Tag Archives: Italian

Scoop

40 Shorts Gardens
London WC2H 9AB
02072407086

We were walking around Covent Garden when we saw a man carrying a sign pointing to this little gelato place just off Monmouth Street. It was a beautiful sunny day, and having a gelato just seemed like the perfect thing to do, so we headed in that direction without any hesitation.

 

We had 2 cones each. I had a mix of 2 flavors: chocolate and biscottini. K had a mix of pistachio and hazelnut. Both came with the most generous double scoops of ice cream we have ever had. From then on we were racing against time to finish our gelato before it melted. For £2.80 a cone (2 scoops), this was incredible value for money. We think though, that once word gets out they’ll soon reduce the amount of ice cream they dish out per scoop, but till then this is quite unbeatable.

 

The gelato was very smooth. K felt that it was really wonderfully creamy, but then again, according to the information displayed on their signboard each serving of 2 scoops contains 180 kcal (110 kcal for 2 scoops of sorbet) . It’s quite hard to imagine how such a creamy gelato can have so few calories, but I don’t think anyone’s complaining! Anyway, the flavors aren’t particularly strong – after a while the pistachio and hazelnut just blended into one indiscernible mix, and the chocolate and biscottini also soon became one. However, we truly enjoyed them, and will probably pop by to have more if we happen to be in the neighborhood.

Il Bordello

81 Wapping High Street 
London E1W 2YN 
020 7481 9950

QJ and her mom were in town, and we wanted to have a nice Italian meal. After reading theboywhoatetheworld’s review of Il Bordello, we were dying to check it out. So we went there for lunch on this bright sunny day.

 

Il Bordello is situated in a very nice neighborhood. It’s not the most conveniently located restaurant, (unless you take a taxi of course) and it took us about 20 minutes to walk from Tower Hill Tube Station to get there. However, it was such a lovely day, and the neighborhood was so clean and cheerful that we didn’t mind the walk at all. Along the way we encountered no less than 20 joggers, and there were hardly any cars on the street. We were very surprised to stumble upon such a lovely part of London.

Anyway, Il Bordello is a medium sized restaurant, very brightly lit, and with very charming Italian servers. We felt very relaxed and welcomed the whole time we were there. We were warned beforehand that they serve food in rather large sharing portions, so we ordered 3 mains to share among the 4 of us.

 

We started off with an asparagus starter. Unfortunately the asparagus was totally overcooked, and sat limp on the plate, flattened by the weight of a little layer of melted cheese. A didn’t mind that it was as mushy as it was since she likes her vegetables that way, but for the rest of us we found this quite shocking.

 

After that, our mains arrived. Every single one of our mains was delicious. The Lobster Aurora came served in a tacky aluminum foil swan (which was quite unnecessary), and tasted phenomenal. The sauce was infused with a good amount of lobster juice. The bed of seafood linguine sitting under the lobster fully benefited from the flavors of the lobster, and this was a very good dish. We were most excited about this dish as we read about it online, and it didn’t disappoint at all. This dish is not listed on their main menu, but on the daily special board. However when we called to enquire, we were told that it’s available every day.

 

We went for the Tagliatelle special as well. This was basically a tomato based seafood pasta dish. There was a very generous amount of scallops and langoustines tossed in the pasta. Some of us felt that the sauce was a little too rich, and that the tomatoes overpowered the freshness of the seafood. Nevertheless, this was delicious.

 

For our third main we went for something different from what we would normally go for. We chose the Monkfish served with rice. We had no idea if it would be good at all, but once we tasted it, we knew we had stumbled upon a winner. This was the best dish of the 3 we had by far. We are usually very picky over how rice is cooked, since we eat so much of it in Chinese food. However, we couldn’t fault this at all. This plate of rice was very well cooked, much to our surprise. We loved the rich and flavorful sauce, and the wonderful pieces of fish which were also perfectly cooked. Overall, it was everyone’s favorite dish, surprising as it may seem.

We had just about some room for desserts, and we ordered a tiramisu and a duo of sorbets – mango and lemon. There was this particular dessert in the menu that we enquired about, and to our surprise our waiter told us that he didn’t like it and we shouldn’t order it. This was quite a funny episode, and it added to the friendly, charming atmosphere of the restaurant.

 

Our sorbets were fantastic. There were real mango bits in the mango sorbet, and lemon zest in the lemon sorbet. Both tasted very fresh and clean, and were perfect for such a bright and sunny day.

