When one ventures out for lunch in the blizzard to end all blizzards – and with no certainty that one is going to be able to leave at any point in the near future – one has to choose one’s locale carefully. On the one hand, one doesn’t want to be going to the sort of place that offers the wham, bam, thank you…sir school of dining, in and out in twenty minutes and as many pounds poorer. But on the other, the proper fine dining establishments, with their hushed attentiveness and wine lists the length of the Bible, are both wallet-emptyingly dear and, it has to be said, not quite the thing when one wants to relax and enjoy oneself. After all, one might be snowed in.
So it is that I venture, wife and child in tow, into the recently opened Enoteca Rosso, situated on what might euphemistically be called the unfashionable end of High Street Kensington. The reason for this euphemism is that all of High Street Kensington these days is so expensive and grand that calling any part of it ‘unfashionable’ is something of a contradiction in terms.
Yet we enter the Enoteca, and are struck by the fact that it’s grand. Perhaps surprisingly so; it comes as little surprise to learn that it has previously served as a bank and a spa, although not at the same time. There are vast towers of wine, a high ceiling and a bar at the epicentre. This is no simple neighbourhood restaurant; instead, this is somewhere that, thanks to its stated mission to offer unusual and interesting Italian cuisine, has set the bar rather higher than its competitors.
One begins with a selection of antipasti, or ‘taglieri’, in our case the Sangiovese; nothing to do with the wine, but rather an excellent selection of mortadella, Parma ham, burrata and a sort of shaved sheep’s cheese. All are delicious and pique our appetites for the next course, aided along its way by a very good bottle of sublime Venetian Soave. The pasta dishes are – thoughtfully – served in three different sizes, roughly equivalent to ‘a small starter’, ‘a large starter or small main’ and ‘a normal-sized main’. Or, perhaps, a starter for the truly greedy.
I enjoy a curious but delicious black ravioli with burrata and sundried tomatoes, which tastes both of basil and pesto; my wife professed herself impressed by the gnocchi. Our daughter, who at the age of two does not yet have the rapier-like wit that one would expect from adult diners and so does not choose her own food in smart restaurants, was given a small plate of ravioli with ricotta, broccoli and sausage. She murmured and munched her approval through it in accustomed style.
The snow, which had been slower before, now came down in a chaotic and forthright manner. We looked at one another. It was, perhaps, time to continue the meal in the accustomed style. My wife professed herself unable to indulge in a large main course and contented herself with tomato and burrata soup. It was very good, but soup. I am made of sterner stuff, and after a careful discussion with our remarkably friendly and knowledgeable waitress Azzura, decided that the tagliata with roast potatoes and wild mushrooms was going to be my dish of choice. The steak was excellent; the potatoes perhaps a tad underdone. The wine recommendation – a very fine Abruzzo Montepulciano – was a very good one; so much so that we had to order a second glass of it. The weather outside abated. The end of the meal loomed.
But of course one can’t visit a restaurant of this calibre without trying the dolci. So it was a sampling of the Piedmont speciality – a sort of interesting take on the chocolate brownie, but I suspect flourless – for me and for the bellissima, a hazel chestnut mousse. Both are excellent and highly recommended. And then, with that, the snow has finally settled down for a moment. We must flee and attempt to get the by now curious child to sleep at a halfway reasonable hour, but before then we are happily sated in the knowledge that Kensington has an innovative and fun new Italian that will, we’re sure, be our go-to spot round there from now on.
Enoteca Rosso, 280 Kensington High Street, London W8 6ND. For more information, including menus and wine list, visit www.enotecarosso.com.