Posted on Friday, 5th November 2010
Assaggi use to hold a Michelin star which it lost this year. But to be honest, two previous visits to this Italian restaurant have always left me at a lost as to why it ever had a star to begin with. The food was decent, but unspectacular, and very pricey. In my opinion, not only was it not Michelin worthy, it wasn’t worth the price tag either. So it was no surprise to me when it was stripped off its star this year. About time I thought. I’ve never been anxious to go back but friends who wanted to try it invited me along.
Assaggi is housed above a pub in a beautiful Georgian building on Chepstow Place. But the lovely building masks a poorly decorated dining room, which, with its bad lighting and dull wall hangings makes the restaurant feel little better than a cheap café. It was also very noisy as there is no carpeting on the floor.
Culatello di zibello, the prized cured ham from Italy, was delicious. Thinly sliced, the lovely red flesh was sweet and delicate, and further enriched by the tasty pieces of white fat running through it. The ham can be ordered with burrata, a mozzarella cheese with cream (£24.40 with cheese or £16.90 without cheese). I think the combination would have worked well had the cheese been served at room temperature. Instead, it was spoiled by the fact that the cheese had only just been taken out of the fridge and was far too cold to eat. £24.40 is not cheap for a starter, and so it was disappointing to have the restaurant ruin it through careless preparation.
A second starter of gamberoni con fritella di risotto al limone (£13.90) was a huge disappointment. The prawns were nicely cooked, but the fritella di risotto al limone, a lemon risotto fritter was dry and lacking in flavour. There was no discernible taste of lemon, and the outer coating of rice that made up the fritter was hard and inedible. The dish was garnished with slivers of fried leeks. Firstly, there was too much leek which meant you couldn’t see what you were eating. Secondly, the leek tasted chewy and a little stale. The dish could have also done with some sauce as it was very dry.
Costata di vitello (£26.90), a veal chop with rosemary was lovely, moist and beautifully cooked. It needed more seasoning and you couldn’t taste the rosemary, but the meat was of a superb quality. However the garnishing of shoestring chips was unappetising as they weren’t crispy.
The veal chop came with no veg despite the £26.90 price tag, (garnishings of shoestring chips cannot be considered veg). Consequently I ordered a salad of pomodoro, rucola e basilico for £4.80. The salad was poor. The tomato had no flavour, the rocket was limp, and despite the description on the menu, I couldn’t detect any basil. It was also badly dressed.
Tagliolini with white truffle (£14.90 without truffle, £39.90 with truffle) was aromatic. But the pasta, being so fine, was overcooked. There was no ‘al dente’ bite to it. Furthermore, the accompanying cream sauce was a little heavy against the lightness of the pasta. The portion size was also quite small for a main.
A dessert of tiramisu was nicely prepared. But it needed a touch more alcohol to elevate it, and I would have expected more alcohol for £8. Again, I thought the portion size a little small.
A flourless chocolate cake with white chocolate ice cream (£8) was decent. But it didn’t come close to being as good as the outstanding flourless cakes from Polpo or Polpetto that only costs £4.50 and £5, respectively. Now how much would you rather pay?
I have never understood the appeal of Assaggi and I still don’t understand it. The restaurant was full on the night of our visit. I don’t know why, because not only is the food pretty average, it’s also very pricey. The service was rather charming, and the veal chop was good, but these were the only positives I got out of the evening. In fact, I think the food has gotten worse since I last ate there.
I have never recommended Assaggi to anyone and I don’t think I ever will. I walked away feeling like the restaurant is out to rip you off. £4.80 for a bad salad? I think not. £24.40 to have the restaurant ruin a starter? I think not.
Assaggi is for people with more money than sense. Your best bet is to stay away.
Restaurant details (Assaggi does not have a website):
020 7792 5501
39 Chepstow Place, London, London, W2 4TS