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Italian restaurant Bucci 195 Balham High Road, London SW12 9BE
Jul 23rd, 2009 by Olivier

Italian restaurant Bucci
195 Balham High Road
London SW12 9BE

Bucci

Bucci

Bucci

Retro design

Retro design

The entrance

The entrance

We went to Bucci with the intention of eating pizza. However, it turned out that they only fire up the wood fire for pizza in the evenings – we went at lunch time, so were out of luck (or so it seemed).

With pizza unavailable, we took instead the set menu, which was priced at £9.95 for two courses or £13.50 for three. For this modest sum, we could choose for the starters between soup of the day (in this case, minestrone), a Norwegian prawn coktail, timbale of aubergines and mozarella in a tomato sauce with drops of pesto, and calamari rings sautéed in chilli garlic and olive oil and garnished with continental parsley. For main courses, there was a choice between baked meat cannelloni in a tomato and béchamel sauce, risotto with mixed finely chopped vegetables finished with a drop of pesto sauce, pan fried piccata of chicken in white wine and lemon sauce, or grilled skewers of prawns on a bed of aromatized bread crumbs finished with a delicate parsley sauce. For dessert, the choice was between caffé cream, chocolate trilogy cake and fresh fruit salad.

We chose the calamari and the aubergines as starters, the cannelloni and chicken as mains, and caffé cream and chocolate trilogy cake as dessert.

The two starters

The two starters

The timbale of aubergines

The timbale of aubergines

The timbale of aubergines and mozarella in a tomato sauce with drops of pesto was excellent. It arrived piping hot (seriously very hot) and with it we were offered pepper and parmesan cheese. We passed on the pepper, but accepted the parmesan – with which the waitress was not stingy! Really a very enjoyable dish, which I’d certainly take again.

Calamari rings

Calamari rings

The calamari rings were quite good with a delicate olive oil taste and a hint of chilli and garlic. It was certainly not a spicy (hot) dish but a well balanced meal. The calamari were fortunately not chewy.

The two main courses

The two main courses

The pan fried piccata of chicken

The pan fried piccata of chicken

The pan fried piccata of chicken in white wine and lemon sauce was also extremely good. It was 4 mini chicken breasts on a bed of salad. I didn’t notice any sauce, but the chicken had clearly been pan fried in something as it had an excellent flavour to the lightly singed outside. It was nicely crispy on the outside, tender inside, and not a bit dry.

Baked meat cannelloni in a tomato and béchamel sauce

Baked meat cannelloni in a tomato and béchamel sauce

The baked meat cannelloni in a tomato and béchamel sauce was overall pretty good, served hot with a nice creamy tomato and béchamel sauce. The meat was a little bland, it could have been seasoned more.

The desserts

The desserts

Chocolate trilogy cake

Chocolate trilogy cake

The chocolate trilogy cake was not bad. I don’t think this was commercially supplied (as is often the case with Italian restaurants). The top layer was marscapone, beneath which was layered chocolate and vanilla cake. All served with a chocolate sauce and a dusting of cocoa. It was pleasantly moist, and not over sweet.

Caffé cream

Caffé cream

The caffé cream was better though.  It was a dense cream flavoured with coffee. This is the sort of dessert that has the potential to be a bit heavy, but in this case it was mixed with some sort of suet, which just set it off nicely. A good end to a very good meal.

Espresso coffee

Espresso coffee

We finished with a couple of espressos, which were very good. Nice and thick and strong, not too bitter and not at all burnt.

Cost and conclusion: it was about £35 service charge not included and not automatically added to the bill. We like restaurants like Bucci who respect customers right to decide on any tip. Good and well priced food, and a very friendly service. We will be back!

Bucci on Urbanspoon

Italian restaurant Limoncello 169-171 Mitcham Road, Tooting London SW17
Jul 20th, 2009 by Olivier

Limoncello Trattoria Pizzeria Wine Bar
169-171 Mitcham Road, Tooting
London SW17 9PG

Limoncello

Limoncello

Limoncello

Inside Limoncello

Inside Limoncello

We have not been to Limoncello for over 3 months despite their excellent pizzas! We are repairing this mistake today. Limoncello is located 5 minutes walk from Tooting Broadway tube station. The restaurant is quite spacious with a bar on one side and the restaurant on the other side. There is a good distance between tables too unlike the photo above might suggest: the tables there were put together for a party.

