Posted on Sunday, 23rd November 2008
The best way to approach a weekend of eating indulgence is to have a designated driver, someone who is preferably not you. The flexibility of being able to drink is the most obvious bonus, but when you’re rolling out of a restaurant after a meal it’s rather nice not to have to worry about how you’re going to make your way home. Then there’s the matter of when you’re heading out of town for Sunday lunch where, practically, a car is a definite must. In our case, lunch was at The French Horn in Sonning-On-Thames. Practicalities aside, it was also rather nice after having eaten yourself silly to be able to doze off in the car on the way back to town… but more on that later.
First up on the weekend were our Saturday night exploits at La Famiglia, a Tuscan restaurant. It bills itself ‘as a destination for the rich and famous’. Case in point: Jennifer Aniston’s flying visit to London back in June this year to meet up with her then (now?) beau John Mayer. During that trip she dined at La Famiglia and the event was captured all over the tabloid spreads. Enough said.
Located just off the Kings Road, La Famiglia also caters to the well-heeled of Chelsea, and on this particular Saturday night, every table was thus filled. The décor is rustic, predominantly white with splashes of blue, and softly lit. To create that family feel, there are abundant pictures of ‘the family’ lining the walls. The space is tight however, and the tables were small, and in our case too small to comfortably fit four. (No doubt Jen wasn’t forced to squeeze into her seat like this)! But it’s wonderfully seductive with a charming ambiance and a sense of time-honoured tradition that seems to draw you back time and time again.
Seated in a tiny little corner of the room, I got lost in the menu as it was simply glorious… glorious for it was so overwhelming with choice that it left me struck with indecision. But it wasn’t extravagantly priced. Pastas were approximately £10 – £11, mains started from about £14. Wines were reasonable. A bottle of 2005 Chianti Rufina cost £34.
Having been a visitor on many occasions, the food is the sort that you know you can count on: consistently solid, rustic, simple and tasty; and the service is the kind that you can also count on with Italian wait staff who are well-honed in the art of serving any high profile clientele that might come their way. For tonight, capelli d’angelo all’ olio tartufato, an angel hair egg pasta with truffle oil and parmesan (£10.50) was lusciously light and aromatic. It came with an option of added white truffle shavings (£11.50 per gram), added to the plate at the table by a waiter who shaved from a whole white truffle the quantity that you so desired. It was charged by weight, so along with the whole white truffle the waiter also brought along a small set of scales. This truffle was texturally pleasing but lacked a strong pungent fungal flavour.
Filetto di carpaccio, a beef carpaccio (£14) served with rucola (rocket), parmesan and chef’s special sauce was sliced wafer-thin and meltingly tender, so tender that it instantaneously dissolved on my tongue.
Agnello in padella, a salt-marsh lamb with garlic and rosemary (£14.50), was meaty and flavoursome, if a little chewy. It was covered with a sauce which unfortunately overpowered the lamb. A simple grilling with a little lemon and rosemary would have probably done just fine.
Desserts were a dream, so dreamy looking that when they appeared on the dessert trolley, I couldn’t help but order two: the tiramisu and cannoli. To the derision of my friends, I finished both off. I also managed to fit in a spoonful of someone else’s bamba (gloriously creamy) and another’s brulee cheesecake (divine). And so, also filled with a glass of proseco and some bottles of tipple by the time dessert was over, I was starting to feel a little sick after my over-indulgent meal at La Famiglia. In desperate need of a lie down, I was ever so grateful that I was being dropped off at home.
La Famiglia at:
7 Langton Street
Tel: +44 (0)20 7351 0761