8th October 2014
‘What a shame’ is the order of the review.
“Hi. Is this Greeta? I’ll be outside the station. I’m the one with the ‘Chiltern Brewery’ bag” is the text I send my girlfriend.
Her name is not Greeta; and Greta, having been my other half for over a year, knows perfectly what I look like. But tonight is date night. I pretend I don’t know which one of the glamorous ladies exiting Richmond station this summer’s afternoon I am supposed to encounter, and cautiously approach her after a minute or so. We meet and I awkwardly lean in for a kiss on the cheek – I miss and fumble. We head towards Richmond Green, arrive, choose a bench and from the ‘Chiltern Brewery’ bag (a sneaky touch from myself as Greta points out that her parents live very close to this particular Buckinghamshire beer builder) I produce two champagne flutes and a bottle of the bubbles. We sit and get acquainted…before eventually admitting to one another that we do indeed know each other; and fairly well at that!
We head to the restaurant that I had decided upon. It is shut. Yes…somebody didn’t check that they would be open on a Wednesday. That someone is my good self, and so I awkwardly grope for suggestions. After much feigned embarrassment I find an alternative: ‘Amadora’, Pave Court, Richmond.
A group of four women occupy one of only a few indoor tables, although as it is such a lovely evening it would have been a shame to not sit outside. Amadora is situated in a grade II listed building down an alleyway just of Richmond green.
‘Antonio’; one of the proprietors, brings out some menu’s and asks what we would like to drink. As always I ask if he would recommend the house: he doesn’t (they hardly ever do). I go for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (£24.95) – I should’ve gone for the house as the Sauvignon’s hardly epic and I should’ve gone for the red as we go onto have mains not quite suited to this flimsy white. Hey ho!
We order our starters: we tend to share our food on nights out, the girlfriend and I, unless of course she doesn’t like one of the dishes. That’s normally the one that she chose but we shan’t go into that! We share ‘fresh bread served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar’ (£3.90), ‘Caprese – An Italian buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad’ (£7.50) and ‘Parmigiana di melanzane – layers of cooked aubergine and parmesan and tomato sauce’ (£7.50). The bread is indeed fresh to a point – but it’s Tiger bread from the nearest supermarket and the vinegar and oil are basic at best. The Mozzarella salad is nothing special – they should surely, being Italian, tear the mozzarella and to see it cut is tragic, the basil dressing however brings the salad to a vibrant crescendo and allows one to forgive the rudimentary (hardly handpicked!) tomato’s and frilly decoration. Tear my bloody mozzarella, cut chunks out of my tomatoes and dress my plate with some subjective rustic Italian loving. Please…somebody!!! The highlight of the starters came with the aubergines. Simply put – they were fantastic. Tuscan flavours dominated the sidewalk in Richmond Town centre and I’d have been happy to devour the share of a Sicilian mob. (I wouldn’t have… I’m weak and scared and they’d beat me to an aubergine pulp with little resistance.)
And so, with my pretty British face in tact, we moved onto the mains.
We both, rather dull as it is, go for the ‘Lamb Ragu” special of the day. It is a cracking choice. It’s cooking time must have been endless. Its seasoning is spot on – a twist of the pepper mill too many was an inspired choice. It is umami all over and when you’re having a red meat dish that is precisely what you want to taste. Meat. This little lamb went all the way home – via the abattoir – but by no means went to waste. It was superb. Served on dried pasta – in an Italian restaurant – but the Ragu was outstanding.
We didn’t have pudding – I’m not sure I could deal with the disappointment.
So why is ‘a shame’ the order of the review? Why could I not risk my heart on a dessert? Because this place is good – that it is good, however, is a tragedy. They buy buffalo mozzarella and then slice it up – an enormous Italian faux pas (that’s French, I know) with a pathetic green-house grown tomato and try to make it oh so pretty. They make a fantastic Aubergine Parmigiana. Fantastic. I know now that they are selling themselves short. And they follow this by putting so much effort into a quite excellent Lamb Ragu and go and serve it with dried pasta. I make my own bloody pasta at home for Christ’s sake. I’m assuming they’re Italian chefs working in this Italian restaurant. Well I’ve got some British advice for them. It goes a little like this… one egg, one hundred grams of ‘00’ and a pinch of salt – è così semplice come sembra (It is as simple as that)
Antonio tried his best to please – although smoking outside the restaurant in front of guests it perhaps a little naïve and might offend some (not us – we couldn’t care less). He was a nice chap and we tipped well.
This was by no means a devastating dinner. It was let down by the fact that with a few simple additions and a little less laziness it could have been magnificent. It’s a cracking location with talented, if not perhaps a little languid, chefs. I know us Brits think of the Italians as a laid back bunch; but we also think of them as having a beasty passion… were they just sat back and waiting for the Saturday rush I wonder. I’ll tell you this – I’m a paying customer and I want your best. A little more rustic passione Italiana would have gone a long way.
And with that we left. Dessert-less.
7 for execution: 5 for effort.
Price: about £65 (Three starters, two mains and a mistake of a bottle of white.)