As starters we ordered the bresaola avocado (thinly sliced cured beef with avocado – £5.90) and a fried breaded camenbert (£5.90) which was listed on their menu of the day blackboard. For main courses we chose the pizza fiorentina made of tomato, mozzarella, spinach, onions and egg (£7.50) and a pizza calzone (like last time since it was quite good) made of tomato, mozzarella, mushrooms, ham and salami (£7.90). The wine was a bottle of red wine (Cabernet – £13.90) that was already on the table as they were suggesting it. It was well balanced and easy to drink.

Bresaola avocado

Bresaola avocado

Fried breaded camembert

Fried breaded camembert

The fried breaded camembert was surprising. It was two huge slices of camembert with an apple compote. The photo does not really show their size. It could have been a main course itself. It was quite good and the compote was a good balance.

The bresaola avocado was excellent.  The cured beef was perfect with a squeeze of lemon and some avocado.  Usually I find acovado a bit – well, bleh. It is rather bland and greasy for my taste.  With the cured beef, lemon and a touch of rocket, however, I finally see the point of avocado. Really an excellent starter that I wouldn’t hesitate to repeat.

The two pizzas

The two pizzas

Pizza Fiorentina

Pizza Fiorentina

Pizza calzone

Pizza calzone

Anatomy of a calzone

Anatomy of a calzone

The pizzas were quite good and giant. The pizza fiorentina had a nice crispy base that stayed lightly crispy without becoming too hard as it happens sometimes with pizzas. The toppings with spinach and onions were nice. It was just unfortunate the egg broke while being cooked. Still, a pretty decent pizza. The calzone was, as the last time, very good indeed. It had just the right mix and quantity of ingredients, and stayed nice and crispy. Definitely recommended. 

Apple tart

Apple tart

Mint ice cream

Mint ice cream

Limoncello

Limoncello

The desserts were average. Not bad but they looked like desserts you can get at the supermarket and they were too sweet. The dessert menu already makes you think that because it is one of these standard plastified menu with photos. We also had two limoncello (£6.40) and they were served icy as they should. We even got a free refill from the owner, which was nice of him. We ended the dinner with two good cups of coffee.

Cost and conclusion: it was £57 service charge not included and not automatically added to the bill. We like when it is left at the discretion of the client and in this case as the service was good they got a tip of course. With the exception of the desserts, the meals from the starters to the pizzas were good. It was the second time we went there in 3 months so we can say they appear quite reliable. It has also a nice atmosphere. Highly recommended if you are in the area!

Limoncello on Urbanspoon

French Côte Restaurant Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E
Jul 17th, 2009 by Olivier

Côte Restaurant
17-21 Tavistock Street,
London WC2E 7PA
Tel: 020 7379 9991

Côte Restaurant

 

cote0

Côte Restaurant is one of a small chain, and the Covent Garden outlet is on Tavistock Street. It is quite a nicely decorated restaurant, with a decent amount of space between tables and a pleasant surrounding. It has large windows that can be folded back to allow plenty of light and fresh air in.  Actually that’s not such a great idea in this location, as the noise of traffic is quite disturbing to any conversation over lunch.

There were four of us for lunch. We didn’t have all that much time, so we decided to follow the fixed price lunch menu (also available pre-theatre) which was 11.95 for two courses, or 13.75 for three. With a meeting immediately after lunch, we chose just to take tap water which was provided slightly cooled in earthenware bottles.  Nice touch, but I’d rather the water had been properly chilled.  We started the meal with some bread, which was very good.  Just as well, since I found at the end that it was not complementary but charged to our bill. It was only £1.50 so it is the principle I’m complaining about rather than the price – not only that simple things like bread are charged, but that the waiters don’t advise that there is a charge and how much it is before bringing the bread.  A tiny sum, but still the sort of thing that can ruin your experience.

