Posts Tagged ‘locanda locatelli’

hotel entrance to Locanda Locatelli

It’s Friday, and we’re talking to our friends about where to meet for dinner on Saturday.  They feel like having Italian food.  “Good luck with that,” I think.  I can count on one hand the reliably-good Italian restaurants in London, and they’re always fully booked on Saturday night.

Well, the last laugh’s on me, because our friends worked some magic:   Saturday night dinner reservations at Locanda Locatelli at 9:30 pm.  I’ve never been to Locanda, but I know it’s expensive, and the food is supposed to be good.   So off we go.

First impressions are good.  The room is large, but the layout allows for lots of inviting nooks and crannies.  Our table has a nice, curved banquette.  I love banquettes.

beef carpaccio (£15)

Pork sausage, Savoy cabbage and saffron risotto starter (£13.50)

Generally, the menu offerings sound pedestrian, but most of them are well executed.  Take, for example, the beef carpaccio and platter of cured meats.  There’s a generous serving of both and the ingredients are fresh and delicious.  Still, they seem more a reflection of top-notch sourcing than of top-notch cooking.

Sadly, the one starter we ordered that was served in an unexpected way (i.e., the pork sausage and risotto) wasn’t especially tasty.  I wasn’t expecting the risotto to be a fritter, and while I am normally a lover of all things fried, having a crispy wedge of fried risotto to accompany a massive ball of sausage, all drizzled in a rich sauce, was just unrelentingly heavy.

And an artichoke salad with rocket and Parmigiano Reggiano was a total disappointment, especially for £15.  There was no interesting blending of flavors or textures.  It was as if it were a plate with three separate ingredients on it, which just reinforced my impression that it’s tough to get a decent salad in London.

We did much better with mains, which I’d say were the highlight of our dinner:

lobster linguine (£24.50)

Thanks to ingenious use of lobster stock, the lobster linguine was packed with lobster flavor despite a very stingy portion of lobster meat.  I greatly enjoyed this one, though the presentation was a little scary.  What’s with the random lobster leg jutting out like that?

Potato and mushroom gnocchi with black truffle (£19.50)

Potato-and-mushroom gnocchi with black truffle was my second-fave pasta course of the evening.  Pillowy-soft gnocchi perfumed with truffle.  Perfect.  Presentation is what you’d call rustic if you were being generous, though.

orecchiete with turnip tops, garlic and anchovies (£18)

Orecchiete was the low point of our pastas.  It was a giant plate of mush, really.  The pasta tasted as if it’d been sitting around a while, and again, the flavors didn’t blend at all.  Jon and I make a much better version of this dish at home.

braised lamb neck with polenta (£27.50)

The braised lamb neck with buttery polenta ticked all the boxes for a good braise:  fork tender, lots of rich fatty bits and a strong sauce for you to mop up.  A little more polenta to accompany the enormous portion of meat would’ve been ideal.

Contorni were a very mixed bag.  The fried artichoke (£6) was masterful, with each artichoke leaf perfectly battered and crisped, but the rest of the contorni were skippable.  Fried potatoes (£4.50) were just crispy cubes of potatoes – dressed up chips, really.  Regular ol’ broccoli and chili was £4.75 and lacking both kick and flavor.  Sauteed spinach (£4.75) was satisfying, but it’s garlic and spinach, yes?

terribly un-tasty tiramisu (£6.50)

Worst menu moment was the tiramisu.  A total crime.  Stale ladyfingers doused in a runny mascarpone and drowned in amoretto.  Despite sharing one portion among four people, we didn’t come close to finishing it, and I was mildly disappointed none of our servers bothered to ask why a little martini glass of tiramisu went only half-eaten.

With extras like a £77 bottle of a very tasty Sicilian red wine and a couple glasses of digestifs, our total for four came to £300 (£75 a person).  It was a fun evening out with friends, but given the generally-pedestrian and unven food, I wouldn’t recommend a visit.  And I definitely can’t help comparing our dinner at Locanda with my repeat dinner at Trullo just this past Monday night.

