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Entries in Italian (14)




I hate when a restaurant’s website lies to me. Whether it’s getting prices wrong, lying about what’s on the menu, or worst of all about existing in a location they don’t actually have. Mas Burrito is guilty of the latter. Either that or I got very lost looking for number 56, St Martins Lane.

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Novikov - Another Mayfair Italian

Another week, another Friday night, another Mayfair Italian. This week the restaurant in question was Novikov, the new complex on Berkeley Street housing a bar, an Italian restaurant, and a Pan-Asian. As tacky as the concept seems - two restaurants in one - for some reason it works. Most likely because of the location, on Berkeley Street, which means it gets all the people who can’t get reservations/space at the bar at Nobu. To cut a long story short, within a few short months Novikov has become the place to be. 


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Babbo - London, definitely not New York

How the people behind Babbo got away with taking the name of one of the most famous Italian restaurants in NYC's name, I don't know. All I know is that ever since it opened, its been on my list, just like the one in NYC. Deep in the heart of Mayfair, the crowd is surprisingly un-scene - a mix of business people, and older couples - not a flash of a red sole in sight. As per usual, I was optimistic about Babbo, mainly because of a) the name b) this interview here, in which the chef states his favourite restaurant is La Petite Maison. As we already agree on what a good dining experience is - this was clearly going to be the place for me. Sadly, fate just didn't want me and Babbo to have that special connection. Our experience was one of the most disappointing I've had in a while.

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Da Mario- a neighbourhood find


Good neighbourhood restaurants aren't easy to find at the best of times. In Central London, its a bloody nightmare. In Covent Garden I assumed it wouldn't be possible. Surprisingly, I found one.  Da Mario is an unassuming little place, from the outside and from the inside, but with an almost perfect Urbanspoon rating, it seemed to be worth a shot. 

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Vapiano - Italian food organized by Germans

It is a dream combination. Italian food, created in an incredibly efficient way. This is what Vapiano is all about. There is no messing about wasting time trying to work out who pays what, as every person is given a card, that they then "charge" food and drinks to at a selection of various stations. Your food is made to order at one of each station whilst you watch (pasta, antipasti), or just collect them (dessert or drinks), or order and get a buzzer (Pizza). It works out perfectly. Each person gets what they want, charged to them and can edit their dish to their particular liking - no basil, no issue, no garlic, no problem. Even better, you can get it to go (their pasta makes a very good breakfast), and their takeaway boxes are perfectly lunch sized Tupperware. In fact, this is possibly one of my favourite casual places to go. It is great place to meet up with old friends, as the lack of service means no-one really cares if you sit there for four hours, as I did last Tuesday.
Pasta, my personal favourite from Vapiano, is from a list, divided into four different price categories and can be combined with any of their six fresh made pasta. Antipasti include things like beef carrpacio or bruschetta.

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Princi - The Happiest Place on Earth

There is one over riding factor that puts me off visiting a restaurant - a lack of information. Apparently, this is cool at the moment  and seems to be a common  theme with new restaurants, I blame Nuno Mendes and Russel Norman. As a control freak, I hate this. A normal trip to a restaurant is incrediby well researched - I tend to know everything about the place before I show up - I know what I am going to eat, what the place looks like, and roughly how much the experience will cost me.

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Travels in Italy (2) - Tuscany

We had five days in Tuscany, and in those five days, with a car and a trusty TomTom we covered most of the area. I have no idea why but both The Boyfriend and I had very high expectations of Tuscan food. For some reason we seemed to think that even if we ended up in a Tourist Trap food would still be much better than your average restaurant. As if any restaurant in Tuscany was automatically destined to be better than the rest because of the region's culinary heritage. How wrong we were. Of the ten meals only three were memorable. Another three were goodish, and the other four were either okay or crap. They are ranked in a complex equation of quality of food + view or venue + price, and by complex I mean we just vaguely remember which ones were the best -a suprisingly difficult feat (but understandably difficult if you look at how much wine we consumed, sometimes I'm amazed we even managed to take photos of the stuff). Anyway, here goes.

