VASCO & PIERO AND, ER MARTIN: OLD FRIENDS INDEED
Friendships are funny things. You can lose touch with people for a long time and then, if the friendship was based on anything of worth, just slot back into them again as if no time had passed. So it is, I think with restaurants. Some places are just like taking off the tightest, squeakiest pair of new shoes and slipping your feet into your favourite slippers.
A few years ago I was an habitué of a number of food internet sites. For reasons too dull to go into here I stopped using them. It certainly freed up a great amount of time and I left them with little regret. I did, however, regret losing touch with some of the people I had met through there. One of them was Martin.
Now Martin, by his own admission is a bit of an old codger, exceptionally good company and as food obsessed as the next man. Unless of course, the next man happens to be one of Dos Hermanos.
I had lost touch with him and we had not seen each other for well over two years.
However, recently, I was back looking at one of the food boards “lurking” I believe the young folk call it and I noticed he had posted about a “find” in Soho. An Italian place called Vasco & Piero’s Pavilion. I had to laugh as this was always my favourite Italian restaurant in London and has been around, in different locations for over 30 years. It seemed the perfect opportunity to renew my acquaintance with the three of them, Vasco, Piero and Martin
After getting back in touch, we agreed to meet up for an early supper at 6.30pm and after some initial confusion over our booking we were shown to a large table.
The room has not changed since they moved from their original location some 15 years ago and since I was first brought here by some Italian friends about 12 years ago.
Then, my friend Luca told me that this was the only Italian place in London he would eat and that the calf’s liver was the best thing on the menu. That too remains unchanged.
The place was packed and the kitchen was obviously stretched so they kept us happy with a little plate of nibbles while we waited for our starters. For Martin, a simple but ample dish of Tagliatelle with tomato and basil and for me Tortelloni with radicchio and ricotta. This is what Italian food is to me. Simple ingredients, beautifully fresh and not buggered about with. Splendid and beautifully served by a bottle of La Cala from Sardinia.
We both opted for the liver. I had forgotten quite how good it was. Perfectly cooked a little pink for me, with a beautiful crust and meltingly sweet inside. We spent a good part of the evening discussing food, but the moment we took our first bite of this, a silence descended as we both enjoyed what I believe remains one of the best tastes in London. It is served simply with some spinach which is all it needs.
An over priced but entirely delicious bottle of Ruffino opened up in the large glasses and certainly helped wash it all down.
Desserts are perfunctory but, as there are three courses for £26, we went for some poached peaches and some chocolate truffle cake. Perfectly fine but just a way of providing a full stop to the evening.
The meal is not cheap. This is, after all, The West End and drinks are marked up pretty high here. The bill for two came to £120. That being said, that is about the same as I paid recently at Passione for two without wine and the cooking, while able was not a patch on this Umbrian beauty.
I can’t think of many better ways of catching up than a meal here and, while not many of you will have had the pleasure of meeting Martin, I really do urge you to make the acquaintance of Vasco & Piero