At Trullo, I paid £26 a person for a starter, an excellent pasta, a shared main of braised lamb neck, and a shared dessert (i.e., the tastiest caramel pannacotta, ever).  Service at Trullo was friendly and helpful, so the only thing that was superior about Locanda was its comfortable seating and dining room, and that’s not worth the price premium, I reckon.

Locanda Locatelli, 8 Seymour Place, W1H 7JZ; 0207 935 9088; closest Tube station:  Marble Arch

If you’re looking for Italian restaurants in London, you might also be interested in:

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fried shoestring courgettes (£2.50)

Two Fridays ago, Gourmet Chick and I went on a double date to Tinello, a newish Italian that’s gotten lots of publicity thanks to its association with Locanda Locatelli, where Tinello’s owners used to work as sous chef and sommelier. As Gourmet Chick has already noted in her excellent blog post about that evening, our husbands struck a rich vein of conversation in voicing the indignities they suffer at the hands of their food-blogger wives. There was even talk of creating an anti-food-blogger blog. (Good luck with that, guys).

fried artichoke (carciofi) £3.50

Gourmet Chick has covered the evening pretty well, so I highly recommend that you read her post. My own thoughts on the place are:

  • The interior’s mix of exposed brick walls and stylish lighting fixtures is both cool and welcoming, especially for a spot so close to not-usually-either Sloane Square.
  • Appetizers of the bacaro-small-plates variety were boring/classic, but generally very tasty. The person manning the fryer knows what’s up.
  • Our server’s wine suggestion was spot-on in terms of both the budget and style of wine we described as desirable. So I’d definitely recommend Tinello as a great place for snacks and wine.

chicken liver crostini (£1.90)

calamari chickpea (£7)

  • Things got a little rocky when it came to mains and desserts at Tinello. In fairness to the restaurant, we didn’t try any of the meat or fish courses, and instead we stuck to the pastas, which turned out to be nothing special.

pumpkin ravioli (£11.50)

  • My pumpkin ravioli was by far the best pasta ordered at the table that evening, and although there were a few too-large-and-therefore-too-tough chunks of pumpkin lurking in the ravioli, overall, I enjoyed the pasta.

Gnudi (£11)

  • Gourmet Chick’s gnudi wasn’t the fluffy-fresh ricotta-gnocchi fest I was expecting. It tasted like loose filling swimming in olive oil, which wasn’t appealing.

paccheri with burrata and nduja sausage (£11)

Jon and MTV Boyfriend both ordered the paccheri with burrata and nduja, a spicy, spreadable sausage. We hit a bump in service when both men thought their pastas were still crunchy in parts (i.e., a bit too al dente).

Our servers seemed conflicted between wanting to continue offering friendly, helpful service (and taking the dishes back for reheating or remaking) and falling into an unpleasant “the customer is wrong” mode (explaining to us that the dish was meant to be this way/al dente). It was awkward all around, and even though ultimately our servers took the dishes away to be remade or heated until the pasta was softer, the damage was done. And we felt both indignant and embarrassed at the same time.

By the time the dishes arrived again at our table, Gourmet Chick and I had finished our mains, and nobody was in the mood to appreciate the contrast between the silky-cool cream of the burrata and the spicy heat of the tomato-nduja sauce. Service really can make-or-break a meal.

"apple cake" on the menu, apple strudel on the plate (£4.50)

We finished our dinner with a generous hunk of pecorino with bite (£5.50) and something that was described on the menu as “apple cake,” but was instead a passable apple strudel.

With teas, coffees and a tasty bottle of wine (a Carmignano) for £45, our total came to a modest £30 per person before service.  If not for the service hiccup, I’d say Tinello was a pleasant, reasonably-priced addition to the Sloane Square dining scene.

Tinello Restaurant, 87 Pimlico Road, SW1W 8PH; 0207 730 3663; closest tube station: Sloane Square
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