London is full of Italian restaurants, in fact London food critics like to ‘joke’ that no great Italian chefs actually live in Italy, they all reside in our capital. Hardly surprising really, as I have never met anyone in London who is indifferent to Italian food. From pizza to pappardelle, most people seem to love the stuff – food snobs, students, families, couples, Presidents and “city types on expense accounts” (lucky bast*rds)
Trullo is another addition to this ever growing list of the good, the bad and the very ugly – I’m thinking San Lorenzo folks. Before dining there last month, I remember saying to my friend – “does London really needed another Italian restaurant, regardless of how good Trullo might turn out to be?” Isn’t enough is enough?
But then, I should qualify that statement by saying London may be full of Italian restaurants, but good value Italian restaurants that leave you wanting to return, certainly in the West-End, are hard to come by. I have lost count of the number of times my table has dropped £100 ahead and wondered why we bothered. What London lacks is enough well-run, consistently good eateries that don’t leave a massive dent in your wallet.
Enter Trullo, my dream neighbourhood restaurant, except that sadly it is not in my neighbourhood. A mere 15-20 minute tube ride away from the West End, Trullo was full to bursting the night we arrived, full of decidedly content looking people – locals rather than tourists – being fed well without having to re-mortgage their house.
Although early, we were promptly offered a table upstairs in the buzzy, simply decorated trattoria style space. It only took me a minute to plump for the basement. The website photos don’t do it nearly enough justice, as the basement is a intimate, perfectly lit dining option that was cooler and quieter than the commotion upstairs. Perfect for couples and those who want to chat rather than shout.
Two glasses of Prosecco later, we perused a very short, classically northern Italian menu that apparently changes often. Veal Milanese and Lamb rump were the obvious choices for a carnivore like me, in addition to the Quail starter. Our host for the evening, chef Tom Siadatan, cut his teeth at Jamie Oliver’s ‘Fifteen’ project, before honing is skills here. He prepared for me a fantastic, nourishing feast of papperdelle with beef shin ragu, as good as I have ever eaten and Yorkshire veal Milanese. Apparently dutch veal was out of stock? Every mouthful was delicious, the meat perfectly seasoned and the accompaniment of green and yellow beans not remotely over cooked or over salted. The sort of food an “Italian Mamma” would be proud of.
My companion was slightly less enamoured with her dishes, the starter of Quail was charcoal charred but not burnt, however, her main course of polenta cake was burnt to a crisp, cremated in fact. Still, the atmosphere and general friendliness of the staff more than compensated, and as she said, she could have sent it back. I’m sure a restaurant like Trullo would have replaced it without any fuss.
We both loved dessert; a delicious and moerish chocolate and quince tart and a selection of mouthwatering Italian ice creams and sorbets. I am a great believer in sharing food, especially when ice cream is on offer. Good job I have a tolerant friend!
And what of the wine? Again, Trullo was a delight; a short, well chosen list that was affordable to mere mortals, rather than just Oligarchs and Texan oil traders. We enjoyed a smooth, textured and fragrant bottle of Super-Tuscan, just enough Cabernet Sauvignon so as not to spoil the wine. At under £40, you can’t argue with that kind of mark-up.
Despite the hitches in my companions main course, we both agreed we would return: Trullo can be busy or intimate depending on your mood, my food was excellent and the staff made us feel very welcome. Most definitely worth the tube ride out of central London.
Overpriced West-End Italians please take note – this is how you run a restaurant!
Trullo, 300-302 Saint Paul’s Road, Islington, London, N1 2LH Tel – (44) 0207 226 2733