 

The tiramisu was huge. We had just gone to Princi the day before, and naturally we were going to compare the tiramisu at both places. Firstly, the tiramisu at Il Bordello is easily twice the size of Princi’s. (I think they cost about the same price.) Also, the general opinion is that Il Bordello does a better tiramisu. K felt that the one at Princi was a little too soggy and had too much coffee, and preferred the one at Il Bordello as it was less overpowering and not as wet. 

Overall, Il Bordello is a restaurant that we wouldn’t mind revisiting, even with its inconvenient location. They obviously have their fans – we were there on a Tuesday afternoon for lunch, and the restaurant was almost full. While eating we took a look around at what other people were having, and if we return we’ll definitely be ordering their seafood platter which many other people were having. Portions are really big at Il Bordello, so we recommend going in a big group and sharing dishes family style.

Service: 8/10
Food: 7.5/10

Princi

135 Wardour Street
Soho, London W1F 0UT
020 7478 8888
http://www.princi.co.uk/

Opening Hours
Monday to Saturday 7am-12am
Sunday 9am-10pm

We have been to Milan, and when we were there we chanced upon this amazing shop selling all sorts of Italian yummies called Princi. So imagine our delight when we realized that they’ve opened a branch in London as well!

 

We went this time round with QJ and her mum, who was visiting from Singapore. QJ had just been to Italy, and was (and still is) obsessed with Italian cafes and restaurants, so this was the perfect place to have lunch at. The interior of the shop looked almost exactly like how we remembered it to be in Milan, and the selection of pastries and desserts and cooked foods was mind boggling. The staff was entirely Italian and (hence,) there was a very vibrant atmosphere. We didn’t manage to get a table to sit around, so we stood around a high table instead.

Since there were 4 of us, we managed to sample many different items available. Their full selection is amazing, and even with the variety of food we bought, we barely scraped the surface.

 

Our Lasagna was very nice. It wasn’t perfectly made, or perfectly plated, and looked a little messy, but that just made it seem all the more handmade and it was very yummy. There was a good amount of cheese without being overly cheesy and even QJ’s mum who detests cheese found it acceptable. We desperately wanted to get the rice ball, as we remembered having an amazing one in Princi in Milan. This one contained spiced rice and beef, and it looked a little like a paella after we cut it open. Unfortunately this was a far cry from the rice ball we had in Milan. It was cold and not very tasty. This was our least favourite dish of all.

 

The ham sandwich QJ ordered looked rather plain and boring, but it was actually very good. It was very surprising how much flavor there could be inside that one ordinary looking sandwich. The bread was excellent and lightly salted, and we hardly noticed the lack of cheese in it.

 

We also had some eggplant and bread rolls. The eggplant came stone cold, which was a pity since it would have been nice if it was a little warm, but it was very well seasoned and very well received by all of us (except A who doesn’t like the texture of eggplant). The bread rolls were easily the favourites of the meal. They were staggeringly delicious. You just have to try them for yourself.

 

Our drinks were mocha and a hot chocolate. They were both very concentrated, and we would have preferred them much less thick.

 

We had to save space for desserts since that was the first thing that caught our eye the moment we stepped into Princi. We went for the millifoglie, the pistachio cake and the tiramisu. The millifoglie was a clear favourite. QJ commented that it was a very different millifoglie from what she had in Italy, as it was more spongy than a ‘thousand layered’ pastry dessert. Nevertheless, this was excellent. It reminded A of the typical birthday cakes we have in Singapore, with the fruit topping and it brought us all back to our childhood days.

The tiramisu was good as well, but K thought that it was a little too much coffee in the biscuit and it was slightly too soggy.

The pistachio cake was another winner. It managed to pack a lot of flavor without tasting artificial, which tends to be the case for many pistachio cakes. The berry layer on top gave a very good contrast to the sweet pistachio, and this was (surprisingly,) K’s favourite dessert of the 3.

Inevitably we have to compare this Princi with the one we had in Milan. Very often when restaurants open branches in different countries there is a clear difference in style and food from the original. There are obvious differences between this Princi and the Milan one – for example, your food is already cut into their serving portions at the London branch, while in Milan, customers can choose how big a slice they want, and they are charged according to the weight of their portions. However, overall, we felt that the whole feel of the place is authentically Italian, from the servers to the décor, and the food as well. We’ll definitely be coming back to Princi, to try more of their food and especially their desserts.

Food: 7.5/10

Zizzi

33-41 Charlotte Street
London W1T 1RR 
0207 436 9440
http://www.zizzi.co.uk/

Opening Hours
Monday to Saturday 12-11pm
Sunday 12-10.30pm

Zizzi is another of those restaurants along Charlotte Street which we’ve always wanted to try, but never got around to doing so. It’s always packed during lunch or dinner, and for the both times we were there: on a Wednesday night, and then subsequently on Thursday afternoon, there were queues outside.

