Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Via Condotti - London

During this 2 weeks stay in London, I had to visit this restaurant which used to be my favourite right before I moved to Singapore. At that time, 2 and 1/2 years back, the restaurant had just opened. They created the most elegant Italian recipes at a very affordable price. I was a regular until I left. Unfortunately the restaurant is now under new management and the Chef (who was a co-owner) has also left. However my experience was still very positive and although I can't judge their consistency from just one visit, my 'culinary sixth sense' tells me that this is still a very good restaurant.
They offer a fixed price menu with 2, 3 or 4 courses respectively priced at £22.50, £27.50 and £32.50, with a 12.5% added service charge.

Bread is served with the meal, and the basket includes a variety of focaccia with plum tomatoes, 'pane Carasau' (original from Sardinia), Ciabatta and other Italian classics. The extra vergin olive oil that accompanies the bread is top quality.

As a starter, I chose a 'Culatello con rucola e parmigiano'. This is a kind of raw ham simply accompanied by wild rocket and thin layers of Parmesan cheese. A simple Italian winning combination of great quality products.

'Spaghetti alle vongole', or 'spaghetti with clams', is one of those simple dishes that are very hard to get right because of their simplicity. It is also a good way to test a chef, reason why I elected this dish (besides the fact that I haven't eaten it since I moved to Singapore).
It was superbly executed. The spaghetti were perfectly cooked, the vongole were juicy and the sauce was nice and thick, without that annoying butter that some restaurants feel the necessity to add. This dish must have no butter added to it. Finally and most importantly, that unique 'vongole' light 'sea' overtone fully penetrated the spaghetti.

The 'halibut steak with caponata' consisted of a pan fried fillet of halibut with an extremely thin, crispy skin covered by a paste of black olives. A tasty 'caponata' accompanied the fillet. This is a Sicilian mix of chopped vegetables such as aubergines, celery and tomatoes with capers, seasoned by a sweet and sour sauce. The fillet was perfectly cooked and the combination was light and refreshing.

I was pleased to have a meal at 'Via Condotti' once again. I was a bit nervous by the change of management, which can often spoil a restaurant's identity. If you are up for a centrally located, good quality, mid-priced Italian meal complemented by excellent service and calm, exclusive atmosphere, I would highly recommend Via Condotti.

Via Condotti
23, Conduit Street (Oxford Circus tube station)
London, W1S 2XS
Tel. +44 (0)20 7493 7050

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