The weather was thoroughly miserable, as we made our way from early evening drinks at Whigham’s, including a nice catch up with Total Food Geek Georgia, towards our chosen destination for some much needed sustenance.
It was the second time I’d been mildly drenched, that day, as I’d experienced similarly inclement conditions following another excellent lunch at Wedgwood.
Once the rain had been suitably brushed off our clothes, we settled at our table in La Piazza, a rather smart Italian on Shandwick Place, which has been serving traditional dishes to a loyal following, for many a year.
Unaware that MJ was hungry enough to begin gnawing my arm off, I ploughed a lone furrow in opting for a starter. The sensation of her eyes burning holes in my soul was matched by the extreme heat of the melanzane alla parmegiana, a dish which is often akin to shovelling molten lava into your mouth.
Melanzane is a great favourite of mine, and one of the few dishes that will lead me to eschewing soup to start. This one was solid mid-table territory; nicely flavoured, well prepared, but lacking a little twist of something to elevate it.
We were split four to two on the main course “pizza versus pasta” game. MJ finally got to deal with her hunger (and thereby leave my soul alone, for a moment or two) with a plate of seafood linguine, which looked pretty good.
Round the table, I think the view was that the pizzas were solid and unspectacular, but mine was a good bit better than that. My pizza verde lived up to its name, as it was very green indeed. It was generously topped with spinach, broccoli and asparagus, all of which were fresh and wholesome. I was really pleased with it.
So La Piazza was pretty good. I thought the place was smart, and the service was welcoming and prompt. It served us very nicely on a dreich night. Some of the dishes didn’t hit home runs, around the table, but I was particularly pleased with my pizza, so would happily pop back again, when Italian is the order of the day.
What a lovely coincidence! Not only did we get to enjoy the company of Lunchquest Istanbul’s Patrick, we got a huge group of his friends together to celebrate the fact that he was back in the city for a few days.
After a quick trip to the basement bar of Whigham (which is one of my favourite wine bars in the city), we headed out to find sustenance, and, as always Blythe was well prepared and had already planned to take us to La Piazza, which is firmly settled in the West End of the city, and if you can ignore the mess of tram works, then you will see it winking at you from the end of Shandwick Place.
It had just started to rain with gusto as we arrived and we were happy to drip in the entryway while the larger table was set up for us. Moments later we were tucked into a long table and ordering drinks.
After much chatter and menu perusal, I opted to skip the starter and go straight in with a big bowl of the seafood pasta. As usual, Blythe ordered a starter (and with his favourite dish on the menu, who could blame him?) and we all had a good natter while he dove into his amazingly hot parmigiana melanzana. And by dove, I think he knew that there was no “Jeanette Winterson” to keep me entertained instead of hungry.
Once he had finished that dish, our mains arrived in suitably impressive and timely fashion. My bowl of pasta was large and well-filled with seafood, which is what always strikes me first when it comes to these sorts of dishes (and to be honest, I’ve had so many bowls of seafood pasta that I feel that I know what I am looking for in a good dish). This particular bowl was of the tomato based variety. I tend to always de-shell the seafood and then give it a good mix before diving in.
And this dish didn’t disappoint. It had a good ratio of clams to sauce and bits of squid and the small tentacles from an octopus were well cooked and nicely handled. Squid rings can be a bit tenuous in non-seafood restaurants (and, even in some seafood places, if they are not careful).
The sauce itself could have used a bit more depth of flavour, perhaps some fresh basil cooked into the sauce and a touch of something fresh, or serve it with an optional slice of lemon that would have really elevated the dish from good to really excellent.
But as it was, it was a nice plate of linguini. I ate all of it and was perfectly happy. But, I fear that if I am already in that part of the city, I might as well go out to Fountain Park and hope that Piatto Verde is open.
MJ scores La Piazza
3.5/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
3/5 for service
3/5 for setting
giving an overall 12.5/20
Blythe scores La Piazza
3.5/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
3.5/5 for service
3.5/5 for setting
giving an overall 13.5/20
Today’s questers were: Miriam, Aileen, Gary, Iain, Patrick, Blythe
We ate: melanzane alla Parmegiana, a range of pizza and pasta main courses
We drank: moretti, shiraz, sparkly water, water
We wore: rain-beaded clothing
Total bill: £94