Having been spoilt as a child with trips to Italy, I've had few memorable Italian meals in England. Unless it's Quaglino's, there tend to be few surprises when you read the menu, and it's usually a list of 'the usual suspects'. Rarely is there a quirky regional dish, and I've never quite understood why, all these years after Elisabeth David, Italian restaurants seem to make little effort to differentiate themselves from all other Italian restaurants.
There was a surprise on the specials board; a fresh sardine dish, and I chose that, washed down with a quite exceptional Pinot Grigio. This was fine-dining quality food, served without the snobbery that some restaurants seem to put on to compensate for a run of the mill set of menu choices, and (Italians don't do it in Italy, why in England?) frequent overdoses of overheated garlic (probably not fresh enough) drowned in second-rate olive oil.
The decor is comfortable without being flashy. Maybe I'm getting old, but I'd have liked just a little more light - perhaps to compensate for the grim wet windy darkness outside (I'm addicted to the odd inter-course cigarette) nevertheless the staff were efficient without making us feel hurried.
A big 'test' for us is whether we will be back again, which is more than just about the food (although places that do better than we can at home always score highly) but is also about the atmosphere, and my only regret was that we had to go home at the end of the evening. Otherwise I might have ordered another pudding and enjoyed a grappa or two.
We will, as Arnie says, be back!
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