A Cluster of Italy
C and her friend (also a C) love a good deal when it comes to eating out. Going back a few years, the pair would meet after a day of work at their first post-university jobs and try to hunt out something affordable but good in central London - quite challenging, unless you know what you're looking for (which they didn't). With the discovery of schemes such as Toptable deals, the Taste card and the View Card, however, the pair developed a thing for restaurant offers, and now meet every couple of weeks to try out a new deal at a different place.
With this in mind, when they chanced upon a great two-courses-with-wine offer at Italian restaurant Grappolo and found themselves drooling over the menu, they knew they had to try it out.
|The big cheese|
There's no denying that Grappolo, meaning 'cluster' or 'bunch' in Italian, is a little on the fancy side; located just off Fetter Lane, its sister restaurants are Café de Amis and Little Sicily, which gives you an indication of what to expect. The interior is elegant, modern and sleek, the atmosphere frightfully refined and the other diners are mainly men in suits and couples having civilised dinners post-work in their respective city jobs. You can't fault the attentive service, and the place generally has an air of sophistication about it, albeit lacking in authentic Italian bustle.
|Butter me up|
The food in here is excellent, though. To start, both Cs had their old favourite, Insalata di Caprese - bocconcini mozzarella with cherry tomatoes, olive oil and garnished with basil, rocket and pesto. Both agreed that it was delicious; one of the best they'd had in a long time (and they've had a lot). The mozzarella was creamy, the portion size plentiful and the presentation attractive.
As explained previously, 'proper' Italian meals consist of several different courses: although pasta is often eaten as a main elsewhere, in Italy itself it's a precursor to the main event, which is generally meat or fish. Knowing in advance that the old problem of eyes versus stomachs would crop up should she try to cram not only a starter but also pasta in before the main, though, C went straight for the meat.
Being a sucker for parma ham, C opted for the Pollo alla Romana - a chicken breast wrapped in the stuff, along with sage and a white wine sauce. Served on a bed of new potatoes, the dish looked incredibly attractive and she made unusually short work of it - the chicken was tender, the parma ham perfectly cured for that distinctive flavour, and the sauce incredibly moreish. A word of warning, though: if you don't like butter, this dish isn't for you - it was swimming in it, and this almost certainly would've been overkill and really quite off-putting had it not been for the fact that C secretly loves the taste.
|Butter wouldn't melt (actually, quite the opposite)|
C's friend decided on pasta for a main, and so went for the classic Lasagne della Casa - and reported back that it was very authentic, oozing with cheese and full of béchamel sauce.
|A square meal (literally)|
As for prices, a main here will set you back around £15 (without a deal that is, at any rate). Is it worth it? It all depends on your standard budget, of course; it's probably a little more than C and A would spend on a weeknight dinner, but the food itself does live up to the price tag. It's a classy place, with prices to match; come here for good quality food, beautifully presented - although expect sophistication, as opposed to a bustling Italian authenticity.
|Pasta la vista...|