We’ve got to say, Zizzi has now become one of our favourite budget places to go to. The offer on studentbeans.com makes it even more affordable. In fact, as compared to ICCo just a few meters away, this isn’t that much more expensive if you take advantage of the offer. Plus, you get service, free tap water, and a wider variety of foods to choose from.

 

We had the calamari rings as a starter. These came in a regrettably small bucket. The calamari was very thinly sliced, and needed a little salt, but the garlic dip was heavenly. The portion could definitely have been bigger – and indeed, you can have a bigger bucket of calamari as a main for a slightly higher price (not included in the offer though).

 

On our second visit we had the antipasto platter for 2. This totally made K’s day. He loves having all these cured meats, and olives, and bread sticks, and cheese, so this was his idea of a perfect starter platter.

 

For mains I had the steak, which was just so-so. On the back of our experience at Chez Fernand, this was most disappointing. The steak had some unpleasantly tough bits, and the sides (potatoes, green beans) were uninspired and simply average.

 

The pizza however, was fantastic. There’s the option of adding about 2 pounds to ‘upgrade’ your pizza to a “rustica” style, which is a thinner dough pizza, hence being more stretched, allowing for more space for more toppings. Needless to say, we went for this option with our Sofia pizza (included in the offer), which was pizza with meatballs, chicken, green peppers and pepperoni. The crust was very crispy and thin, and we were both surprised by how huge the pizza was. There was a generous amount of toppings, and the meatballs were fantastic. The chicken however, was slightly dry.

On our second visit, K had the Calzone, with meatballs. Once again, we were surprised by how large this was, and we were so stuffed that we had to takeaway what we couldn’t finish. (Strangely, the chicken reheated very nicely in our oven, and I thought that the reheating actually improved the texture of the chicken!) We both loved the dough, and K noticed their garlic and cheese spread over the calzone, which he enjoyed very much.

We tried 2 of their desserts the first time we went. Both were very average. K’s tiramisu was a little too soggy, and my fig, plum and pistachio tart with vanilla ice cream was just mediocre. We skipped dessert on our second visit.

Zizzi has other mains like pastas and salads which we didn’t try. However, on the strength of their pizzas we think we’ll gladly stick to that when we visit again.

Service: 7/10
Food: 7/10

ICCo

46 Goodge Street
London W1T 4LU
020 7580 9688

This is probably the cheapest pizza you’ll ever find in London. ICCo is always filled with hungry students, and people who love their huge, cheap pizzas.  ICCo has found the winning formula: good location, delicious pizzas, and unbelievably cheap prices.

 

We had the Brunch pizza, which had sausage, egg and mushrooms. That came without cheese, which was weird, even for A who doesn’t like cheese. Somehow pizzas need cheese on them, no matter how much one might dislike cheese. (But of course, if you’re lactose intolerant, then that’s a different matter.)

 

We also had the pizza with pepperoni and chicken. This one did come with cheese, and it was fantastic. We love the pizza dough, and the thin crust. The pizzas are so huge that we couldn’t finish our food, and had to ask for takeaway boxes to bring what was left home.

On a separate occasion we’ve had the Funghi and the Hawaiian. The Funghi was also very good, but less so for the Hawaiian, which was rather uninspiring.

Food: 6.5/10

Jamie’s Italian

24-26 George Street,
Oxford, OX1 2AE
01865 83 83 83
http://www.jamieoliver.com/italian/

Opening Hours
Monday to Friday 12-11pm
Saturday 10am-11pm
Sunday 10am-11.30pm

We ventured out of London for this meal. This was a birthday treat for our friend C who was doing his Masters degree in Oxford, and since we wanted to try the food from this celebrity chef, we decided to have lunch at Jamie’s Italian.

We were early, despite our train being slightly delayed, and by the time the doors opened there was a substantial queue outside. This restaurant definitely enjoys the benefits of having a celebrity owner. What seemed really nice though was that despite being owned by such a well-known chef, Jamie’s Italian is extremely casual and relaxed. The servers were very friendly and we thoroughly enjoyed the happy atmosphere in the restaurant.

The philosophy of Jamie’s Italian, according to its website, is “good food for everyone, no matter what”. The menu simple and short and the prices were extremely reasonable. We took full advantage of the option of having smaller sized portions and ordered 4 different pasta dishes to share, and some seafood.

