Thursday, August 29, 2013

Luna Rossa - Notting Hill

A big slice of authentic Italy in Notting Hill at Luna Rossa

I’ve always found it difficult to find a ‘real’ taste of Italy in London.  There’s some very nice Italian food to be had, but when you’re after rustic furnishings, exposed brick walls, Italian staff and gorgeous food, then Luna Rossa is the place.

As part of the Made in Italy group, I’ll admit I was slightly sceptical as to how true to Italy a chain of restaurants could be, but I was pleasantly surprised and totally blown away by this cute, cosy, lively eaterie on the very cool Kensington Park Road.

You’ll find this charming trattoria in the middle of all of Notting Hill’s action on Kensington Park Road, with open front doors so the tables spill out onto the street (and they even have heaters for the winter months)  From the front, you can see right through the restaurant to the open kitchen which comes complete with a huge grill and wood burning stove.  The bar lines one side of the restaurant with a dividing wall between the bar and the tables, and the brick wall arches add that rustic feel, with plant pots on the walls and calming hues of terracotta, wood floors and green tiling.

My dinner guest was a little late (work related, although I think really he was just doing his hair…) which gave me the perfect opportunity to chat with one of the lovely waitresses – Alice.  She told me all about her big move to London from Milan and how the staff at Luna Rossa have been so good in welcoming her to the team.  And this camaraderie amongst them  is evident throughout our whole meal as the waiters, waitresses, chefs, bar staff and manager laugh and joke, chattering in Italian, helping each other out and also waiting on tables very efficiently.  We had Luca waiting on our table and nothing seemed to be too much trouble.  He was super knowledgeable on the food and made some great recommendations – especially the lobster lasagne (we’ll get to that in a bit!)

The bar staff are also hugely talented when it comes to mixing up new and inventive cocktails, so I was invited to try one which had been made especially for me – vodka, strawberry puree, apple and cranberry juice…  the balance of flavours was amazing!  If you’re a fan of a particular spirit, then it’s

definitely worth asking them to whip you up something innovative while you get stuck into the menu.

And boy did we get stuck in!  After 4 week of low carbs and gym workouts, I decided tonight was the perfect opportunity to indulge.  In fact I ended up eating so much that I walked all the home, cursing myself for being so greedy!  The truth is, that everything we ate was so good, that I just couldn’t stop myself!

Right, it’s probably time we got onto the food, starting with a big basket of freshly baked garlic bread – the smell of which was just divine, and accompanied by big juicy green and black olives…

Cold starters followed – cous cous, chick pea, bean and onion salad and pasta with pinenuts.  Then we sampled beef carpaccio with parmesan, calamari, octopus and aubergine parmigiana.  We both thought the calamari was exquisite so that’s definitely one to try.  Lightly battered, fresh and not in the slightest bit chewy.  The parmagiana was also reallllllly good - just the right amount of tomato, cheese and aubergine.  Of course these starters tasted all the better with a delicious glass of freezing cold Sicilian wine – we went for the Inzolia.

For our mains, we decided on the lobster lasagne, which at £16.50 is a little pricier than the other dishes on their otherwise super reasonable menu - but then it is lobster… and you get lots of it!  We also went for the home made sausages with red onion, topped with scarmorza and drenched in a chianti sauce (£12.00), just because it sounded different and something I hadn’t tried before.  The sausage was served with new potatoes and had an unusual , although delicious taste, but the lobster lasagne is by far the one to go far if you’re not eating steaming bowls of fresh pasta or metre long sharer pizzas.  There was a good amount of lobster which tasted great amongst the béchamel sauce and the pasta layers and it came with plenty of cheese on the top.  (Next time I visit, I’ll be having one of these all to myself!)

The very varied menu at Luna Rossa (which is tweaked every few weeks to allow for different dishes to be added), also includes a great selection of cheeses (£3.50-£6) and charcuterie (any 3 of which are £12), but I went straight in for dessert, having already decided at the beginning of the meal that I wanted to try their chocolate soufflé with nutella which comes with vanilla ice cream on the side.  I realised I’d made the right choice as soon as I’d dived in and the nutella sauce all came oozing out of the middle.  Simple divine.

Amazingly, we found room for one more cocktail, before we headed for a  peak downstairs where a pleasant surprise awaited us…  You’d never know it was there, but there’s a fabulous food conveyor belt (think Yo Sushi!) where you can sit around 20 guests and sample simple tapas plates of mozzarella, pates on bread, salads and loads more.  There’s also jam jars of red wine on the belt too – a quirky and cool idea!  It seemed the perfect place to bring a load of friends for a lighter bite before a night out (mental note for next weekend made!)

As we left, I asked my friend Rudi what he thought of Luna Rossa… And being a South African whose not yet had the chance to visit Italy, he said it was exactly the kind of restaurant he’d expect to eat in when he eventually made the trip - authentic, rustic, great food and lovely friendly staff.  You know, I can’t think of a better  compliment….

Luna Rossa

190-192 Kensington Park Road

Notting Hill

W11 2ES

Tel: 0207 229 0482

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