Tucked away in a cosy building with a basement on a quieter side-road in London’s theatre district is a bustling epicentre of all things Italy. The regions, each home to their own unique dishes, referenced as appropriate next to each option in the reassuringly select menu; the bavader-y amongst colleagues, who you might mistake for being family, creating an easy warmth, a fun yet professional approach; the commitment to moreish and aesthetically pleasing dishes, evident in the head chef’s quick and all-seeing eye and frequent delicate taste checks of outgoing dishes, and most notably for me; unpretentious elegance. This ode to Italy is everyday luxury epitomised.
Everyday luxury is about fika, creating extraordinary beauty for beauty sake. It is unapologetic indulgence juxtaposed with the mundane; a glass of something bubbly on Tuesday evening, celebrating life, your own existence, just because. It is present in the paintings (by the woman that bore the owner of this elegant watering hole) daubed from 1999 onwards in the sombre tones and style of realism yet depicting the playful energy and mood of the restaurant. My favourite is the one to the left as you enter, of the chefs at the counter. She captures the addictive combination of classic and casual that keeps the eaterie’s admirers coming back; admirers like the rakish silver-haired couple seated next to me at the counter, who consider it a reliable favourite for their theatre visits in to the metropolis, from Gloucestershire. Yes; rather than there being a bar there’s a continental-style counter which we had the pleasure of eating at. There is also a private dining room and an ordinary, cosy seating area. The counter is a treat that I would recommend as you can chat with the chefs, or watch their wizardery whilst you wait.
It’s present in the modern feature lights and glassy bannister downstairs to the loos that might sound as if they’re at odds with the size of the place – narrow and oblong Tavola Calda-esque – but it’s not, it works perfectly well. “Tavola Calda-esque” because you don’t usually get looked after by suited and booted staff dressed to impress at a Tavola Calda true. I didn’t ask for anything here, I was offered before I had the chance; wine, water, oil of choice. It was a relaxing and satisfying experience because it epitomises the raison d’etre of this blog. So of course, it was present in the food too. You will not burn a hole in your pocket to eat well here and you shan’t wait long either. But eat well you shall. That is the Italian way. I’ve not taken photographs of the venue this time because it’s a place to be enjoyed in the flesh, first and foremost. Nor have I have described at length the way the “small” serving of pansotti was perfectly creamy and mild, complemented by the side of broad beans I ordered. Or the ideally portioned single scoop of amazing milk-free espresso gelato served ironically, or consistently perhaps, in an espresso glass. I’ll let you try that for your self.