Lentils with a poached egg

Lentils with a poached egg

Close-up

Close-up

For the starter, I took lentils with a poached egg. It was OK, though I found the egg a bit bland. My companions took a pea, mint & courgette soup, which looked fairly decent.

Salad with smoked salmon

Salad with smoked salmon

Close-up

Close-up

Steak frites

Steak frites

Poulet grillé

Poulet grillé

As a main course I chose a salad with smoked salmon. The salmon was pretty good, as was the dill sauce it came with but I wasn’t so impressed by the salad leaves. They were fresh enough, but all just a bit too “stalky” for my liking – that is, mainly stalk, not so much leaf. Two of my companions took steak frites – which was a “thinly beaten out rump steak with frites and garlic butter (served pink). These were reported to be “ok, but average” which I must say is how they looked. The last of us took a poulet grillé which was “chargrilled butterflied chicken breast with wild mushroom, crème fraiche and chive sauce, served with gratin potato”. It was a good sized bit of chicken :) but I don’t recall noticing a sauce…

Iced summer berries with warm white chocolate sauce

Iced summer berries with warm white chocolate sauce

chocolate pot

chocolate pot

For dessert, we chose two “chocolate pots” which were reported to be a bit weird by those who took them. There was some dark chocolate covered by a sort of crème fraiche. I took iced summer berries with warm white chocolate sauce – which turned out to be exactly as described, that is, frozen berries with a little pot of hot white chocolate.  I found the white chocolate to be very sweet – and the berries very sour. A bit too much contrast there, and I believe I’d have preferred the berries not frozen. My last companion chose a lemon sorbet, which was also reported to be fine.

We ended the meal with assorted coffees.  Mine was an espresso, which was very average and a bit weak.

Cost & conclusion: The bill came to £70.59 including service charge. For a three course meal plus coffee for four people in covent garden, its really hard to complain. The food was nothing to rave about, and you get what you pay for in terms of quality (it was far from top quality steak, for example) but there was nothing obnoxious or poorly cooked either. Overall, not bad for a cost effective lunch in a limited time frame and certainly better than many of the tourist traps in this area. Other restaurants reviewed in the Covent Garden area are the Italian Zizzi, the Japanese Hazuki, the Mexican Wahaca, Terroirs and the pub Marquess of Anglesey.

Cote Bistro on Urbanspoon

Zizzi Pizzeria 73 The Strand, Covent Garden, London, WC2R 0DE
Jul 14th, 2009 by Olivier

Pizzeria Zizzi
73-75 The Strand
London WC2R 0DE

Zizzi

The entrance

The entrance

View of the oven

View of the oven

Spacious room

Spacious room

You come through the stairs in the background

You come through the stairs in the background

Sober but nice design

Sober but nice design

Back again at Zizzi for a quick lunch near the office. Why again a pizza place? Well first I like pizzas in general and second I want to get erase the awful pizza I had in Tooting Broadway from my memory! Last time we came here we had a pizza Trentino and a pizza Fiorentina with the rustica option for a “Bigger, thinner and crispier bases, which means more room for your favourite topping!” as they say. In short, with that option you supersize your pizza.

Today we ordered a pizza Sofia rustica (spicy chicken, pepperoni, oven roasted sausage, tomato, mozzarella, finished with green chilli and fresh rosemary – £10.90) and a pizza Cotto e funghi rustica (cotto ham, field mushrooms, mascarpone, tomato, mozzarella and thyme – £10.45) and a 66cl Peroni beer (£5.95).

The beer was cold. A good start.

The beer was cold. A good start.

The two large pizzas

The two large pizzas

Let's not forget the chilli oil!

Let's not forget the chilli oil!

Pizza Sofia rustica

Pizza Sofia rustica

Close-up

Close-up

The pizza Sofia rustica was decent. I did not think much of the spicy chicken bits that I found a little bland. The oven roasted sausage bits were too small to really have a taste. The green chilli slices were extremely hot. I am into spicy oil and food so usually I can handle hot stuff quite well but these were like dynamite. Still, not a bad pizza but the other one was much better.

