I’ve been in London for just over a year now and I have absolutely loved it. Growing up in the countryside, I always knew I was more of a city girl. The only thing I’ve been missing in a regular. I always had a regular back in Kent. A regular pub, a regular coffee shop, even a regular place for bagels and milkshakes. The problem in London is that there are so many places to try, I always feel I need to keep going somewhere new.
At the beginning of March, a couple of my old school friends and I agreed to meet for dinner in Clapham Junction. We all live in South London (where transport is pretty awful), so it was basically the only place south of the river we could all get to easily.
Picking an area of London was one thing – picking somewhere to eat was another. We figured we’d see what we fancied on the night. After a bit of a walk up and down Northcote Road, we finally settled on an Italian restaurant called Buona Sera. We could see a few occupied tables through the window but there were also many clearly available. This was good – we were hungry and not particularly interested in waiting around.
We were seated at a table by the window. The restaurant was big and the interior was white, with marble-effect tables, green chairs and bright paintings on the walls. It had the feeling of a Mediterranean restaurant, instead of somewhere on a road in Battersea. We started by ordering a bottle of wine – £14 for a bottle of red in a London restaurant is actually a bit of a bargain. And it tasted good.
We got pretty excited as we looked over the menu. There was a selection of antipasti for starters, pasta and pizza options, as well as meat, fish and vegetable dishes. The pasta and pizza dishes were particularly well priced (between £7.90-£10.90 each) and everything looked delicious. It took a while to actually decide what to order. I settled on the Tagliatelle Primavera, with asparagus and mushrooms in a tomato, cream and herb sauce. I fancied both a cream sauce and a tomato sauce and this way I could have both.
It didn’t take too long for our food to reach our table. When it did, a waitress came over offering parmesan. Obviously I said yes and she proceeded continue to shake cheese over my plate until my pasta was completely covered. This was definitely my kind of place. Usually you get a token sprinkling of parmesan and I’m too embarrassed to ask for considerably more. Now I was cheese-d up, I could finally eat and it was so good. Our meals made me think of authentic, home-cooked Italian comfort food. My dinner companions were equally satisfied.
After our main meals, we moved onto dessert. Usually I don’t let myself indulge in pudding when eating out as I need to save my monies but the options sounded too good. I settled on the chocolate souffle with a liquid centre. It came surprisingly quick – I guess they have the desserts ready and waiting to be heated up if necessary and served. The souffle centre wasn’t particularly runny but I found some liquid chocolate and it tasted really nice.
When we were finished, our bill was brought over to us – without a service charge added. That’s pretty unusual in London. I liked having the choice. As it was, the waiters had all been efficient and friendly so we were more than happy to leave a tip. Altogether, we paid £22 each, for two tasty courses and a bottle of wine. That was not bad at all.
Thanks to the success of this trip, I went back twice more in the same month. Once with the same two friends and one of their boyfriends and again just one of those friends.
On my first return trip, we ordered a plate of calamari and zucchine as a starter to share. Even between four of us, there was enough for each of us to have a few pieces and it was really good. On this occasion, I decided to go for a pizza. One of my friends had ordered one last time and it look delicious and a pretty decent size.
I went for the Capricciosa with ham, mushrooms, artichokes, black olives and an egg. I must admit, I’m a massive fan of artichokes and I don’t like black olives (but one of my friends does and didn’t have them on her pizza so it worked pretty well). I was interested to see how the egg went down as I generally love eggs with everything. I can’t say I thought it added much but my pizza was still very tasty. Altogether, I think my bill came to pretty much the same as my last trip – and that included my share of two bottles of wine.
On my second return trip, my friend and I ordered a plate of mussels to share as a starter – and there was more than enough for two. We asked for a couple of plates of bread as well, so we could mop up the delicious garlicy sauce and were brought these at no extra charge. I’d been craving mussels for ages and these certainly satisfied that craving.
Next I ordered the Gnocchi Zafferano, with cheese, saffron and bacon bits. I always deliberate ordering potato gnocchi when I see it on a menu but I know that when it arrives, I’m never that impressed. Gnocchi itself is always so-so I think – it all hangs on how good the sauce is and, in this case, the sauce made it delicious. Again the waitress offered me a generous helping of parmesan. I finished my third meal with a dessert of very chocolatey profiteroles. These were again brought out very quickly and tasted lovely.
On this occasion, my bill came to a bit more (around £27, including my tip) but this time I did have three courses (one shared) and a bottle red wine between two. After the waiter left our bill at the table, my friend and I sat and talked for a while. The restaurant was much busier by this point but the waiter didn’t come back over again and hurry us until we’d finally put our cards on the table so we could just sit and enjoy our evening. We were also offered free limoncello shots. I’d like to say that was because we are now recognised as regulars but I’m not sure we’ve reached that stage yet. Still, for the third time in four weeks, I left a very happy customer.