Open Tue–Thu 7pm–11pm; Fri midday–3.30pm and 7pm–11.30pm; Sat midday–11.30pm; Sun midday–4.30pm
This was my second visit to this intimate Italian in Notting Hill run by the unnervingly charming Tobia Speranza. On my first visit the food was fantastic and the wine flowed so freely that I abandoned my critic’s cap and just enjoyed the experience.
This time I was back with my wits about me and the first thing I noticed was that Tobia had taken on board Faye Maschler’s recent review and reduced the prices… slightly. Prices are still steep with starters from £9 and mains escalating up to £34. However, the restaurant seats only 21 diners so it is not surprising the prices are above average and in all fairness this is no average Italian fare.
Our starters, once again were sublime. The San Daniele ham platter with rocket and tuna sauce (£9.50) was the best dish I have tasted in London for quite some time. The tender, subtly-flavoured meat melted in the mouth and the accompanying tuna sauce complimented it surprisingly well. The dish was less salty than expected and had fruity notes jumping through it. The beef Carpaccio (£9) was also good, though the beef’s flavour had to fight its way past the intense parmesan barrier. The truffle-infused oil that dressed it married the flavours well. On our previous visit we had tried the mozzarella and it was without doubt the best mozzarella I have tasted outside of Italy. Perfectly fresh with an oozing creamy heart. This too has been reduced in price (now £9) and is now a more manageable size; on our previous visit the enormous ball defeated all three of us. The extensive Italian wine menu escalates sharply, but it does offer entry bottles from £18.50. We were served the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, which was smooth and well rounded and came in at £19.50 a bottle.
For my main course I opted for the grilled sea bream which came coated in a crispy potato skin, served with a delicate potato rosti and a simple yet zesty leaf salad (£17.50). The fish was moist with a satisfyingly crispy top and the rosti was comfortingly addictive. My friend Michelle ordered the hare parpadelle (£12) – parpadelle literally translates as ‘to gobble up’ to which we willingly obliged. The warming pasta dish had a homely feel to it, with a rich tomato sauce and a kick of rosemary. It was not an earth shattering creation but it was a good standard, staple dish. If you want to impress then order the salt-baked cod or lobster linguini – these are the real show dishes.
We are yet to find a dud dish on this menu; the place certainly seems to be finding its feet. The prices are now more reasonable, the food is consistently good and the tiny dining room has an exclusive feel to it, perfect for a romantic date or an illicit affair (I will refrain from naming and shaming) as we observed on our visit. Tucked away from the buzz of Notting Hill in such a quiet residential area Dragoncello will have to fight to become a destination restaurant, but with this standard of cooking half the battle is already won; all that remains is for it to be discovered by west London. As my evening drew to a close I was reminded of one of my mother’s sayings, ‘you don’t get diamonds as big as bricks’.
Meal for two, with wine and service, £100.