Timo is a neighbourhood Italian restaurant in a parade of shops on a busy main road. The narrow dining room has a couple of paintings of the countryside decorating the walls at the back of the dining area, and tables covered with crisply ironed white linen tablecloths. Once owned by A-Z restaurants, since 2005 this has been an independent business. Starters were priced at £9.50 - £12.50, pasta dishes £8.50 to £11.90, main courses £16.90 to £24.50 and desserts were £5.50 - £7.50. The head chef is Fabrizio Caldarazzo, who is from Campania in southern Italy. Villa Antinori Bianco 2011 was £31 for a wine you can find in the high street for a tenner, Pinot Grigio Collio Superiore 2011 was £42 for a wine that retails at £19, and Jermann Dreams 2006 was £89 for a wine that will set you back £45 in a shop.
A starter of crab and avocado salad had a lemon dressing; the crab was fresh, though there were a couple of pieces of shell, and the avocado was fine, though the salad itself was made a little earlier, and was past its peak (3/10). Wild mushroom flan with quail egg and black truffle dressing was pleasant, though there appeared to be some button mushrooms padding the wild ones, and the truffle flavour was subdued, to put it mildly (3/10).
The main courses were better. Red snapper was served with a little cylinder of lemon risotto and fennel. The fish was carefully cooked with crisp skin and the risotto was fine, though the fennel was cooked a little too long (4/10). Malfatti (irregular shaped pasta) with wild boar ragout was a lovely, hearty dish, the ragout having deep flavour and nicely seasoned, the pasta tender (5/10).
Tiramisu had very good, deep coffee flavour and pleasant texture (5/10) whilst hazelnut fondant had a good liquid centre, tasted properly of hazelnuts and was served with decent vanilla ice cream (4/10). Coffee was of unusually good quality too. Service was excellent throughout, the staff clearly well drilled and attentive, the manager friendly. The bill came to £72 a head for three courses, with a pleasant bottle of wine to share. Although not faultless, this was a very enjoyable meal, the pasta and the desserts particularly good, and the service quality was that of a high quality restaurant.
The notes below are from a meal in June 2005, under the previous ownership.
Timo has a long, thin dining room decorated in a pleasant modern style, with a small overflow dining area in the basement. There is a small reception area at the front, a bar but no seating area in order to maximise tables. Waiters were formally dressed and seem very well drilled by the A-Z Restaurant team: wine was meticulously topped up, a napkin that slipped to the floor replaced without prompting. Nibbles were a pair of vol au vents with a filling of red pepper and salmon mousse: delicate pastry, pleasantly flavoured of simplistic filling (5/10). The formula is familiar from Zafferano, with starters, pasta, main courses and desserts, the charge being based on how many courses you take – here £19.50 gets you three courses, so with no hidden charges for vegetables (though a few too many dishes had supplements) the food itself costs barely more (and in some cases less) than many gastro-pubs these days.
I asked for a green salad with tomato (not on the menu) and received a lovely pile of very fresh leaves with a well-balanced dressing, though if one was to quibble, the tomatoes were of modest quality (5/10). My wife’s gnocchi with artichokes and mature ricotta cheese was also very good, taking the potentially dull gnocchi and delivering a dish with good texture and well balanced filling (5/10). For the next course I had tagliatelle with black truffle, a simple dish of pasta with Parmesan, supposedly some rosemary, and grated truffle for flavour. The pasta had good texture though not quite as silky perfect as at Zafferano’s, but the flaw was that the rosemary was almost non-existent, and the dish needed that flavour for balance (still just about 4/10 though). I had risotto for main course, the texture retaining quite a bit of liquid but the rice having absorbed the stock well (they make it the old-fashioned way here, with a 20 minute prep time). This was capably made (4/10). My wife’s monkfish was served as small slices of fish in a circle on a central bed of peppers, spinach, capers, cherry tomatoes and a little oregano.
We did not have dessert, but drank good coffee (5/10). The bill was a little higher than I had expected: I did have a pre-dinner drink, while the wine list has no concession relative to central London e.g. Jermann Vintage Tunina was still £51. Also, the little supplements (three out of eight main courses, plus the special, had supplements of up to £5 attached) add up, water was a bit pricey, and quickly you end up with £75 a head including service, even though the base food cost is just £19 each. The dining room lacked charm, and the service was polished rather than charming, but it was still hard to find serious fault – ingredients were top notch and kitchen technique was generally very good.