Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

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

Resto 52 Pizza Nellie, Paris

September 7, 2017

I wasn’t hungry but the boy was so pizza seemed a good compromise. The one across the road was shut and I think Nellie hadn’t yet opened either but they had the door open and didn’t throw us out when we went through it. Hence we dined alone initially but were soon joined by a smattering of locals and not locals.

The menu is your regular pizza/pasta. I went for a La Reine as James had already snaffled the Napoli. We had a salad alongside. The pizza was good, plenty of topping and crispy enough. Despite my lack of hunger I devoured it in its entirety. The salad was a good helping with thankfully not too much dressing. Alongside we had a pichet of cheap red after being presented with a complimentary aperitif of what tasted like Ribena but probably wasn’t.

By this time pizzas were flying out of the door and it felt a shame to leave but one of us had an appointment with friends and I had an appointment with a good walk. The staff were very friendly and persuaded us to take a parting coffee. For around 20€ a head this was pretty good value for Paris. It’s worth going to Nellie’s if you’re in the area and in the mood for simple pleasures.

7/10

#food #Paris

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

Resto 45 Ristorante Villa 600, Torcello

August 20, 2017

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

9/10

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

Resto 44 Hostario All’Ombra, Venice

August 19, 2017
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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.

7/10

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

#food #Venice


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