Peter Morrell enjoys the food and the atmosphere of the Italian Lakes – in Central London
Como Garden restaurant occupies a prominent corner position on Kensington High Street, along the side of the restaurant is an al fresco area, allowing you to enjoy balmy summer evening dining. The decor inside the restaurant is redolent of an Italian eatery around Lake Como. A large, lit olive tree is the centre piece, surrounded by circular booths, banquettes, and tables. The friendly, knowledgeable service team will soon have you seating and settled in. On the night were there, the upbeat atmosphere was being created by the smartly dressed diners, and cool background music. If you are ‘cenare in due’, dining as two, Como Garden is the perfect venue for an intimate meal.
The menu is based around the concept of Italian Tapas – shared plates. The menu is split into five section, Antipasti Tapas, Pasta Tapas, Meat and Seafood Tapas, Vegetables and Salad, and Sides. The recommendation is to choose 3-4 dishes each. There is a dazzling array of options, from Arancini Balls to Ravioli with Gorgonzola and Caramelised Walnuts, Marinated Lamb Chops with Garlic and Red Wine Sauce, Burrata with Pesto and Datterini Tomatoes, and Home-made Italian Bread.
The cocktail and wine list are just as comprehensive, with Italian classics like Negroni and Aperol Spritz, and international favourites including the Cosmopolitan and Espresso Martini. The wine list is primarily Italian, and there is something to suit every taste and pocket. Prosecco, of course, with whites featuring Gavi di Gavi, a Sardinian Vermentino, and a Pecorino from Marche. There are a couple of interesting rosés from Veneto, and the reds include a Primitivo from Puglia, a Sicilian Etna Rosso from the volcanic slopes, and a Chianti Classico from Tuscany.
Everything looked so good that my wife and I struggled to pick the dishes to share. Our final choices were deep fried Zucchini, Truffle and Ricotta Tortelloni alla Carbonara, Fried Calamari with Parsley Aioli, Grilled Octopus with Gremolata and Roasted Potatoes, and Patatine Fritte.
I always think that you can tell if are going to like a meal with the first sip or taste. Before the dishes started to arrive, we were given a small bowl of chilled Gazpacho with the chef’s compliments. It was a beautiful start, with deep, rich flavours of herbs and tomatoes, this meal was going to be good.
First up was the deep-fried Squid, satisfyingly crunch on the outside, and meltingly tender on the inside. The Squid’s companion dip was a Parsley Aioli which had the most intriguing taste. Next was one of my favourites, deep fried Zucchini. I love the way frying brings out the full flavour of this vegetable, which can be quite bland.
One of the most impressive dishes in the line-up was the Truffle and Ricotta Tortelloni, liberally sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. This was packed with the flavours that make Italian food so special. The subtlety of the truffle, the umami from the cheese, the texture of the pasta, and the added bonus of the Tortelloni being wrapped in a silky Carbonara sauce. The Octopus was served on a bed of roast potatoes, it was slightly crispy, and like the Squid very tender. The Gremolata sauce brought the whole thing together as a very satisfying dish. Finally our side was a bowl of crispy, hand-cut chips with a very moreish truffle mayonnaise.
For our wine pairing my wife chose a bright and refreshing Prosecco from Veneto, and I had a very aromatic white from Sicily. They are both sold by the glass, were good quality, and ideal for a summer’s evening.
The final indulgence was dessert, and the options are all very tempting, there is the Como Signature Meringue Torta, favourites like Tiramisu, and an Italian Cheese Board. The portions had been very large, but I did find space for two scoops of Artisan Italian Gelato, vanilla and pistachio. While I savoured my ice cream my insomniac wife was delighted that Como served decaf Cappucino.
This was an excellent meal in every respect, the decor, the ambience, the super service team, and of course the outstanding Italian food and wine
37-45 Kensington High Street
London W8 5ED