Aglio e Olio

194 Fulham Road, London, United Kingdom

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This little Italian restaurant in the Fulham Road almost opposite the Chelsea and Westminster hospital, is named after a Neapolitan spaghetti dish with garlic and oil and has been open since 1998.  There is a basic wine list that doesn’t bother to list vintages or, in many cases, even the growers.  A generic description like “Chianti Classico” or Amarone del Valpolicella” is essentially useless when choosing a wine, as there are dozens of growers that fit that description, ranging widely in price. No chef would put a dish on a menu described as ”some sort of vaguely white meat” so why do the equivalent to wine?  The list of two dozen bottles started at £14.50 for “house wine”, at an average price fo £29, and went up to £51 for Moet and Chandon, which at least we can safely assume is the non-vintage, retailing at around £35.

No-one is going to come here for the décor. It feels like a canteen, with two rows of tables and simple décor involving a few black and white prints from Italian movies on the walls.  Hard surfaces translate to quite high noise levels, even at this mid-week lunch.  The menu was surprisingly lengthy, with several specials of the day in addition. Bread was bought from an Italian baker called Il Mulino in Wimbledon, the toasted sourdough being quite pleasant.

At this point I can’t say that first impressions were good: over-long menu, canteen décor, inept wine list and very basic service.  However things improved when the food turned up. A crab and avocado salad (£13.50) was very simple but nicely presented, the avocado ripe and the crab having decent flavour, the dressing for the leaves fairly well balanced though not involving especially good oil (12/20). Better was my main course of tagliatelle with wild mushrooms and black truffle £15.50). The pasta had good texture and there was a pleasing scent from the truffles; the mushrooms were cooked properly, and the only issue was that some were not cleaned perfectly, so there were a couple of gritty ones. Other than this it was a very good dish (13/20). I also tasted my companion’s dishes, a non-chewy squid starter and a very nicely cooked liver main course.

For dessert I tried zabaglione (£4.50). This deceptively simple dish is a risky dish to order in a restaurant, as it all too frequently arrives cold, over-sweet or with too much alcohol. I have to say that this was a very good version, the balance good between the egg yolks, sugar and marsala; the linguie di gatto (cat’s tongue) biscuits were clearly bought in and were not very good, but the zabaglione itself was excellent  (14/20).  Coffee was decent.

Service was basic but efficient. The bill came to £44 before tip with a glass of wine apiece. If you shared a modest bottle of wine from the enigmatic list then a typical cost per head might be around £55 with tip. I ended up being pleasantly surprised by the food here, and although the décor and service are nothing to write home about the cooking was capable.


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