There is something hugely enjoyable about taking a long stroll along the Portobello road on a Sunday, checking out the weird and wonderful market stalls and deciding what to eat for lunch.
A virtuous session in the gym on a Sunday morning is generally followed by an ‘unvirtuous’ pig out at some splendid eaterie and three of us, having been recommended this place by a customer in the cafe, made our way to The Portobello Garden Caffe, a small, packed, buzzing place whose walls were awash with Italian goodies.
I noticed with great pleasure the array of wonderful meats, burrata, roasted veg, all manner of antipasti being piled onto sharing plates. They looked absolutely beautiful and so it was without hesitation that we ordered the antipasto misto which was delivered promptly and with a basket of bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Unbeknownst to me, a treat was in stall for us – I’d never had smoked sardines before and their salty, soft texture were a complete delight. Strips of peppers were draped on a ball of milky mozzarella and the sun dried tomatoes, so often, harsh, fake tasting nougats of ghastliness were gentle on the tongue and deliciously sweet. A perfect way to start our lunch.
The lasagna arrived in its shiny sauciness and was as light as a feather – just the right amount of pasta was cloaked in ricotta and a rich tomato sauce with shavings of Parmesan on top.
The tuna, mozzarella and tomato on toasted bread was greeted with equal praise – it was so generous in size that we had to ask for a doggy bag.
If I had a little gripe it would be that the wine list was pitifully small and £19 for an indifferent Pinot Grigot is somewhat galling, but this aside, the three of us ate handsomely, including wine and coffees for just over sixty pounds. The service, I have to say, was prompt and our waitress a smiling breath of fresh air.
We were asked, very politely, when we were going to leave as people were queueing to get in. Goes to show, doesn’t it ? Give people some simple ingredients of the highest quality in a lovely, relaxed atmosphere, whilst still keeping your arm and leg, and you’ll rake it in.
Amen to that,
The Portobello Garden Caffe
269b Portobello Road,
London W11 1LR