Piccola Cucina, Notting Hill
Francesco guards the entrance to 186 Kensington Park Road waiting to greet his auspicious customers. He has the demeanour of an Italian mamma, brimming with apposite patriotism for his native cuisine as he foists upon his fortunate diners pasta galore, tiramisu and all that is antithetical to abstinence. Piccola Cucina provides refuge to those partial to inconspicuous consumption but confined to the gold-paved streets of W11. As yet undiscovered by the glittering masses crowding the River Cafe to the West, Trullo to the North and Osteria Basilico across the road, this new restaurant offers all the indulgence but none of the table traffic of the best Italian restaurants in London.
Start with the elaborate Italian wine list. Be warned the shot of thick yellow liquid you receive on arrival is not limoncello (that comes later) but an olive oil and lemon juice accompaniment to the freshest of breads and crudités. The menu is an ocean of seafood. Tuna tartare on avocado was the perfect palate cleanser for the richly spiced octopus and shrimp trofie Genovese that followed, interrupted by perfect Parmigiana by which point you’ll question your ability to eat any more. Dismiss the puddings at your peril.
Take a gourmet – a gourmand even. Immobile as you’ll be by 10pm, they will emerge elated and utterly indebted to you for your introduction, ready to collapse into a cab headed wherever you are.
Miserably, only the residents of Notting Hill and its neighbours in Holland and Hyde Parks could afford to be regulars. You will also leave lamenting your stomach’s insufficient elasticity.
4. A footsie and feeding frenzy.