Italian In The Heart Of… Homerton??
Venerdi, 9 Chatsworth Road, London E5 0LH22
Last Thursday, my mum decided to treat me to a meal out for my birthday. She’d heard about a place close to Homerton Hospital where she works, an Italian place which is quite popular among the staff at the hospital (I’m not surprised, seeing as they get a 15% discount).
The weather had been lovely all day, a sign that Winter was finally over. I’d been up Tottenham Court Road earlier in the day to buy some new threads, and had not eaten much apart from a light breakfast. So now I was hungry. By the time my mum, her boyfriend and I arrived, I could hear my stomach grumbling and some of the aromas coming from the semi-open kitchen tantalised me even more.
Sure enough, a large group from the hospital was there and my mum went to say hi. The waiting staff pushed a table over to theirs so that we could join them. I had sneaked a look at the menu online earlier that day and I knew what I was having – “Spaghetti Alla Bottarga” – which was spaghetti with king prawns, fresh clams, garlic, white wine, chilli and bottarga, which is cured fish roe, in this case grey mullet. I broke my no-drinking-during-the-week resolution and had a Birra Moretti. It was my birthday after all.
The service was incredibly fast! I’ve been served slower at a McDonald’s. Any faster and I would have been a bit suspicious that this food had been sitting on the side waiting for somebody to order it. But the steam rising from the pile of spaghetti and assorted frutti di mare convinced me otherwise.
The pasta was spot on, the prawns had a nice fleshy texture and tasted fresh and not at all bland like prawns can sometimes be, and the clams were plentiful and also very fresh tasting. But the real winner of this dish was the bottarga (the orange stuff). A really good ingredient which gave a subtle yet profound taste and did a good job of pulling the whole dish together. There was also chilli just lingering in the background along with a hint of garlic to round things off. I could not detect any traces of white wine but then again this was not a sauce-heavy dish rather than a case of embellishing good ingredients and preparation methods. It hit the spot for me although I would have liked a bigger portion. I’ve already mentioned that I was super hungry that day but even on a normal day I would have tackled two of these.
Compared to my mum’s pizza on the other hand… this thing was enormous…
…and that was nothing. The calzone I’d seen were of the kind of size that you normally get a T-shirt for finishing. In fact she only ate half of it and took the rest home for the next day (which I ate!!) She’d gone for the “Nettuno” – tomato, mozzarella, tuna and red onion. A simple combination of flavours which sat nicely on top of a well-made base. When I asked her how it was, she replied “Tasty”. It was even tastier the next morning, as pizza often is! I’d say it was an above average pizza.
My mum’s boyfriend is the world’s fussiest eater. His diet consists of about seven or eight different dishes that he knows he likes, just in a different order. So when he saw that there was no spaghetti bolognese on the menu he started to panic and break out into a cold sweat until my mum pointed out that it was under the guise of “Spaghetti Al Ragu”, as it should be. We won’t go into the fact that ragu sauce is not traditionally served with spaghetti in Italy. We just happen to like it like that over here, okay? And it’s one of the only meals that he will eat without complaint. So lay off will you. He enjoyed it. And that’s all that mattered.
After a brief conference, me and my mum decided we had room for a dessert, and when the menu came we opted to share a “Torta Della Nonna” – or in layman’s terms, a shortcrust pastry with lemon-flavoured patisserie cream, decorated with pine nuts and a hint of lemon, dusted with icing sugar.
While initially I thought it would be a bit dry, when I took my first bite I was reminded to never judge a book by its cover or a pie by its crust. Moist, sweet and flavoursome, this was the highlight of the meal for me. And I very rarely go crazy over dessert. Second bite, and the sauce turned up the flavour and accelerated it like a Lamborghini Murcielago tearing up the circuit at Monza. This was one spectacularly good dessert.
As we paid the bill we were given a complimentary shot of Limoncello, which was a nice touch. Note to any restaurant staff reading this: If you want to get good reviews, give free alcohol.
Thanks Mum for the birthday treat. You’re the best 🙂
*4/5 if you work at Homerton Hospital, thus qualifying for the discount.