I’ve been taking on the task of reviewing restaurants recently, it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it I suppose! I’ve mostly had delightful meals which have been very enjoyable and last night I was invited to review another one. Another Italian restaurant no less and as I’ve been to an exceptional one recently, it crossed my mind as to how this one would compare?
Making my way to Villagio in Hammersmith, another chain restaurant albeit a small one, with a not too dissimilar sounding menu to other Italian chain restaurants I have visited, I wondered what would make this one stand out? Would it even stand out at all?
Actually it became apparent from the moment we arrived and were greeted, before being shown to our seats, that it would. Quiet, unimposing and with a style of seats and tables which made me feel like I was dining abroad, perhaps in a little gem tucked away on the streets of Rome and not in the hustle bustle of Hammersmith London, we were already impressed with the ambiance my dining companion and I. Coming in from a humid rain spattered loud street close to the tube station and into the freshly air conditioned peace of Villagio was extremely welcome and it didn’t feel like a chain restaurant, it didn’t feel like a chain restaurant at all!
I hadn’t seen my friend Sam for a long time and as we caught up over a glass of very crisp and drinkable New Zealand Sauvingnon Blanc the waited hovered at just the right moments to ask us if we needed more time to order (we did) and re-fill our glasses. I didn’t feel rushed and I didn’t feel like anyone was bothered that we had been sitting with our menus closed as we marched through a highlighted version of our last few months.
Catch up complete and on to the more important topics of gossip and we finally looked at our menus only to be stumped. We wanted to try everything and didn’t want to put all our eggs in one basket as it were. With choices such as Arancini Rice Balls, Goat’s Cheese Ciabatta and Calamari to start we simply had to go for a sharing platter of Anti-Pasto Caldi so that we could try the lot. Some might say we were piggy to have asked for bread as well but I feel if you’re going out for Italian food then you really must have some bread, balsamic and olive oil. I also think olives are a must but my friend does’t like them – sacrilege in my opinion – so we didn’t have any of those!
Hands down the best calamari I’ve had in this country, soft and light so as it just melts on the tongue in seconds; it was perfection with a crispy, yet not a greasy streak in sight, coating. The goats cheese was just as I prefer it, melted and oozing with delicious caramalised onions hidden as a sweet surprise underneath. My only complaint would be that the rice balls tasted a little too oily for me, they were still delicious but I wish I had only eaten one as they became a little too much. The breads were tasty and although Sam and I were politely cutting pieces of the tomato and pesto bread in a fair way, I could tell it could quite easily have come to fisticuffs with knives if we weren’t so demure and polite! Although I’m sure the waiter, who again had refilled our glasses of both water and wine while we weren’t looking, must have thought we might go pop after our starter feast but brought us our mains swiflty. We had had such difficulty in deciding upon our final choices so vast were the menu options.
Yes, the picture above DOES look rather suspiciously like we had THREE main courses when there was just the two of us doesn’t it. It wasn’t gov, honest! We decided to go for pasta (it felt like a pasta day) although we could have had pizza, grilled meats, fish dishes or salad and I decided that although it may seem like a safe and boring option, that I would opt for the Spaghetti Carbonara. I love Carbonara, it’s one of the few dishes I can cook myself rather well and I would always choose it for a pasta dish. Safe in one respect but I’ve had some pretty bad ones in the past. I think if you get Carbonara just right then you’re on to a winner, it may sound easy but it really isn’t. This one was DELICIOUS and almost had a sweetness to it which came from the pancetta. I loved it! Sam went for Salsiccia Rigatoni and asked for it to be not too spicy. It came just as she’d ordered it.
We both wanted a side salad to share but we decided to ask if it was possible to have the daily special of a seafood salad made smaller for a side rather than just a green salad. Of course said the waiter with a look as if to say ‘do you need to ask’ and we tucked in to the delicious prawns and a fresh pallet cleansing dressing. The meal was utterly delightful and washed down with good wine made it even better!
Could we manage a desert after all that excess? Of course we could!
Torta Della Nonna for Sam and I chose the cheesecake of the day which was lemon. I obviously tried both and I can declare it was a draw! I always do a mental ‘who has won’ in their choices when in a restaurant but there was no clear winner here! My cheesecake was so light I am going to pretend it was calorie free and Sam’s Torta was nutty and unctious!
Would I trek all the way over to Hammersmith to go to Villagio again? Yes! Absolutely. We had an amazingly delicious meal that was priced around any other regular Italian chain restaurant. This one really didn’t feel like a chain though and as there aren’t that many of them perhaps that’s why they have managed to keep that independent feel. I didnt take the children last night but I wouldn’t hesitate to take them in the future; the children’s set meal of three courses with a drink for £5.75 is very reasonable. There was a family dining with children and they all seemed very happy. Good food washed down with good wine and fabulous company in which to do it. Lovely!
For more information about Villagio and to find one near you please see their website www.villagiorestaurants.co.uk.
I have not been paid to write this post but I was invited for a complimentary meal at Villagio in Hammersmith for the purpose of review.