Posted on Thursday, 12th January 2017
Amici Miei is a casual Italian restaurant on Kingsland Road serving rustic fare such as wood-fired sourdough pizzas and pastas, along with a range of Italian regional dishes. The name, Amici Miei, translates as ‘my friends’, and it is indeed a welcoming spot with its bare brick-work, relaxed ambiance and cozy vibe.
I dined at Amici Miei with Artour from food blog Nifty Noshing and as we both love eating the Asian way which is to order multiple dishes and to share them all. That way, you get to try more and share not just the physical space, but share the enjoyment of the food as well. And the menu at Amici Miei is truly ideal for sharing. Apart from the pizzas and pastas, the comprehensive menu also dishes up a range of cicchetti – Italian tapas and antipastas.
We started with the polpette, meatballs (£5) which came in a faintly garlicky tomato sauce. They were simple and tasted of “homemadeness”. These exuded a rustic quality and were very enjoyable, although no distinct flavours to speak of were discerned.
Bruschetta (£4.50) done the classic way here, in the colours of the Italian flag – red plum tomatoes, green ruccola, and white parmiggiano – with a drizzle of aceto balsamico and olive oil dressing. The bread was not sourdough but toasted to a delightful and airy crunchiness. Everything tasted lovely and fresh.
The arancini (£5) – deep-fried Sicilian rice balls stuffed with meat – were respectable, but the crust wasn’t quite crunchy enough, and the filling not as lush or as creamy as you might have expected from this dish. The dipping sauce that accompanied them was pleasant, but a few more herbs and garlic could have really set it alight.
The seafood starter, Frittura Di Mare (£11) consisted of a Manila paper cone with a handful of deep-fried prawns and calamari rings. The cone came inserted in a weeny zinc bucket set on top of a wooden cutting board, perhaps, as “rustic Shoreditch” style as it gets. The shrimp and squid were well seasoned, reasonably crunchy, and again this was a tasty dish.
The fish main we went for, Grigliata Mista Di Pesce For Two (£25), comprised three prawns, two baby squid, one sea bass fillet, and mussels and clams interspersed with plum tomatoes. It was rather satisfying, especially with the same all-too-familiar garlic and parsley flavour as the side of grilled vegetables (£4) we ordered. The seafood was cooked well and fresh.
The pasta dish, Al Cinghiale, of which we had the smaller £7 portion was, perhaps, the most labour-intensive of them all. A wild boar ragu pappardelle, unfortunately the pasta itself had gone beyond al dente, but arrived smothered in a scrumptious wild boar stew. Peppery and, as it goes with stews, umami-heavy, it was arguably the most memorable dish of the dinner flavour wise.
We were quite full, yet decided to soldier on and sample the dolci. The Seadas di Ricotta (£6.50), described as warm puff pastry filled with ricotta, cinnamon and lemon zest served with honey, turned out a bit doughy, as wasn’t particularly memorable. Perhaps, getting it to the light popping quality of Greek loukoumades would have made it a memorable affair. Tiramisu (£5.50) was fairly good and tasted as it should.
No sooner than we had enough time to enjoy our sobremesa, the delightful postprandial stupor this time spiced up with a shot of limoncello (£4), a loud blast of upbeat music from the bar cut our conversation short, signalling time for our departure.
Finally, for the drinks. The Vermentino Seleme (£5.80 for 175ml) our waiter recommended had the light-bodied candy flavour and a faint mineral finish one expects from a vermentino, perfect for the seafood and lightly spiced meats we had. It is a very underappreciated grape variety that is slowly gaining the recognition it deserves, definitely a favourite among Italian whites.
In a nutshell: Great for a casual fill-up with friends, especially at these reasonable prices. It’s rustic and homely, but not for a memorable intimate refined Italian dining experience.
The service: Enthusiastic and polite in equal measure.
Note: This blog post written by Arturo from Nifty Noshing and myself.
1) Decent run-of-the-mill Italian classics.
2) Reasonable prices
3) Casual engaging vibe
1) Loud music towards the end of the evening interrupted our dinner conversation. But this is Shoreditch
Food rating: 4/5
Service rating: 4/5
Prices: £30-35 per head, excluding drinks and service.