Inside there are cosy circular booths, high counter stools, pendants, an open kitchen, and romantic tables-for-two-sir with views over always entertaining Chalk Farm Road. With its baby blue pastel colour palette it’s a cross between 1950s diner and private members’ club.
The menu is a sort of Pizza East-light: antipasti of calamari, bruschetta, linguine, meatballs, pizza. On our visit we ate some things we liked – and a couple we didn’t so much. A superior beef carpaccio, the fillet aged 28 days and sliced to melt on the tongue, was a good start. It was drizzled with gremolata that exuded exactly the right kick of parsley. And a chicken liver pâté was smooth with the kick of Marsala and a welcome pot of mustardy fruits.
The wine also impressed: an unusually squat bottle of Pinot Nero proved a versatile, easy-drinking red, with tangy notes of red berries and cherries.So what wasn’t up to scratch? Well, the two mains, actually. Having previously enjoyed a scallop pasta at another branch, I opted for a ‘safe’ dish, crab linguine. And while it was cooked correctly – white meat, chilli and lemon zest – it lacked any oomph or magic. Safe to say it improved with a few glugs of chilli oil.
It was a similar story with the gnocchi, soft potato dumplings – with mozzarella, tomato and chilli – that were only brought to life with the liberal addition of oil.
The following day I ran into my neighbour, who reported the same issues on her visit with her brother: decent starters and average mains.
Gino is a safe enough option before a gig at the Roundhouse, say, or if nearby Anima e Cuore is full. But with his cookbooks strewn everywhere, and the heavy sell of what is defiantly called ‘My Restaurant’ inside, I would expect more fire and soul.
D’Acampo has, it would seem, engineered his gaff solely for the post-Market visiting masses, rather than repeat local custom.
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