The Ravenscourt Park neighbourhood is well served by a plethora of takeaways, cafes and restaurants which line King Street. Representing international cuisines from Algerian to Vietnamese, they compete to attract the well-heeled and multi-national residents of this area of west London.
One local resident, Andy Needham, has recently opened his own restaurant L’Amorosa here, swopping his position as Head Chef at Zafferano, the sophisticated and elegant fine dining Italian restaurant in Belgravia, for his more modest, informal establishment. He brings with him a wealth of experience in Italian cookery, having worked as Giorgio Locatelli’s sous chef for three years, then retaining Zafferano’s Michelin star in his own right for another 13.
Andy’s love affair with Italian cookery, as reflected his restaurant’s name, continues unabated. Now as chef patron, and – remarkably – with only one assistant in his kitchen, he produces dishes of exceptional provenance and delivery. .
The essence of Italian cuisine lies in its simplicity. But simple does not mean easy. With relatively few ingredients in each dish, careful sourcing to ensure freshness and quality is essential. Given the contacts Andy has nurtured over his distinguished career, this presents few problems. He is not averse to Importing produce from Italy, such as dried meats, wild mushrooms and burrata, when necessary. Cooking techniques, applied, say, to a slow cooked ragu or risotto or pasta, need accurate timing to maximise taste and texture. The judicious use of oil and herbs, the precision of seasoning, and the balancing of flavours are essential in allowing the natural beauty of produce to shine. In all these respects, Andy scores very highly indeed, revealing a passion for dishes from the different regions of Italy allied with real skill in execution.
That he is able to do this at prices which shame expensive fine dining restaurants is remarkable. The daily changing seasonal menu comprises five starters from £7 to £9; 6 mains from £11 to £27 (including dishes for sharing); and six desserts (including cheese) from £6 to £9. The all Italian wine list also offers good value with reasonable mark ups across a wide range. The house white, Bianco Borgo Selene, Sicilia, (£13.50) was eminently drinkable and a real bargain at £13.50. Bianco Secco, Quintarelli, Veneto (£59), a rare white blend, was more elegant and refined. Morellino di Scansano, Perazzi La Mozza, Toscana (£34), was complex, full bodied with a persistently long finish. All these matched the dishes eaten well. Some wines are available by the glass, and are priced according.
The restaurant itself, like the food, has a pleasing lack of pretension. Previously occupied by the popular local all-day café Lola & Simón, its folding glass door frontage opens into a narrow, wooden floored and white walled room on two levels. A long bar on the lower level faces well-spaced tables with simple chair and banquette seating, while those on the upper level tables offer greater comfort with upholstered chairs. Well directed spotlighting illuminates the simply decorated room. Overall there is space for 48 diners.
Fine Dining Guide visited on a midweek evening and found much to admire in the rustic yet refined cooking.
A platter of Antipasti included delicately sweet slices of capocollo, the meat found between the hog’s head and shoulder. The finest air dried salted beef fillet – Bresaola della Valtellina – was suitably moist, well-seasoned, rolled, and lifted by a herb stuffing. Sardinian girolles, set on crostini, were simply sautéed to enhance their fruity, peppery flavour. Light Sicilian crispbread contrasted well with these soft textures.
A starter featuring the finest Burrata d’Andria, sourced from the Apulia region of Italy, saw the soft, rich, milky centre oozing from the crust when cut. Dressed with olive oil and rocket leaves, which added a peppery note, this cow’s milk cheese was perched on caponata, a rich, deeply flavoured Sicilian stew of aubergines, olives and tomatoes. Toasted focaccia added the necessary crisp texture to balance the dish.
This was followed by a classic northern Italian seafood dish, cuttlefish in umido. Thick, sweet succulent slices, braised in ink, wine and tomatoes, were offset by a square of fried polenta to soak up the unctuous, flavoursome sauce.
No restaurant menu would be complete without those staples of Italian cuisine, pasta and risotto. But those offered at L’Amorosa’s were far from average dishes.
Silky tagliatelli, rich with egg yolks and chestnut flour, the nutty sweetness of which came through, was tossed in a deeply rich cream sauce of two types of wild mushrooms. The fragrant notes of girolles, combined with the meaty, smooth texture of porcini, elevated this essentially simple dish to gastronomic heights.
Equally accomplished was fresh pappardelle with salt marsh lamb shoulder ragu. The long slow cooking of this sweetest of cuts did full justice to the lean, dark, almost game like meat, with its great depth of flavour.
Ossobucco with saffron risotto, a speciality of the Milanese, might be described as the ultimate in Italian comfort food. The soft meat of the braised veal shank fell of the bone and could be cut with a spoon. Its marrow enriched the sofrito, white wine and tomato sauce. The risotto, flavoured, coloured and flecked with saffron, was rich, creamy and fragrant. A well-judged gremolata of lemon zest, garlic and parsley cut the richness, adding freshness and balancing the dish perfectly.
Lemon sorbet, light, smooth and refreshing completed this memorable meal. Other desserts, which we were too full to try, included delights such as pear and almond crostata with marcapone and hazelnut bavarese, vanilla ice cream, and expresso coffee.
Clearly, L’Amorosa has made an impressive start under the guidance of its owner who loves both his craft and the area. Keen to get to know his neighbours and customers, of whom there will undoubtedly be many given the accomplished cooking, knowledgeable service, and keen prices, Andy Needham has created more than a neighbourhood restaurant. Indeed, his reputation and achievements are likely to attract lovers of Italian cuisine from further afield. Belgravia’s loss is certainly Ravenscourt Park’s gain. Fine Dining Guide will definitely return and will watch L’Amorosa’s progress with interest.