OSTERIA DELL'ANGOLO: STANDING ON THE CORNER
I was sitting in a bar the other day nursing a headache and a large Dry Martini - which amazingly took care of the headache - when I heard some Northerners moaning about London prices. Now if there’s one thing that really gets up my nose it’s dozy bumpkins coming to my town and whingeing about stuff. If they don’t watch out I’m going to send that Jamie Oliver up there to sort them out. If he hasn’t already.
To stop their whining here’s a little tip: free, gratis and for nothing. Not many visitors know there’s an unofficial tax on drinks bought by non-Londoners. But you can get a discount if you order in the right way. A cheery “Wotcher me old cock sparrer” always goes down well with bartenders here and if you mix in a few “God bless the Queen Mum”s and “Not Many”s you’ll achieve beverage bliss. File along with haggling with Black Cab rivers is actively encouraged.
Anyway, this was all a pleasant prelude to a good meal at a new Italian joint from serial restaurateur Claudio Pulze. In truth I wasn't expecting much from Osteria Dell’Angolo. It's located in Victoria, that most non-descript areas of London. Faceless and dull - and that’s just the MPs and their Civil Servants - good eating places are as rare as hens’ teeth.
Signor Pulze recent restaurant openings have been a mixed bag. I found his gastropub The Beehive very underwhelming and his French joint Brasserie Saint Jacques was received with lukewarm and limp reviews. With Osteria Dell’Angolo he seems back on more sure and happier territory.
There’s been a number of Italian restaurant openings over the past year and for every place in the credit side (L’Anima, 500, Bocca di Lupo) there’s been a clunker on the debit (Apsleys, Avista, Manicomo). Happily O D’A sits firmly in the first column.
The room isn’t going to win too many design award but it’s functional and comfortable. Service a couple of days after opening was spot-on and as sweet as pie. More importantly the food is terrific from the bread that is served throughout the meal to the rather splendid Duck main course. Everything spoke of decent ingredients, freshness and a light touch in the kitchen.
An amuse of half a rich, deep-fried egg in a tomato broth brought back memories of when I was a lad. The combination of the fried coating, egg and tomato reminded me, for some bizarre reason, of Sunday breakfasts my Dad used to cook. Such is the power of food and memory
Wafer thin slices of pressed Pig’s head were served, correctly at room temperature with a good endive salad to provide bitterness as a foil to the fattiness of the pork.
A Tagliatelle with some Ragu was homely and delicious. It was taken from the Mother’s Tasting Menu which specialises in dishes from the comfort food as oppose to the cutting edge end of the spectrum.
The kitchen’s culinary chops were more to the fore in my main course of Duck. The breast had been poached then made into four dense, meaty roundels. They were topped with little ducky scratchings and accessorised with superb Celery Croquettes (mmm…croquettes) and a bitter Artichoke salad which performed the same contrast as the Endive in the starter.
Despite being well stuffed – that bread just kept on coming and coming – my eyes were obviously bigger than my stomach. A massive beef chop or Bistecca alla Fiorentina was served to a neighbouring table. One Kilo of Italian Chianina Beef, charred on the outside and beautifully rare within, was carved up for people who, well they just wouldn’t have appreciated it half as much me. It really was the palle dei cani. Reality kicked in, of course, and I made a mental note to return ASAP.
As well as pudding, there’s a separate page in the menu for Italian Cheeses which I’m sure would be as good as everything else.
The kitchen is not making its own Gelati at the moment so I consoled myself with good Espresso and a Grappa and thought what a clever move it was to open in this particular area. You see, despite the financial problems Britain is suffering there is still a potential group of diners whose job security is pretty much guaranteed and for whom the future is always bright, especially if you’re at or near the top. The Palace of Westminster is a ten minute walk.