Tucked away off Kensington High Street, Locanda Ottoemezzo is a little off the beaten track, but if you live nearby you should make it a local staple. The place is cosy and intimate with a great, if pricey Italian menu. The cafe next door is a little more laid back and does pizzas for the kids. The friendly staff will happily talk you through what’s good. The house risotto served in a Parmesan rind is inevitably amongst the recommendations.
I Robert is a surprisingly chilled out Italian restaurant, given its location in the heart of Mayfair, and the fact that it’s owned by restaurateur Arkadiy Novikov whose namesake restaurant is the height of flash. The rambling series of rooms make for a fairly eclectic dining experience, from the baroque-style paintings on the walls of the upstairs dining room to the big rabbit picture signed I. Robert that lends the restaurant its name. It’s nice to find somewhere chilled in Mayfair though and the house made pasta makes for surprisingly reasonable comfort food (they offer it gluten free too, if you’re that way inclined). Make sure to try the I Robert taglioni with rabbit ragout.
Tucked down one of the curiously charming lanes by Liverpool Street, La Tagliata is weird blend of quirky and corporate that’s bizarrely appropriate for the heart of the city. The restaurant itself is split into a maze of different rooms, each with distinct names. Apparently it’s meant to echo the feel of an Italian villa, but really it’s to cater to big parties, since each space can be booked privately. A wall covered with string instruments dominates the main room, and gives you an idea of what to expect throughout the rest of the space. If the decor’s a bit out there, and the clientele’s as corporate as they come, the food couldn’t be simpler – and that’s a good thing. Start with a deliciously fresh pasta – you can top it off with pesto, tomato or a zesty lemon source – and then move onto the Tagliata, an Italian beef salad that is just to die for (veggies can go for baked scamorza). That’s basically all the choice there is and price depends purely on how many courses you have. Simples.
Diciannove is a very nice Italian restaurant. Situated just by Blackfriars, it’s a delightful spot to dine in the middle of a culinary wasteland. What really makes this place stand out though is its truly great gluten-free offering. Anyone who’s ever tried to go for Italian with a coeliac will know the longing looks at the carb-packed dishes most of us can scoff down without a second thought. Here, everyone gets to tuck in. Diciannove serves faultless chestnut papardelle, lighter than light pumpkin risotto and loads more gluten-free dishes to city-based coeliacs and those on fad diets. The whole thing is overseen by executive chef Alessandro Bay, a Locatelli protege who keeps standards up to par. Unusually for a city restaurant, this place even packs out on the weekend. The quality of the food here is the real draw (the spectacular view over the river by night is a close second). Packed with suits during the week, this is the perfect destination for a business lunch in an area full of well, not much really. Don’t expect a pumping atmosphere – the feel here is ‘comfortable corporate’ and lets be honest, its always better when you can stick it on expenses.
The Italian ‘cucina povera’ (literally, food of the poor) and stripped back, exposed brick on show at Paesan are a far cry from the burgers and bling you could get at Dollar Grills and Martini which used to occupy this big-windowed space on the cusp Exmouth Market . We’re not quite sure about the concept of peasant food when you’re most likely to be sat next to a a large group of yuppies, but we still enjoyed the hearty, Italian dishes, especially the deep fried pizza, because, come on, what’s not to like there? Some of the plates are a bit hit and miss, but the place still has a good buzz to it and we thoroughly enjoyed hitting the downstairs bar for a little aperitif. Think of it as a bigger, noisier Polpo. Where they take reservations. With space for big parties. We can get on board with that.
Eco is a bit of an institution. Slap bang in the middle of the rather blah cluster of chains on Clapham High Street, this welcoming little pizza place has endured for over 20 years. It’s not hard to see why, this is the ideal no-fuss local; reasonably priced, unpretentious and with the kind of staff who’ll remember your name (and order). The pizza is solid too, as are the antipasti which make a very nice little (or not) starter. It’s not surprising then that the place does a steady business, filled with a mix of families and groups of friends looking for a chilled evening out. Come ready to sing, there’s almost invariably a birthday celebration or two under way.
Scoffler was a guest at Eco.
This former mobile pizza van has gone permanent, and boy are we pleased! Now operating from a 50 cover site in Neal’s Yard, these guys are still churning out the same wonderful pizzas, but now you don’t have to stand in the rain to eat them. The charred and chewy bases are topped generously with exciting flavour combinations like bone marrow and spring onion or white anchovy and chard. The classic margherita is there too for the purists, never fear. Prosecco and beer are on tap and wine is served by the bottle with a ruler taken out to measure how much you’ve drunk by the end (gimmicky but it works). 20″ pizzas are £20, come with your choice of two flavours and are big enough for 2-3 to share. There’s no messing around here; no salads, starters or desserts to ruin your appetite, it’s all about the pizza, pure and simple. Shimmy on down on the weekend, which always promises to be a lively affair, or grab a slice (or two) for lunch. Expect some queues, the word is out!
B-Soho isn’t a subtle kinda place – it’s loud and proud and gloriously simple. Take decently authentic Neapolitan pizzas, add a healthy dose of booze to whet the appetite and you’re pretty much there. The place is always buzzing which makes it great for big groups (it takes reservations, hallelujah). Walk through the packed bar and venture down into the exposed-brick basement for what will be anything but a quiet night. The crowd is young, fun and ready to party. Good thing the food makes an excellent stomach liner, since the booze flows freely. The pizzas are still worth trying, even without such practical motivations though. Chewy, charred crusts, tangy passata and creamy mozzarella grace the menu here. It’s not the most authentic you’ll get in London but it’s coming up pretty close. Don’t bother with salads or starters which are largely average and save your calories for the booze – and plenty of it.
It’s not new, it’s not fancy and it doesn’t rely on social media to pull in the crowds (though some casual tweeting here and there never hurts). It doesn’t matter – Italian cooking of this quality doesn’t usually come with such a reasonable price tag (perhaps with the sole exception of Zucca and we know what it’s like trying to get a table there). The place is part-owned by Giorgio Locatelli and that’s a stamp of approval if ever there was one. The decor is pared down, but not intimidatingly edgy, service is professional and friendly without being obtrusive and this place is jampacked every night of the week. Oh yeah, and the food – well that speaks for itself. We recommend digging into as many cicchetti as your waistband will allow, allowing room for hefty portions of the homemade pasta too. Burrata with tomato bread is a triumph of creamy deliciousness and nettle pasta with duck ragut is a beautiful-looking plate of hearty goodness. Portions are on the generous side, particularly for the price and the wine list is also pretty good value for this part of town.
It’s probably true Victoria doesn’t need another bland, hotel restaurant. It’s painfully, glaringly obvious that it needs some more high-quality eating establishments. Enter Tozi – yes, it’s in a bland hotel – but the food cuts the mustard. So, close your eyes as you rush through the garish lobby of the Park Plaza with its weird art installations, into the altogether subtler interior of Tozi. The menu is just so on trend with its little dishes of cicchetti (and a few larger dishes if you don’t like sharing). Either way, don’t be stingy when ordering. This is tasty stuff. Pizzettes were charred and chewy – just how we like them – fried artichoke with minted yogurt was unusual and a triumph, fritto misto was gloriously crisp and generous and the cured meats of outstanding quality. Perhaps best of all were the gnocchi with duck ragout and spaghetti with seafood. Do save room for dessert or perhaps try one of their one-and-a-half-month aged Negronis, if nothing else for the spectacle of a waiter bringing to the table the entire barrel.