Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

Resto 12 Irvin, Crouch End

May 14, 2019

In Crouch End to celebrate a friend’s impending departure on a three month jungle placement we couldn’t get in to our first choice, Bistro Aix, due to a party booking. Irvin turned out to be an excellent substitution.

Arriving early we warmed up with a Bellini and had a look at the menu while we waited for the rest of the party to arrive. Irvin’s thing is Scottish-Italian food, making me think of Paolozzi, Nardini, Nutini, benedetti, Ianucci, Macari … in fact quite a dazzling array of good people in the Italo-Scot line.

The most obvious manifestation of Irvin’s lineage comes in the shape of haggis arancini. Well, we had to have some of those! They were excellent – nutty haggis meat and not too heavy on the stomach. My own starter of freshly prepared crab was also very good with a healthy flesh to veg ratio. A main of venison was cooked to perfection and arrived with a generous portion of roasted new spuds. I was tempted to splurge on dessert but wiser heads prevailed, despite the temptation of home made ices (I’ll have to go back for those).

A small but well-chosen wine list made it difficult to decide what to stick alongside but an Alto Adige white followed by a Puglian red was a knockout combination and helped conversation along admirably. And then, and then .. what this? Three grappas on offer? Well it would seem daft not to give two of them a go when celebrating. Thank heavens for the long-ish walk home to walk it all off.

With excellent service throughout and design that shows a close attention to detail Irvin is a very happy-making place. And the tempting bar makes it an attractive venue for a pitstop of wine and small plates during the upcoming Crouch End Festival. I’ll be back.

9/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

Resto 9 Gusto, Glasgow

April 14, 2019

It’s difficult to live up to the standard that Paesano sets for Italian in Glasgow but it was Friday night and I wasn’t willing to queue half the evening. So we opted for Gusto based on it being the nearest point for curing ravenousness.

The room, a former bank, is plush and we had plenty of space to not feel hemmed in. A pretty extensive set menu means it’s not really worth looking at the à la carte. Or should we have done?

Bruschetta up front was pretty much tomatoes on bread (I know that’s what bruschetta is but it can be more than that) though the calamari alongside it was better.

The main of rump steak was not really pink as ordered (Christ knows what the well done would have looked like) and arrived without chips.

Nae chups i’ Glasgae!

That was scandalous but the courgette ‘salad’ on the side was just a wet waste of jaw.

Enough savagery. The Chablis was excellent, as was the service. In fact Glasgow sets a high standard for service in the UK, from King Tut’s to the Cathedral front of house was professional to the core.

5/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

Resto 6 Tomo, Hornsey

February 17, 2019

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Back in Hornsey for a play (someone else’s) at the Great Northern it was thought wise to lay in some bait before in prep for the after-show party. Not having had the greatest experience at La Giaconda across the road we decided to give their rivals a go.

Tomo was busy but not too busy to squeeze us into a corner table. The menu is full Italian – pizza, pasta and fish/meat – but we kept it simple. A Tartufo pizza with sausage and truffle (an altogether superior production to that we saw at the National the night before) accompanied by a rocket salad with artichokes. The pizza was delicately turned and sausaged enough to satisfy. House white by the carafe did the job on the side.

The service was outstanding – three members of staff keeping the whole room happy. If I hadn’t had an appointment with fringe theatre I would have stayed for home made sorbet and grappa. I’ll happily go back soon to amend that.

8/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

Resto 5 Franco Manca, Kings Cross

February 11, 2019

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Once upon a time the only place to get a decent drink or a bite to eat if you were on the way to Kings Place was either the Lincoln Lounge or the venue itself. Now all sorts of shit is springing up around York Way to service the ever gentrifying residents and workers of the area.

The Lincoln Lounge is still keeping it real but alas they don’t do bait (well, they’ve got crisps) so we took a punt on a quick dinner in Franco Manca before the excellent Steven Osbourne did Prokofiev as it should be done.

This FM is proper restaurant-sized so it was a mystery to me why, in a half empty restaurant, the waiter should squeeze us into a corner between two other couples. I couldn’t be arsed to argue, I was too hungry.

The menu is pleasantly brief – snacks, salads, pizzas and pasta. We went for an alfalfa (or as they called it when I was growing up, ‘cress’) salad, a meat board and a mushroom pizza to share.

Then the craziness began. The salad arrived in record time. Now I like a salad but I don’t really see a small bowl of it (and no plates to eat it off) as worthy of putting down in front of two people and retreating as if you’ve just delivered a feast in Cana’. So we stared at it and wondered if anything else was going to show up. After about ten minutes we got the pizza. Counterintuitive – where was our thin, raw meat?

Oh, you wanted that? Yes, we did.

Someone taking your order without writing anything down is only impressive if said food is actually delivered.

So now we had pizza, two plates, meat board, salad, wine and water on a table the size of a postage stamp. But we managed. The pizza base was excellent but was scant of mushroom. The meat too was top quality, while the salad was a salad.

If you want to survive in the Italian market you’ve got to do better than that.

5/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

Resto 3 – BFI Riverfront, Waterloo

January 28, 2019

 

Bonnard provokes nostalgia – all those sunburst gardens, shady book-supporting desks, sinister cats and naked bints in baths (together with their underlying psychological tremors) recall times past in many climes.

