Theo’s Simple Italian in Earl’s Court
Ask about the stalwarts of the London dining scene, and someone is sure to mention the River Cafe. Its celebration of rural Italian food was a breath of refreshingly unpretentious air, and would go on to influence many in the capital. The chef behind it, Theo Randall, eventually left to open his own restaurant at the Intercontinental, which was met with critical acclaim. His delicious Italian fare continues to impress diners today, and now he’s branched out to a second restaurant.
Tucked down one of Earl’s Courts many stucco streets, it’s a laid-back affair. Whereas Theo Randall at the Intercontinental is all about Park Lane sophistication, here the spirit of relaxed Italian hospitality takes the forefront. It’s not quite your local family-run Italian restaurant, but there’s a soul to the place, a warmth that can only come from enthusiasm. The staff are excellent: attentive but never irritating. The key to good waiting is, after all, knowing when to do nothing, to let diners enjoy themselves unobstructed.
Not that they’re unhelpful – ask about a dish and they’re full of a genuine passion for the food they serve. One such recommendation is an excellent bottle of Orsetto Oro Pecorino Terre di Chieti 2013, full of citrus zing and gentle hints of spice. It’s a great match for the mysteriously named Bruschetta Theo’s Style, which, it turns out, is two slices of bruschetta topped with glazed cherry tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil. Simple, rustic, classic Italian: it’s a good start to any meal. A dish of Burrata with Pistachio Nuts and Broad Beans opts for a more subtle and luxurious approach. Shards of pistachio litter a ball of velvet-soft burrata, providing specks of intense flavour and texture, whilst broad beans bring a touch of grassy freshness that cuts through all the richness.
A Linguine of Clams, Artichokes and Bottarga is nice enough, if a little underwhelming. A pasta dish at any restaurant bearing Theo Randall’s name is always going to elicit plenty of expectations, but here the flavour is a little muted. Even the bottarga doesn’t quite have the pungent punch you would imagine. Pan-Fried Sea Bream with Grilled Vegetables is an absolute winner though: a tender fillet of perfectly cooked fish, topped with a crisp slice of skin. From the beautiful white flakes to caper-studded vegetables, it’s the very spirit of Mediterranean simplicity.
A light, flaky Chocolate Cremosa Millefoglie plays it safe but is none the worse for it. A classic Italian dessert, its combination of tart berries, pillows of crisp pastry and chocolate cream creates a dish that’s the perfect blend of sweet and sour. Strachiatella Semi Freddo with frangelico is pretty as a picture and tastes even better than it looks. A puck of yielding, sumptuous cream with just a hint of hazelnut liqueur, it’s the best thing we eat all evening.
Theo’s Simple Italian is one of those rare cases where you can read a restaurant’s name and know exactly what you’re going to get. It won’t push the limits of your gastronomic curiosity too far, but it does serve up consistently excellent Italian fare that’s accessible, affordable and largely delicious
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