This Italian restaurant has been in Holland Park for fifteen years, and is so near the west side of the borough that it is perilously close to being in Shepherds Bush. The dining room is long and narrow, with a further section at the back of the restaurant. I once read that the quality of an Italian restaurant is in inverse proportion to the number of black and framed photos of celebrities on its walls, in which case some amber warning lights should have been going off in my head here: there was a picture of Clark Gable and a host of other movie star photos duly hanging in the dining room. The room was well lit, and had small tables with crisp white linen tablecloths.
The menu offered fairly standard Italian fare, and the winelist was exclusively Italian, organised by region. It included labels such as Castelfeder Vom Stein Pinot Bianco Sudtirol 2015 at £37 for a bottle that you find in the high street for £11, Ca’ del Baio Valgrande Barbaresco 2014 at £62 compared to its retail price of £29, and the lovely Antinori Tignanello 2014 at £160 for a wine that will set you back £79 in the shops. There were posher bottles too, such at Cantine Argiolas Turriga 1995 at £450 compared to its retail price of £140, and the same wine of the 1988 vintage at £850 for a wine whose current market value is £830.
A starter of artichoke salad had fresh but rather flavourless artichokes with lemon juice and finely chopped herbs, topped with a pile of frisee lettuce and shaved Parmesan. This was harmless but rather dull (just about 12/20). Better was wild boar ragu with papardelle. The pasta had good texture and the ragu had fairly punchy flavour and was well seasoned (13/20).
Tagliolini of crab involved freshly made pasta, some tomatoes and a few finely chopped herbs. The white crab meat was fine but included a piece of shell, which was a pity. The pasta itself again had nice texture (13/20). For my main course I tried “black truffle risotto” (at £30). These truffles were from Umbria, and were the cheaper winter truffle (tuber brumale vittadini) rather than true black truffles (tuber melanosporum vittadini) though I will say that they had at least some fragrance when freshly grated, suggesting that these were good quality and reasonably fresh (truffles lose their flavour within days of leaving the ground) within their type. The risotto rice used was Arborio, and the texture was acceptable though not the very best (13/20). In my experience the very best risotto is made using carnaroli rice, and the best of all uses a particular brand called Acquerello, which is carnaroli that has been aged for a number of years. That is the rice you will encounter if you have risotto at somewhere like an Alain Ducasse restaurant.
Dessert was actually a notch up from the savoury courses. Lemon tart had good pastry and nicely balanced filling (14/20). Panna cotta of coffee was suitably wobbly and had plenty of coffee flavour, accompanied by good pisatchio ice cream (14/20). Coffee was from Drury tea and Coffee in Woolwich, and was good.
Service was professional but remarkably sombre. We must have interacted with at least six members of staff from receptionist to manager, and I didn't detect a smile all evening from any of them except when customers left the restaurant; perhaps it had been a tough night. The bill came to £100 a head with a good but not excessive bottle of wine, though that did include the costly truffle risotto. If you ordered three courses and coffee and shared a moderate bottle of wine then the bill would come to about £60 each, which is quite a lot objectively, especially when you can eat quite nearby at the better l’Amorosa for less money.