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Posted by Stephanie Butler on February 27, 20179 stars

Mon–Sat 12pm–3pm and 6.30pm–11pm, Sun 12pm–3pm

The blurb

It may be a clichéd term, but ‘authentic’ truly is the best way to describe Vicino. The name translates from Italian as ‘neighbouring,’ and this pretty much sums up the vibe that this charming restaurant off the corner of Parsons Green emanates.
It first opened in 1987 and has been designed to appear no different to a rustic restaurant down the tiny cobbled streets of Tuscany. With an interior and amiability that reminded me of my beloved grandparents and their Italian roots, Vicino was a delicious, warm and surprisingly affordable treat.

The style

Leafy plants adorn the brick facade and homely Italian decor can be found throughout the restaurant. A soft mustard yellow taken from a classic Tuscan colour palette washes walls filled with dried flowers, traditional painted plates, posters, hanging garlic and shelves lined with jars of lemons, wine bottles and boxes of Peroni.
It felt like a winter break to the Italian countryside, the kitchen opening out into the cosy but spacious eating space and a conservatory sitting at the front of the building that opens up in the summer months.

The crowd

It was a Monday evening so was quiet, with just a handful of other parties dining at the same time as us. This included a young family celebrating a birthday (accompanied by an abrupt happy birthday song—Italian style—booming out of the restaurant’s speakers when the cake was presented) and a few other diners who were quieter groups or couples. The mood was casual but it was easy to picture the restaurant as a suitable venue for a fancier event.

The food

It is clear that Marco Moscoloni, head chef since 2011, is passionate not only about his cooking methods but also about sourcing produce with the finest flavour. The menu consists of several foods that are traditionally served uncooked, and it’s evident that time has been taken to find the best ingredients that London has to offer.
For a while I’ve wanted to try Arancini, but my soft spot for bruschetta has always overtaken. So I opted for the Arancini Siciliani (£7.50), and was greeted with two deep fried rice and mozzarella balls served with arrabbiata sauce, one stuffed with mushroom (daring of me—I usually despise mushroom), the other with roast pepper olives. My friend picked the Capesante Gratinate (£9.50), roast scallops with melted cheese and crisp breadcrumbs gorgeously presented on three shells.
For the main I couldn’t refuse the lobster special: Linguine con Aragosta, Vino Bianco, Aglio e Peperoncino (£21.50 for half a lobster, £32.50 for a whole). The lobster is known for being brought in fresh daily from Billingsgate market, and is served with linguine in a white wine sauce with garlic, olive oil and chilli. Colourful, juicy and intense. I may have left the chillies but still enjoyed the flavour; the intensity of the pasta was aptly balanced by the sweetness of the lobster. My friend’s dish, Pappardelle Con Stracetti di Vitello (£12), consisted of pasta with veal, fontina cheese and a rosemary sauce topped with onions, carrots and celery, and was rich and oily and flavoursome.
Dessert called for the Chocolate & Passionfruit Cheesecake (£5.50), which was prettily presented with strawberries, blueberries and a tiny physalis. Once again the strong flavours of the tangy curd were balanced out by the white chocolate cheesecake. Dense but delicious.

The drink

There was no extensive list of crafty speciality cocktails that many restaurants showcase nowadays, but instead a modest range including the classic Bellini (£7.50) and Italian treat Limoncello Mojito (£6.50). The simple but sweet Pinot Grigio blush (£5 a glass, £20 a bottle) went down a treat with my food choices.

In a nutshell

It may be Italian, but do not expect to find pizza on the menu. This is a non-commercial traditional Italian restaurant to the core, a treat in a suburban corner of the capital. Prices are cheaper than they taste, and with the attentive and friendly all-Italian staff this is certainly a place for neighbours in Fulham to visit on the regular.
You won over the little Italian corner of my heart and beyond, Vicino.

Posted by Stephanie Butler on October 20, 2016

Open Mon–Thu midday–11.30pm, Fri midday–midnight, Sat 5pm–midnight, Sun midday–6pm

The blurb

Flaunting history from 18th-century London to 20th-century boutique chic, the recently opened Hatchetts takes its name from the erstwhile Piccadilly hotspot nearby that was a byword for conviviality from The Pickwick Papers to the Rolling Stones.
Head chef Andrew Evans has created a menu that combines quintessentially British flavours with modern twists. The innovative dishes are emulated by the stylish yet minimalist interior, and all is situated at Shepherd’s Market, just a stone’s throw from Green Park station.

The style

Think traditional meets minimalist with a little edge. Elegant decor and dimmed lighting welcomes you as you enter, a large well-stocked bar is on show in front of you and a scattering of tables are available for the post-work boozers or late-evening minglers.
We were led downstairs to apparently the ‘most romantic’ table in the restaurant, near a corner that was also home to a wine rack, a freestanding candelabra and our favourite addition to the room: a super-cool ‘Reverspective’ piece of 3D art.
With dangling bulbs lighting the exposed brick walls and deep red paintwork, Mayfair glamour is subtly complemented throughout by industrial modernity.

The crowd

It was a Wednesday evening so wasn’t the busiest, but the atmosphere was buzzing upstairs regardless. A handful of quiet couples and louder clusters of men in suits padded out the bar on ground level, but once in the basement we were given our pick of tables as we were the first diners downstairs.
Throughout our meal, several other guests gradually began to fill out parts of the basement, from colleague dinners to mature family get-togethers. The atmosphere is relaxed but classy (perfect if you want to impress a date), with staff who are appropriately charming and attentive.

The food

To start, the Devonshire crab and nectarine salad caught my eye, and our waiter did say it was a favourite. But it wasn’t available—instead I chose the chef’s special, lobster linguine, fresh and well-cooked with the perfect amount of chilli. Definitely the highlight of the night!
My partner opted for the lamb sweetbreads with minted greens and lamb jus, which looked like a very small portion of British meat, greens and gravy. It tasted better than its appearance, but I was glad I chose lobster.
The main game: this time, I was the one who had food envy. Lentils with butternut squash and stewed tomatoes did provide a rich, homely burst of flavour in the mouth (the lentils were too much for me to finish), but the 12oz ribeye steak (£28) on the plate next to me looked and tasted incredible. It was accompanied by Lyonnaise potatoes and bone marrow gravy, and we couldn’t resist ordering a side of baby gem covered with blue cheese and walnuts as well (£4.50).
By dessert I was starting to feel (happily) sated, so we chose one dish to share. Again guided by staff recommendation, we went for the dark chocolate marquis with chocolate mousse and cherry sorbet (£7)—I still cannot decide which of the three elements I preferred. It was melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous, with tastes that complemented each other to a T.

The drink

The cocktails were divine, with six classics and six specially crafted concoctions on offer. I’m a sucker for sweet so I was recommended the May Fair Lady (£8.50), a deliciously smooth combination of vodka, mint, grapefruit, lemon, sugar and egg white, with a delicate garnish on top.
The rest of the bar list is elaborate enough for any thirsty visitor, with an appropriate selection of wines and London beers.

In a nutshell

The service was excellent, and the atmosphere suitable for an evening meal or event. I’d love to see how the ambience evolves on a busier night, especially in the private rooms.
As for the food, the flavours were on point with no taste too overpowering, but some portion sizes were a little enthusiastic—if I had cleaned my plate of lentils I would have been uncomfortably full! Hatchetts entices you to try many dishes from their tempting menu, which is perfect if you’re a massive foodie, but when I return I’ll shamelessly be returning to the lobster!


Stephanie Butler

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