theo's simple italian
'Decent ingredients, cooked well, in unpretentious surroundings'

Theo’s Simple Italian

Open Mon–Fri 6.30am–10.30pm, Sat–Sun 7am–11pm

The blurb

A classic, rustic Italian all-day restaurant and deli, offering the very best of Italian food from acclaimed chef Theo Randall:

“I first learned about the effort required and the rewards enjoyed by a true food lover as a child. Unlike my peers, who happily spent their holidays buried in sand on the beach or leaping in and out of rock pools, my parents’ idea of a good family holiday was quite different. Instead they chose to drive through rural Italy in their Citroën DS and see how much food and wine they could squeeze into the boot before finally driving home…

“This year I am very excited to announce the opening of Theo’s Simple Italian, where Head Chef Fabio Guaglione and his brigade will be serving simple and authentic Italian dishes that celebrate the best of casual Italian dining.”

The style

A cheery green and white striped awning announces the restaurant’s presence in a fairly unprepossessing Earl’s Court back street, on the ground floor of the Hotel Indigo, Kensington, which belongs to the InterContinental chain. As Theo Randall’s flagship restaurant is located in the considerably grander InterContinental London, this makes sense.

Inside it’s much more appealing, with brown and white chequerboard flooring, olive green, teal and burnt orange leather seating—banquettes, mid-century inspired curved-back armchairs, tall, high-backed stools surrounding the opulent central bar. Pendant lamps cast pools of light over pale wood tables, and an elaborate chandelier featuring glass globes hangs above a larger, circular table recessed into a bay window—clearly the best in the house. Walls are wood-panelled in a chevron pattern and a glass sliding door leads to a private dining room for up to 20 seated guests, or 30 for a drinks reception.

With the exception of Simone, the charmingly clued-up maitre d’, who wears an impeccably cut dark suit, the friendly and enthusiastic staff are smart casual in jeans, white shirts and aprons.

The crowd

The night we visited, an eclectic bunch: an affluent-looking couple, both in white jeans, long blonde hair (her), shades on head (him), incapable of pronouncing bruschetta (both); a group of Sloaney sweet-faced plump girls, probably sharing a flat nearby; a group of men in suits taking no notice whatsoever of the girls; a large Asian man dining alone in flip flops, nylon sport shorts and a rugby shirt.

The food

Simone recommended we kick off with Bruschetta Theo’s Style (£6.00), an excellent choice, which certainly filled the Italian brief of good ingredients, simply cooked: Italian-sourced tomatoes bursting with flavour atop thick slices of chargrilled, garlic-rubbed sourdough with a drizzle of fruity olive oil. From the antipasti selection, Marinated Black Angus Beef with Bulls Blood Salad, Aged Balsamic Vinegar & Tropea Onion (£10.50) was a strikingly colourful (red) plateful, the fine slices of tender, tasty meat contrasting nicely with sweet onion and the slight bitterness of the ruby leaves.

From the Primi, Andy’s Risotto Pescatora (£12.00/£17.00) was light, delicate and redolent of the sea, although the chef could have been a tad more generous with the prawns, clams, mussels and white fish flakes. My Ravioli with Ricotta and Nettles (£8.00/£12.50) was a lovely, soothing combination, the green and slightly ferrous tang of the stingers tempered by the bland creaminess of the cheese, encased in the silkiest of pasta parcels.

Portions being on the generous side, we would (should) have been replete by now, but Simone had been rhapsodising about the Tagliata di Manzo (£20.00), the beef bred in the Lake District and aged for 28 days. Meat freak Andy was keen to try it (OK, we both were), so Simone brought us a small plate to taste. The discerning carnivore (and Italophile)’s considered opinion? ‘As good as any I’ve had in Tuscany.’ High praise indeed, with which I had to concur.

By now we really were fit to burst so shared a Straciatella Semi-Freddo with Frangelico (£6): sweet, alcoholic, densely creamy, given extra textural interest by the toothsome crunch of sugared hazelnuts.

The drink

Aperitifs at the bar got the evening off to a rip-roaring start: a Bellini for me, a Negroni Sbagliato (Prosecco, Vermouth, Campari—the result, Simone told us, of a busy barman in Milan mistakenly using Prosecco instead of gin in a classic Negroni) for Andy. A couple of bottles of Cento Cavalli, Grillo from Sicily 2013 (£28) slipped down nicely with our first courses, a particularly good match for the seafood risotto and nettle ravioli.

To accompany the meat, a glass each of Santa Margherita Italian Malbec 2013 (£6.50), which was, according to Andy (who likes his red as much as he likes his meat), ‘a little young and not as full bodied as its Mendoza rivals, but shows promise.’

In a nutshell

Theo’s Simple Italian lives up to its name. Decent ingredients, cooked well, in friendly, unpretentious surroundings. We had a great time, and both the chef and Simone are to be commended. The only problem is that my appetite is now whetted for the real, much more expensive deal at the InterContinental.

The details:

34-44 Barkston Gardens, Kensington, London SW5 0EW;; 020 7370 9130

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