist. She isn’t oppressed by the capitalist system exemplified by the movie business in which she works. Rather she’s oppressed by a husband who while seeking to liberate himself from that system acts as just as much of an authority figure as the despised CdG when it comes to the domestic environment.

So we had a lot to discuss as we searched for somewhere civilised to eat in the West End on a Saturday night. Italian, French or Russian (that came out of nowhere!) was the request and we wandered up to Covent Garden and took a chance on Dalla Terra as it didn’t look too busy. Giving the eyeballs to a sharp elbowed couple who tried to jump ahead of us it was gratifying to see them stuck on high stools at a sharing table while we got a more lizardly spot by the window.

Geoff reflected on the fact that there’s no elegant way to eat on a high stool and then peered at Denize through the gloom of the restaurant. He wondered if she too was finding it difficult to read the menu in the stygian darkness. 

‘Yes’, said Denize, ‘It is a bit dark isn’t it?’

‘And the music.’ ‘Too loud.’ ‘I agree.’ ‘It’s like a nightclub.’ ‘Full of old people.’ I thought they were young.’ ‘It’s relative.’

We looked at the menu, which wasn’t extensive but did have what we were looking for – a high quality planche of meat ‘n’ cheese. We got that with a bowl of very, very good olives alongside. In the glass a bottle of Pinot Grigio (for a whiff of Venezia) that was rou. 

The service was excellent given that they were pretty full and we got stuck into the bits. Meat in a satisfying range of varieties, one of them good and spicy. The cheese was outstanding and for roughage there was a rather meagre slathering of sun-dried tomatoes and aubergine. No salad. Always a controversial issue.

Geoff surveyed the plate and realised that there was not to be any salad. The last time he’d been to a restaurant with Denize and there was no salad it had caused a minor breakdown in marital relations as he really likes La Fabrica and knows that they give you plenty of vegetables even if there’s no salad per se on the menu.

You know Geoff thinks that I’m obsessed by the salad but in fact he’s the one who brings it up every time there’s no salad on the menu, and even sometimes when there is. And is it unreasonable to ask a restaurant to make a small salad when you know that they have the ingredients in the kitchen?

‘It doesn’t look like we’re going to get any salad.’ ‘ …’ ‘I’ll go to the loo.’

The big drawback to Della Terra is that it’s severely underbogged for a busy Saturday night. There was already one feller waiting for the sole trap when I got there and I think whoever was in there was squeezing out a dead otter so I thought it best to hang on till home and return to collect the bill.

It wasn’t an awful lot of food for thirty quid a head and the music made it quite difficult to talk to one another. However, I reckon it’s worth returning to Dalla Terra as a daytime venue as the wine and food was excellent and would be ideal for when you’re pooped from artlooking/shopping and wanted an idle hour chatting or reading a book. 

7/10

#food #london

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


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