January 23, 2013 Italian, risotto, soup, West End No Comments

IMG_1278Blythe’s Verdict
As you may have gleaned for our reviews, I have a slight aversion to eating in restaurants that are too near to my abode, for one reason or another. Consequently, I’ve never previously visited La Bruschetta, the very popular Italian on Clifton Terrace.

In the true spirit of “what did this place used to be called?” I remember this place as the old Oasis cafe, where traffic wardens from all around used to congregate, presumably to channel their winning personalities in to solid crystalline awesomeness.

But that is to digress. The place has long been established as an Italian favourite with West Enders, as was evidenced by their full complement of patrons on the evening we visited. We were lucky to get a table, walking in around 9pm, as we did.

We were soon contemplating the menu, which offered the usual range of Italian dishes, with a strong emphasis on seafood specials.

Funghi alla Cilentana

MJ opted for the soup, while I deviated from usual arrangements with a sojourn to mushroom country. Their mushroom and goat’s cheese with croutons sounded too good to miss, so I went with that. I stuck with mushrooms for main, sampling their ristto ai porcini, while MJ went for the linguine all’ortolana.

Starters promptly appeared, and it was genuinely weird to be sitting across the table from a bowl of soup, without having a matching bowl for myself. It looked really good and I had food envy. My dish looked tempting enough, if a little overly drenched in rocket.

It proved to be rather good, with properly crunchy crostini, piquant goat’s cheese and good, nutty mushrooms. I was pleased with the dish, but I had half a mind on the good minestrone I’d missed. I suppose for comprehensive coverage, it was better that I sampled the dish that featured cheese, given MJ’s aversion to that particular part of the taste spectrum.

Main courses quickly followed. Both dishes looked OK, but didn’t immediately set the pulses racing.

The default topping of rocket was fine for the risotto, but on immediate inspection it looked a little devoid of moisture. I wish I knew a little more about the full gamut of Italian cuisine, so I could understand whether this chastisement was warranted.

Risotto al Porcini

Do they serve their risotto dry in Puglia but wet in Umbria? Swimming in Sicilia and thirsty in Toscana?

Whatever the case, this risotto looked dry to me, but it was well-packed with mushroom goodness, so the more usual comforting ooziness wasn’t too sorely missed.

As is often the case, we skipped dessert, but we both sampled their espresso, which was fair, and I had a little go with their whisky.

So overall, La Bruschetta was a very decent local Italian. I understand why it attracts its loyal following. They have a sound and commendable commitment to serving fresh, local ingredients, but it would be lovely to see more innovation in their dishes, to raise things above “solid and reliable”. For now, yes go and visit, but I’m not sure you’ll be blown away.

MJ’s Verdict
Though Blythe has an aversion to eating near home, I have a love of Italian food, and can be tempted to go pretty much anywhere in hopes of finding somewhere that beats Piatto Verde. This time, after a wonderful beer tasting birthday celebration for Yelp! at The Hanging Bat, (where I ordered beer by saying ‘I don’t like beer or fruity drinks, what should I have?’ the reply: ‘do you like champagne?’ That’s the kind of reply I like) Blythe recommended that we try the Italian near Haymarket, which was supposed to be quite tasty.


Minestrone di verdure

We plodded along in the slight mist and I, even after looking directly at the restaurant from across the street, walked right past it. We were seated in the cozy restaurant with flower decorations on the walls that added a nice touch. After a few minutes of enjoying Christmas presents (PONY TIE, PONY BROOCH, MUSTACHE MUG?!) we ordered. I went for the minestrone and the linguine all’ortolana.

The starters arrived quickly and my minestrone was good, hearty fare and, I dare say, the only time I’ve been served fresh asparagus in a minestrone soup, and it worked quite well. The flavours were nice, and the ingredients fresh, though I am not sure I could really taste the pesto that was supposed to be in it. The server offered to bring us bread at any point we requested it, though it was slated to come with the soup and I bet that others might have wanted it, but I was quite happy with my soup.


Linguine all' Ortolana

The mains arrived in good time as well, and my bowl of linguine was piping hot and served without parmesan, which, in most cases means that it is without the pesto that might have given this dish the kick it needed to really be great. As it was, the linguine tossed with aubergine, courgettes, peppers, and mushrooms in extra virgin olive oil with vine tomatoes pesto and parmesan cheese was nice, and well executed, but didn’t set me alight.

I’ll leave the wine for that. The glass of Sicilian red was perfect. I could have guzzled a bottle of the stuff, which was strong enough to stand up to the pasta and soup without the overly spicy kick that comes with some shiraz varieties.

We followed all this with a whisky and espresso.

Overall, La Bruschetta is a solid place to go, but not somewhere that I’ll dream about when I crave Italian food; which is much more often than is probably normal.

MJ scores La Bruschetta
3/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
3/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 13/20

Blythe scores La Bruschetta
3.5/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
4/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 14.5/20

Today’s questers were: MJ, Blythe

We ate: minestrone, mushrooms with goat’s cheese, linguine, risotto

We drank: Sicilian red, espresso, sparkly water, Highland Park

We wore: new pony brooch, lnew

Total bill: c.£64

La Bruschetta on Urbanspoon

Written by BKR