As does the NFT. It will ever be the NFT for those of a certain age.

Reincarnated many times since I proposed marriage while waiting to see Hamlet Goes Business, whatever is done to the Riverside Bar it will never recapture the tobacco-stained, schlobby fading glory of my first visits with Clive James in my pocket.

However, the latest splurge of cash on the place has seen a definite improvement since the time when I had a memorable row with one of the rudest servers I’ve ever encountered. (And there have been a few.)

The offer now is Italian small plates, which was exactly the kind of thing we were looking for. We took a spread of cold and warm things, including a vegetable pizza (vulcan was at the pizza forge, doing a damned fine job as far as I could see). This brought high quality salami and olives, zucchini (battered) and excellent pizzette.

A bottle of house white did the job very well and I’m glad to report that the service was excellent. Though perhaps less so for the lady next to us who had a glass of white poured down her dress.

So, a vast improvement in food, service and atmosphere, I’d like to go back some time and try out the rest of the pizza. Alas, we didn’t have the time to linger and watch some Antonioni, spontanaiety being more elusive thanks to my recent marriage to Mrs Woof.

8/10

#food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 34 Rosso Pomodoro, Covent Garden

October 14, 2018

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Having been to the extraordinarily good Mantegna-Bellini (I’d say it’s a must see) the previous Friday we returned to the NG for the Courtauld Impressionists. This too is an impressive show. If you haven’t been to either the Courtauld or the National Gallery before. If you have there is literally nothing new to see save for a fancy book created by Mr C to show off his impeccable taste. Since we have a membership for the NG we didn’t have to pay for the tickets (although in a way we kind of had as part of the membership).

There’s a questionable morality around making people (i.e. the British public) pay for something they already own and can usually see for free. Don’t get me wrong, there’s an upside to the sectioning off of these masterpieces behind a pay-wall. Seurat’s Bathers can be revelled in in all its glory without the usual accompaniment of tedious selfie takers and listless tourists getting in the way.

Bringing the two collections together also allows for excellent juxtaposing of works in fresh ways. I was especially struck by two Daumier illustrations of episodes from Don Quixote, especially as the Courtauld’s picture is usually rather inaccessibly hung high up above a chimney breast. But the fact that major paintings like ‘Bathers’ (and many others) are not available to the public throughout the year sticks in the craw somewhat.

So I consoled myself with pizza. Rosso Pomodoro I haven’t been to for some time. They pride themselves on being a Neapolitan outfit and so it was satisfying to get a round of fried stuff to share up front. According to my son Naples is the Glasgow of the south, a place where they’d deep fry their own offspring if they could sell them through a hole in the wall.

The calamari was excellent – squid rings and octopus childers in a fluffy batter. Less enjoyable (though very tasty) was the seaweed croquette. This was more croquette than seaweed. Delicious and fluffy but definitely bringing to mind the potential implications to my arteries of eating so much fatty food.

It was a good job I was hungry as the quattro stagioni that followed was a generous chunk of pizza that overflowed with high quality toppings, especially in the cheese department. The dough is fermented for 24 hours and this tells in the finished product – it’s not often that I want to eat every last portion of a pizza crust but on this occasion I did. Even if ultimately I didn’t manage it; it was with regret that I had to call an end to my struggle.

The service was very good throughout and in seats with a view of the misguided fools queueing to get into Dishoom we were in an admirable place to people watch the parade of human traffic through Covent Garden of a Friday night. It’s worth giving RP a go if you want a change from PExpress.

8/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 24 Dear Pizza, Highbury

August 5, 2018

Another meal, another pizza. But this time the Italian vibe started earlier in the day with a visit to the Estorick. If you don’t know the Estorick you should familiarise yourself soonest. A perfect museum to visit if you have a spare hour in north London, it has a small but perfectly formed collection of 20th Century Italian art with temporary exhibitions that are of an exceptionally high standard in terms of curation and novelty.

At the moment they have two exhibs, so even more reason to go than ever. On the ground floor the rooms are given over to original artwork for Campari, ranging from the late nineteenth century to the 1990 World Cup (my favourite piece – a football themed jigsaw which put me in mind of not just Toto Schillaci but also Georges Perec).

Early Campari ads. Thirsty again.

Futurists working at the command of fascist era booze mongers turns out to be a match made in heaven for the visual arts. And having been subjected to around 29 images of Campari it was difficult to resist a cocktail in the gallery’s very peaceful garden. (Service 10/10, we didn’t eat.)

I was less keen on the neo-futurists’ interventions in the permanent galleries. Their anti-capitalist rhetoric was a bit one note for me, though entertaining in parts. Irony ladled on irony can be very wearing, especially when funded by the Arts Council. But I’d still recommend it for its variety of approach (music, video, sculpture).

And so to dinner. A shortish stroll to Dear Pizza who lured us in with their promise of a garden. Strictly speaking I’d say it was a yard. But an awning-covered yard on a hot day is rather pleasant. The cooking was higher quality than I was expecting – octopus arrived with a very good sauce. The pizza was excellent (can you get bad pizza any more? Oh yes, p***a h*t), as was the service.

What a great day, and spent in our own manor with no need to get the tube.

8/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

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 2016-18 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


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