Pizza Cotto e funghi rustica

Pizza Cotto e funghi rustica

Close-up

Close-up

The pizza Cotto e funghi rustica was delicious, extremely creamy and with a thin crispy base. The ham was perfect, not oversalty as often happens and the mushrooms were tasty. The creamy flavour comes from the mascarpone which is a very fatty cheese made of fresh cream.

2/3 Sofia, 1/3 Cotto e funghi rustica

2/3 Sofia, 1/3 Cotto e funghi rustica

Cost and conclusion: Zizzi is currently offering £1 main meals when you buy any other (go to zizzi.co.uk) so the lunch was less than £20 which is an excellent deal. Also, tips are discretionary here and not automatically included in the bill which is good. All restaurants should follow that rule! The service was fine, so they deserved the tip. With so many tourist traps around the Strand and Covent garden it is nice to have a decent Italian restaurant offering good value for money.

Zizzi on Urbanspoon

Pizzeria Fiorentina 115 Tooting High Street, Tooting Broadway London SW17
Jul 13th, 2009 by Olivier

Pizzeria Fiorentina
115 Tooting High Street
London SW17 0SY

Pizzeria Fiorentina

Pizzeria Fiorentina

Pizzeria Fiorentina

There is a telephone booth inside the restaurant

There is a telephone booth inside the restaurant

fiorentina3

While going to a pet store for buying a flea bomb (never let a stray cat visit your house by the way…) I noticed the pizzeria Fiorentina at the corner of Tooting High St. It looked nice from outside with its nice mix of pale orange and strong green colours. Inside, it is not fancy but it is not bad either, with rustic tables. One curiosity was a red telephone booth in the room. I did not go closer to check if it was real or some kind of furniture or even a fridge, who knows?

We ordered two pizzas: the pizza D’Ischia made of mozzarella, tomato, ham, mushrooms and olivies (£6.95) and a pizza Calzone (mozzarella, tomato, salami, ham, egg and olivies – £6.95). For drinking, we had an Italian Moretti beer (£2.75) and an  Italian sparkling Monteforte water (£1.75). While the beer was perfectly cold, the water was not and was served with a glass full of icecubes and a slice of lemon.

Moretti beer but Peroni glass!

Moretti beer but Peroni glass!

The beer was fine, while we regretted the water was not cold

The beer was fine, while we regretted the water was not cold

We waited a long time to get our pizzas. I have never waited that long for just a pizza in my life. The restaurant was hardly full (we were the only clients!) so it was a little strange. After about 40 minutes or so they eventually arrived. First, we were surprised by their size which was small compared to what we usually get in other pizzerias. They look big in the pictures below but the plates were on the small side. Also, they looked too burnt.

The pizzas

The pizzas

Pizza calzone

Pizza calzone

The pizza calzone was alright at the beginning, but the salt (coming from the ham probably) eventually got me. The mozzarella cheese did not have any flavour, same for the ham (bar the salt) and the base was like bread. I certainly did not enjoy it and it was probably the worst pizza I had for a while, challenging my last, and unique, experience at Pizza Hut near Wandsworth Town 5 years ago.

The calzone is supposed to have an egg

The calzone is supposed to have an egg

One thing really bothered me. I chose the calzone because the menu mentioned an egg and it has been a long time I did not have that kind of calzone pizza. Well, the egg was nowhere! I thought my friend had it because we shared half of the pizza so we could both get a taste of the pizzas but she did not get it either.

Pizza D'Ischia

Pizza D'Ischia

The pizza D’Ischia was maybe better than the calzone because it was crispier. The base was very bland though and overall the pizza was quite salty too. We thought this one looked like some average frozen pizza you can get at the supermarket. Both pizzas were quite dense, with a very compact and heavy base and – despite not finishing the pizzas – we did not feel well on the way home.

Cost and conclusion: it was £18.40 service charge not included. While it is a small bill we did not enjoy our meals. The last experience at Franco Manca was not good with a very average pizza but it was still way ahead compared to these. If you are looking for pizzas near Tooting Broadway I recommend Limoncello and Sette Bello where the atmosphere is nice and the restaurants are run by Italians. Here, the atmosphere was zero. On the upside, the prices for the drinks were reasonable.

Pizzeria Fiorentina on Urbanspoon


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