Our starter of crispy squid with really garlicky aoli was not very crispy unfortunately, though the dip it came in was indeed really garlicky as advertised. The amount of squid was disappointing, though we all liked the fried leaf that it came with.

Our Fish in a bag came next. This wasn’t that good as well – the portion was extremely small and it wasn’t very tasty. A good dash of salt would have elevated the dish for sure.

Our pastas came next. K absolutely loves carbonara, and after his excellent experience in Rome with carbonara he has never had another plate of carbonara since. Today he decided to give Jamie’s carbonara a shot. This however completely missed the mark. It was more of noodle soup than a carbonara, and he was quite disappointed by it. However, having said that, it did mention on the menu that this was “Bucanti Carbonara”, so perhaps he just wasn’t used to the style of this particular carbonara.

The other pasta dishes were much better though. The prawn linguine wasn’t bad, though it could have been much tastier.

The 2 other pasta dishes however, were excellent. The Spaghetti Bolognese and the Sausage Pappardelle were fantastic. The pasta, and this was the case too for the earlier 2 pasta dishes as well, was obviously freshly made, and cooked to a perfect al dente. The tomato sauce in those 2 dishes was very simple but very good, and all the previous issues we had with the earlier dishes were forgiven. Fresh pasta is something that completely elevates a dish, and we thoroughly enjoyed this detail that Jamie Oliver has put into his restaurant. In fact, the pasta making process is demonstrated in the side window for everyone passing by to see.

We ordered a nice Tuscan and Hazelnut Chocolate Cake for C, and this ended our meal beautifully.

Service: 8/10
Food: 7.5/10

Assaggi

39 Chepstow Place
London W2 4TS
020 7792 5501

Opening Hours
Lunch:
Monday to Friday 12.30-2.30pm
Saturday 1-2.30pm
Dinner:
Monday to Saturday 7.30-11pm

We had dinner with QJ, hosted by 2 of her father’s good friend. This restaurant was recommended by them. Assaggi is definitely not the easiest place to find, since it’s in a quiet corner not too near to Bayswater Tube Station, on top of a pub. We made sure that we were not too shabbily dressed, but judging from the service we received, I think they would have made us feel welcome even if we turned up in slippers and shorts.

This is Italian front of house at its best – loud, passionate, and very, very charming. Our menu was presented with a flourish, but alas, it was all in Italian! So our hosts asked for the recommendations of the day, and our server (who was probably the owner himself) did such a good job of selling every single dish that we would have ordered every last thing they served, had he not shouted “enough, enough, this is enough food” and whisked the menus from right under our noses – very slick and very, Italia.

We didn’t take any photos of the food, since our hosts were 2 very distinguished members of society, and didn’t want to embarrass them, or ourselves.

The essence of Assaggi is very simple, homely food. There’s very little fuss over the presentation, with little or none of those pretentious ingredients like truffle or foie gras. We had a starter of fried cheese with salad to share, which was very simple, but very very good. It came with a wrap that you’re supposed to wrap the cheese in with, and even Amanda, who usually dislikes cheese with a passion, found it very good. We also had individual starters. The fresh mozzarella cheese salad was the highlight of the meal. There was nothing complicated about that dish – it was just a celebration of the freshest ingredients and it tasted very clean and crisp.

We were more divided about the mains. The Fritto Misto (mixed fried seafood) came highly recommended, but was rather hit-and-miss. Parts of the dish like the prawn and the crispy fries were heavenly, but the others were less stellar. The pasta with fresh herb was very delicious at first bite, but the herb got rather overpowering about midway through the dish. The turbot dish though, was apparently very good, despite it being a hard fish to cook.

Desserts were a source of much debate. Our male host decided he would take it upon himself to make the decision for the group and order 5 of the same dessert, the name I can’t recall, but it was something he really liked. When the desserts arrived, loud protests came from 2 diners at the table. They absolutely hated it, and were most offended by the coffee that was generously poured all over the bowl. They decided to go ahead with their instincts and order tiramisu and a flourless chocolate cake instead, which went down much more agreeably. The other 3 diners appreciated the initial choice of desserts, and were rather amused by the way it was insulted by being called a “tiramisu gone wrong”.

Overall it was an enjoyable meal, and we felt honored to be able to be in the presence of 2 very smart and very well-connected people. (And a bimbo…that’s you, QJ). On a final note, subtle things make a huge difference: A was very impressed that her coat was returned to her heated, which points to the level of attention this restaurant gives to their guests.

Additional note: This restaurant has a Michelin star, and it is apparently very hard to get a table.

Service: 9/10
Food: 8 /10