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There were several factors that put a lot of pressure on my visit to Massimo. First and foremost, this opening was the one that I had most been looking forward to out of all the other restaurant openings this year. Whilst Dinner and Pollen Street Social (PSS) were what most people were excited about, this one was my baby. Why? Because, I love Italian food and there's a startling lack of decent Italian places that I have found, especially given my issues with Il Baretto. Secondly, because the chef is from Zuma and I love Zuma. This in itself would have been enough pressure to potentially ruin my weekend if it was a bad experience. In addition to this, a combination of factors meant I had not been out to a restaurant in two weeks. The fact that the last time I ate out was at Pollen Street Social,  which set such a high bar didn't help either. And finally, in the same time span, I had been reading Heat by Bill Buford, (I highly recommend you do, too), which has not only increased my knowledge about Italian food, but also has basically had me drooling, so much so that the pages are all a bit crinkly.

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Please note:  I visited Amaranto at the beginning of February before my blog took a vacation therefore, I'm a little hazy on names, which I didn't write down at the time! Regardless, I can still remember how fabulous the octopus was. Anyway, so here it goes. 



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Jamie's Italian


So, I'm not a big Jamie Fan. I've never really been a big Jamie fan. It is not just his restaurants that I dislike, I mean Barbecoa was truly terrible, but it is more something about his attitude that I am not overly fond of. He is a bit like Marmite I think, you either love him or hate him. Potential biases aside, I thought I would try Jamie's Italian because I do appreciate that he wants to bring well cooked food to the masses, and for that I've got to respect him. In a city where eating out is so incredible expensive, it is a way nice, and probably very profitable, that he's giving people effectively "designer food" for bargain prices.

I decided to give Jamie one last shot. My friend and I headed to Jamie's on a Tuesday Night. I was prepared to be turned away with a beeper, which we were, because strangely the restaurant seems to have no bar/waiting area. This makes the whole experience on the inefficient side, as people invariably wander off to get a drink somewhere, order their large glass of white wine, and then have their buzzer buzz. So they come back 15 minutes later, whilst the table has been sitting empty for those 15 minutes. Anyway, its all very strange to walk into a half empty restaurant, and be told to wait 20 minutes whilst elsewhere in Covent Garden, bar tenders are being driven mad by Jamies’ buzzers. 

 The prices fell into the same bracket as Zizis/ Pizza Express etc. Reading the menu however, reminded me of my anti-Jamie sentiment. I find his menus patronizing and a bit sanctimonious. Maybe, I'm wrong but I think if I had repeated some of the phrases on the menu I would have felt uncomfortable saying them to an adult, probably uncomfortable even saying them to one of my seven year old cousins. Things like "funky chips”, " Nachos with 'Angry' Arrabiata sauce" or describing a bottle of wine as "A real treat!" I don’t know. I can’t explain it. Maybe I am the only one who finds it a bit irritating but regardless, this style of menu writing grates on me. On a similar note, he had gone for the incredible tacky thing of pimping out other merchandise on the menu. I mean fine, displaying his cook books by the door, as he did at Barbecoa I believe is one thing or having a little note on the table as they do at Le Gavroche, but selling Jamie's tea towels underneath the wine? Come on.

Full from the guacamole earlier, my friend and I ordered just a large dish of pasta each. I went for the "BEAUTIFUL BUCATINI CARBONARA £6.55/£10.25 -Tubular spaghetti with crispy fried smoked pancetta and ribbons of leek, tossed with eggs, thyme and parmesan cheese." It was okay. Certainly not beautiful. The pasta was at least fresh and the pancetta was nice and crispy but the sauce was on the heavy side and just tasted like there was something missing .
This was accompanied by a carafe of Pinot Grigio, for about 14. Never the wine expert, it tasted fine to me.
To be honest, if I really wanted fairly cheap Italian food in Covent Garden, I think I would have preferred to go to Pizza Express. It's not that it was a bad experience. It just wasn’t worth all the hassle of waiting for 20 minutes, being sent away and then coming back, all for fairly mediocre food served by staff who don’t seem that bothered. Given all the competition in the area, I think it is amazing that there is a wait, but I guess that’s the benefit of a "designer label".

Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon