Venerdi

Overall: 8/10
Location: Homerton

Venerdi (meaning Friday in Italian!) is a bright and airy Italian restaurant situated on Hackney’s bustling Chatsworth Road. It’s such a lovely place to sit and have lunch, with large French Windows and a waft of wood fired pizzas and garlic hitting you as you enter the room. The restaurant has recently undergone a renovation, and now has a relaxed, yet elegant vibe.

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To start we were served warm bread with an olive oil, balsamic vinegar and rosemary dip and a side of olives, which all tasted super fresh. This was followed by the calamari which was another top starter, and was served with a home-made sweet chilli sauce. What really stood out at this stage was the freshness of the ingredients, which made every dish particularly delectable.

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The menu is well priced, with pizzas starting at £9 they also serve fresh pasta and INCREDIBLE desserts! The chocolate fondant was one of the best I’ve ever had, it was crisp and crumbly on the outside with a warm melted centre.

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The starters and the desserts really stood out for me, the pizza main and salmon in lemon butter were also delicious but nothing can beat that chocolate fondant! Everything was well-presented and I cannot fault the food, which tastes super authentic. Even their coffee rivals some I’ve tried in Italy! I’d also recommend sampling one of their cocktails, the mojito was a favourite at our table!

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The staff are super friendly and welcoming, making my overall experience at Venerdi super positive. In the summer, this will be a particularly lovely place to visit, with heaps of natural daylight and also outdoor seating.  This place is a must visit if you’re ever in the Hackney area!

Website: http://www.venerdi.co.uk

Address: 9 Chatsworth Rd, London E5 0LH

Palatino

Overall: 4/10

The open kitchen, Palatino, London


Palatino is a new, Roman inspired eatery by Stevie Parle in the heart of Clerkenwell. I visited during their soft launch last week with high hopes, after all, Parle has an excellent reputation in the industry. However, the food was slightly disappointing and not up there with the best Italian finds in London. There are SO many amazing Italian’s around at the moment, Cicchetti and Padella, to name a few. So the competition is fierce.

The Pear and Radicchio salad


The flavours in every dish sounded exotic and revolutionary on paper (fried sage for example, could this revived traditional Italian dish be the new zucchini fry?) but in practice, most didn’t really work. The deep fried sage mostly tasted like deep fried batter, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t think it’ll be replacing the zucchini fry any time soon. The polenta and fried gnocchi also had a strange aftertaste. 

Deep fried sage


The quality of the ingredients cannot be denied, for example the pasta is made fresh and tastes like it. The cacio e Pepe was the highlight. Plus the dishes are elegantly presented, but there’s a case of style over substance here.

Cacio e Pepe


Another highlight was the faro, beans, chard and porcini soup. This an example of the kitchen’s experimentation done right. It was basically a thick warming lentil soup with hints of mushroom, perfect for what was definitely one of coldest days of the year when I visited.

Faro, beans, chard and porcini soup


On the plus side, the interior itself has a lovely elegant vibe, encompassing Parle’s belief that dining out should not be solely based on the food itself, and the room design and attitude of the staff are equally important. The open kitchen makes the place appear warm and welcoming (and also makes you a little bit hungry!) The restaurant has everything in place to be successful – extremely friendly and welcoming staff, a great atmosphere and decor, and a team of talented chefs serving high quality ingredients, but they haven’t quite nailed their flavour combinations. Hopefully this will improve after their soft launch!

Deep fried gnocchi

Address: 71 Central Street, Clerkenwell, EC1V 3AG
Website: http://palatino.london 

Padella

“PASTA HEAVEN!”

Verdict: 8/10
Location: London Bridge/ Borough Market
Price: £20 for two courses and a drink

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After my trips to Venice and Rome earlier this year I’ve become a massive fan of Italian pasta bars – small and crowded with a minimalist interior, but serving simple, fresh pasta with a limited choice of maybe 5 sauces, all cooked to perfection! So I was super excited to hear that a pasta bar of similar concept was opening in London.

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Padella is great, it’s a tiny restaurant with a relaxed yet elegant vibe. The menu is small, with maybe 6 starters, 8 mains and 2 desserts. The pasta and all ingredients are really fresh – if you’re lucky you might even get seated at the bar stools overlooking the open plan kitchen so you can watch the chefs at work.

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The plates are small, so perfect for sharing or trying multiple dishes. And VERY reasonably priced. A glass of prosecco at £4 is almost unheard of in London!

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I tried the pici with marjoram and golden garlic, and the taglierni with slow cooked tomato sauce. The first was particularly delectable, featuring a very cheesy and garlicky sauce.

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This was followed by the chocolate tart, which had a soft and crumbly biscuit base. We weren’t too sure about the cream on the side, but the tart itself was delicious all the same.

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The staff are friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, which changes regularly. However, like most high-demand and small restaurants these days, they have a no reservation policy so it’s best to arrive early to avoid the queues!

This place is about as close as I’ll get to my favourite pasta bars in Italy for now, so I’ll definitely be back!

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Restaurant Details:

Address: 6 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TQ

Website: http://www.padella.co

Orso

“Hidden Gem: Authentic Italian in Covent Garden”

Overview:

Overall rating: 4 stars
Price: £35 for 3 courses & a drink
Cuisine: Italian
Location:  Covent Garden

Review:

I was lucky enough to be invited to Orso, an authentic Italian restaurant situated just off Covent Garden market.  The entrance takes you down a flight of stairs to the basement, where the restaurant is situated.  Even so, it does not feel dark or claustrophobic, with wall lamps and candlelit tables contributing to a warm ambiance.

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As I entered the restaurant, I was warmly greeted by a waitress who informed me of the story behind Orso.  The restaurant opened in 1985, and the owner named it ‘Orso’ (Italian for bear) after a dog that used to frequent the bars and restaurants of Milan and Venice whilst he was there.  An image of Orso the dog is proudly placed near the entrance, along with several black and white shots of scenes of Italian life, and Italian actors and actresses.  Such themes accentuate the authentic Italian experience.

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The meal was kicked off by a cocktail entitled ‘Dark and Stormy’, featuring a combination of Myers Rum, Angostura, Fresh Lime and Ginger Beer.  The cocktail menu is innovative and features several Italian classics such as the Aperol Spritz, Negroni and Bellini.  I was then served a glass of the red merlot, in a very cute little jug!

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OrsoWine jug

 

The menu is wide ranging, with pasta, risotto, and a variety of meat and fish, however, there are few vegetarian options for the main courses.  To start, I was offered a selection of dishes from the waiter’s choice: Zucchini Fritte, Calamari Fritte and the Sardinian Flatbread with Garlic and Rosemary.  All three dishes were excellent; the flatbread was crisp and slightly salted. #

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For the main course I had the Pollo alla Griglia, which was a grilled spring chicken seasoned with parsley and lemon, served on a bed of sliced cherry tomatoes.  The chicken was delicious and light, however could have benefitted from a side sauce.  I also sampled the mashed potatoes and garlic and rosemary potato side dishes.  Both were extremely tasty and complemented the chicken.  The food was well presented and served on, what looked like, hand painted plates, adding a homely feel.

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The waiter informed us that the Fegato di Vitello was the most frequently ordered dish by customers, so my mother took his advice and ordered the liver which was very succulent.

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For dessert, we tried the Affogato and the Panna Cotta, which was beautifully presented.  To conclude, we had a cappuccino, and a fresh mint tea.

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The staff were friendly, attentive and welcoming.  The restaurant is popular among theatre goers, given its location in the heart of the theatre district.  It is even possible for customers to eat their starter and main before a play, and return afterwards for desert.  Its relaxed atmosphere makes it a suitable choice for a wide variety of party types, including children and families.

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Overall, I would definitely recommend a trip to Orso.  It is excellent value for money, and has character, and is therefore a great change from the over-visited Italian chains in London.  The dishes were all of a consistent high quality, so you can rest assured that you will enjoy whatever you order.  On top of this, the excellent service ensures that customers have an enjoyable experience at Orso.

 

Restaurant details:

27 Wellington Street
London
WC2E 7DB

Tel: 020 7240 5269

E: info@orsorestaurant.co.uk

Opening Times:
Monday – Sunday : 12 noon – 12pm

Website: http://www.orsorestaurant.co.uk

Al Fresco

“A décor that visually transports one to Italy”

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Overview:

Price: £10 – 15 for main course and drink

Overall rating: 3.5 stars

Cuisine: Italian

Location:  Whetstone

My thoughts:

The highlight of Al Fresco is its décor that reminisces an Italian garden and can visually transport one to Italy.  Its leafy decorations surrounding each table, partial glass roof and some exposed brickwork allows for an outdoor dining experience all year round. The lighting, in the evenings, is provided predominantly by lamps fixated to the ceilings and walls, contributing to the warm ambience of the restaurant. The tables’ decorations collude with such themes, with dainty flowers placed on each table, adding a touch of colour.

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The menu features a wide choice of food, encompassing a variety pizzas, pastas, seafood, meat, poultry and salads, with an extensive choice for vegetarians.  For starters, I would recommend the mixed platters to share. The ‘antipasto marinaio’ is perfect for seafood lovers,  far more than enough to feed the suggested two to share.   These platters really are the best starters on the menu, which is let down slightly by its other dishes.  The funghi pan fried with garlic, for example, was a basic dish of chopped mushrooms fried in garlic and butter and was far too oily and sloppily piled on a plate.

I ordered the ‘Chicken in blue cheese and asparagus sauce’  ( which is unfortunately no longer on the updated menu).  The chicken was moist, and well complemented with the creamy sauce.  It was served with a side of well seasoned sautè potatoes and boiled broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, which were fairly plain and unfortunately did not live up to the chicken and potatoes.

The service could be improved slightly.  Although the staff are friendly, I feel that greater attention could be paid to their customers, for example, greeting guests upon arrival in a swift and friendly manner, as opposed to leaving them to wait around for a few minutes and then vaguely guide them towards a table.

Al Fresco is always busy, being popular amongst locals, therefore booking is recommended for large groups.  Its relaxed atmosphere makes it appropriate for all party types, including children and families.  The dress-code is fairly informal, however, its picturesque setting makes it the kind of place that would be suitable for a special occasion.  I, personally, celebrated my 21st birthday here.

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Overall, I would recommend Al Fresco as an alternative to the Italian chains that are overvisited in suburban London.  It is definitely one of the better Italian restaurants in the area, and its unique selling point is most definitely its décor and consequent atmosphere.  The wide-ranging menu offers something for all tastes, however, some dishes are of better quality and taste than others.  What lets the venue down slightly is the service, which could be improved in order to enhance customers’ experiences.

Restaurant details:

Al Fresco

1327 High Road

Whetstone

London N20 9HR

Tel: 020 8445 8880

Email: whetstone@alfresco-restaurant.co.uk

Opening Times

Monday – Saturday : 12 noon – 11pm

Sunday : 12 noon – 10pm

Website: http://www.alfresco-restaurant.co.uk/