Cucina Asellina at ME London Hotel
London has more than its fair share of Italian restaurants. From fine dining establishments to neighbourhood trattorias and pizza chains, Italian kitchens are as ubiquitous as Starbucks. Cucina Asellina at ME London Hotel – the only outpost of the Italian chain beyond its native USA – may have opposition, but its standout pasta dishes cement its status as a winning contender.
The industrial décor is stylish and airy, with huge alcove windows, and Cucina Asellina’s street-facing entrance means there’s no need to enter ME London and traipse through a tourist-packed lobby – a pet gripe with many hotel eateries. The good-looking staff also break the mould: Roberta, the Sicilian waitress during our lunch visit, proved more than decoration with expert knowledge of the menu, ingredients, and wine list.
In addition to breakfast, lunch and pre and post-theatre menus, there’s a la carte antipasti, pizza, homemade pasta, meats, and fish. The wine list has an Italian slant (of course) and cocktail options are original. Signora Asellina – made with Belvedere, limoncello, fresh raspberry and lemon juice – was a tangy blend that should be transplanted to all bars across London.
The bread board delivered ahead of Starters was a feast for both our appetite and our eyes. Soft, salty focaccia blocks, crisp breadsticks and jagged sheets of Sardinian music paper bread were complimented by a black olive tapenade, rich with garlic.
Appetisers were also noteworthy: milky Burrata (mozzarella), with a crouton shard of rosemary focaccia, chargrilled vegetables, olives and a basil dressing, combined fresh flavours with different textures. Semolina-crusted Stuffed Cerignola Olives (a house specialty) were also flavoursome, with a filling of roasted veal providing a pleasant contrast to the briny olives.
Our mains – both pasta dishes – were flawlessly al dente and delicious. Herb Fettucine, dotted with tender lobster, sweet cherry tomatoes and flecks of basil had the added kick of a Martini Bianco sauce. Washed down with fruity white wine (Villa Solais, Santadi vermentino di serdegna, serdegna), it was the ideal lunch.
Not to be outdone, ribbed tubes of Semolina Gnocchi, were swaddled in a rewarding cream sauce, topped with shavings of black truffle and sliced asparagus. Fried pancetta completed the experience and the plate was sent back clean, all remnants of sauce mopped up with bread.
Limoncello Savarin, a pretty sponge cake steeped in lemon syrup served with vanilla mascarpone cream, lemon curd and seasonal berries, was a delectable finish. Tiramisu in a coffee cup with a crumbly Sable Breton biscuit on the side was less polished. The liquid puddle discovered at the bottom was mildly disappointing, but there was little to fault in the preceding layers of mascarpone cream and sponge.
Dessert cocktails are also available for those with the willpower to forego pudding. Dolcespresso (white chocolate, chilli ganache, Frangelico liqueur and espresso) arrived in a shot glass and tasted like the perfect Tiramisu.
We left Cucina Asellina feeling stuffed, happy and very impressed. The all-day restaurant is an undeniably pulsating, bright beacon amidst bland and greying competition.★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
To book a table at Cucina Asellina, ME London Hotel, London, WC2R 1HA call 020 7395 3445 or visit here.