A green oasis in High Street Ken, Como Garden is bloomin’ good Italian done with style

‘I think it’s plastic,’ says J, after thoughtfully rubbing some of the foliage between his fingers, ‘or some kind of fabric. It’s very realistic though’.

It certainly is, but not as realistic as the spreading olive tree in the centre of the restaurant, where happy couples sit enjoying the rather romantic atmosphere. We don’t sit there ourselves though as we’re two grizzly old geezers. The romantic lighting does not help my old ‘phone, sorry about the pictures.

Como Garden certainly lives up to the ‘garden’ bit. Inspired by the region around  Lake Como, it’s located on a corner spot in High Street Kensington where it has really pulled off the outside/inside bit very well, creating a modern but cosy ‘green’ space that is deliciously warm on this the coldest night of 2023 (so far). It even has some outside tables laid up, but I can’t imagine anyone would want to use them tonight, even though they are basking in the expensive glow of patio heaters.

It’s busy here with all ages represented, the decor and style being amenable to everyone  from older couples having a night out, to millennials who mostly seem to be wearing clothes more suited to a tropical beach. High Street Kensington is very much one of London’s chicer villages, a wealthy one, and Como Garden has the feel of somewhere that’s local and reliable for the well-heeled locals.

It’s sister to the Latin restaurant Zuaya London, just around the corner, and El Norte, a rather expensive Spanish restaurant in Mayfair, all owned and run by Spanish brothers Alberto and Arian Zandi. We have reviewed both, check the links.

Classy is the brothers’ jam, check out the cream leather seats here, but unlike so many restaurants aimed at the international rich, they also make sure their food is worth the reasonable price.

Como Garden is a ‘tapas’ Italian, which is an unusual concept, but workable to an extent. It works particularly well with antipasti where we order up a table full so that we can share it out with ease.

Vitello Tonnato is one of my favourite things, an alliance of sliced rose veal in a kind of tuna mayo and whole capers, a marriage that sounds all wrong, but actually tastes all right. I like it done rustically with the mayonnaise swamping the veal, here it comes in small isolated blobs on top. Very tasty, but not enough for me, as I am a gourmet who has been known to eat mayo out of my fridge at 3 am.

We drink good negronis and share arancini made with parmesan and fontina cheese, the rice creamy and the exterior deep fried to a crisp golden sheen, and pick at a bowl of zucchini (courgette) fritters in panko breadcrumbs. Some of these have lost a bit of their crispness from kitchen to table, but are still very addictive. Oven Baked Stuffed Red Peppers, are rammed full of herby pork, which we like a lot, and the peppers themselves are properly baked down to a rich and slippery sweetness.

Mindful of overdoing it too early in the match, we are careful with our Primi pasta course. We want just the one dish to share, but which one? They all sound tempting, but we can’t have anything with long pasta, such as spaghetti or tagliatelle, lest we end up looking like the dogs in The Lady and The Tramp.

So for ease we pick Truffle & Ricotta Tortelloni alla Carbonara, which are easily shared. There’s a heady aroma of truffle, and the creamy coated bits of pancetta are a salty treat. And yes we do tussle over the last silky smooth one.

Pausing with a satisfied sigh to look around I note the amiable manager is doing what a good maitre’d should, his eyes are everywhere making sure each table is happy and he directs his team calmly and with purpose, even as he checks in on guests for a chat and a smile. Service in restaurants has really suffered since the pandemic, but here it’s on point.

We pick Grilled Octopus with Gremolata & Roasted Potatoes, and Marinated Truffle Chicken with Mashed Potatoes for our main dishes. The cephalopod is soft and sweet and charred in all the right places and the roast potatoes, which I was a bit doubtful about, are actually a perfect match. Good crispy exteriors and soft, fluffy, insides.

Chicken is chicken, it’s not what I would choose in a restaurant, unless it’s a KFC, but J is happy with his dish as he really loves truffles. This  combined with excellently creamy mashed potatoes it’s a relatively simple dish but done very well but it’s a large portion and he can’t finish it all.

And so to Dolci,  and J indicates from an almost prone position that he can eat no more, but ever the professional I order up a Torta Di Mandorle & Pistachio Gelato. Mandorle are almonds and together with the ice cream this makes a dish not suitable for anyone with nut allergies.

I am fine though , it’s a rich tart, with a fair bit of sugar and butter, as per tradition, but the ice cream cuts it very well, along with a glass of grappa. The next table is having the Como Signature Meringue Torta, perhaps the largest slice of cake I have ever seen. They don’t finish it, I am not surprised. We leave lurching a bit, but happy.

Offering an elevated ‘local Italian’ experience, at a price that’s very reasonable for the area, Como Garden is the kind of place I’d come back to again and again if I lived here.

37-45 Kensington High St, London W8 5ED