The Italian restaurant in London has changed both in form and format over my lifetime.
When I started to “go Italian”, the Italian trattoria at the high end was not chef but owner-driven with the likes of Mimmo d’Ischia, Mario and Franco’s chain, Meridiana (owner Walter Apicella went on to design the Pizza Express) and Alvaro’s La Famiglia which is still going.
Then the chefs became more of a presence, like Aldo Zilli, and guys like Carlucci changed the format to more of an operation selling Italian food, whilst others majored on cooking and wine courses.
The old buzzy restaurant, with photos of stars on the walls and 6 types of veal, became a thing of the past. I rather missed them.
Tiberio offered dinner and dancing where my bum was pinched and I had to prepare myself for a hurling drunken body careering towards me with slobbering lips at the back of a taxi!!! Not that we ever girls complained! You had to grin and bear it.
Edera in Holland Park Venue just next to Norland Square is in the new school, expensive, a serous menu, calm. I had a pea soup which was too bland and spaghetti with mullet called bottarga which I always have at Olivo, but not to the same standard.
At £70 a head I would place it in the expensive bracket but good service and my other two diners approved of their choices.
The Spanish restaurant has not had a similar evolution to the Italian.
However Barrafino led the field in tapas restaurants and one of its drivers opened Sabor, just off Regent Street in Heddon Street, in one of those pedestrianised roads that now abound in the West End. I was on my own. I have no problems eating solo, a time for reflection or just catching up on the iPad.
My waiter Jose was struck that I knew the origin of Tapas from the the Spanish tapan meaning “to cover”. In the 13th century King Alfonso X, to offset the problems of alcohol, decreed that in Castilian inns alcohol must be served with food. The food was covered by a wooden board.
Thanks King Alfonso for introducing a style of gastronomy, namely the shared platter to accompany a drink. At first it was more basic, cheese, black pudding, bread but it’s now evolved into something more sophisticated.
I ordered Galician baked octopus served with a sauce rather too buttery for my taste, a tortilla filled with egg yolk and potatoes which was scrumptious and the black pudding and basque sausages with piquilla pepper.
The waiter Jose suggested a zesty cold La Guita Manzailla and when he regretted that there was no fennel ice cream but honey and saffron proffered as an accompaniment Cream Florida on the house a sweeter Olivoso dark sherry.
I’m not so keen on these but they it does accompany ice cream well. It proved a superb gastronomic experience and – at £58 with a glass of white Jose Patiente – I was happy with the bill.