41 High Street, Harrow, London HA1 3HT www.incanto.co.uk
Less than a 30 minute drive from central London, Incanto restaurant is located in the affluent leafy green suburbs of Harrow-on-the-Hill, a stone’s throw away from the prestigious Harrow school. Set in a former 19th century post office, the front of the restaurant is a delicatessen-cum-café with a few scattered tables and some window seating, attracting locals with its Italian produce and quick-fixes like Italian coffee, sandwiches and assorted cheeses and salumi.
We pass the deli to enter the main restaurant; an airy space with plenty of natural light peering the full length sky light ceiling and elegant beige leather banquettes and dark wood tables. Thankfully there isn’t a single pristine white table cloth in sight and in my opinion; Italian dining should be elegant but infinitely less starched and fussy than the stuffy traditions of French dining.
We are served plump and bright green Sicilian olives and are informed that our fresh bread is just coming out of the oven. Two words help me identify my starter immediately. ‘Black Truffle” – served as part of the homemade Ravioli filled with free range egg and black truffle and my guest, ever the lover of seasonal dishes, chooses the St Enodoc Cornish asparagus with Cheltenham salt roasted beetroot and a pea and mascarpone mousse.
Presented on a beautiful grey slate, the asparagus are perfectly cooked and enrobed in a subtle dressing with lashings of parmesan, which is simply the best way to eat them. The beetroots are lovely also, but the pea and mascarpone mousse is under-seasoned and a tad out of place on the dish. The generous spears of thick asparagus and tender roasted beetroot are more than enough to satisfy. I cut into one of my Raviolo and in an unexpected twist, bright yellow egg yolk oozes out of the delicate pasta parcel, just like a runny centre of a fried egg. I cannot explain how decadent this dish is when combined with black truffle, it is literally one of the best Ravioli dishes I have ever had.
My starter is a tough act to follow but never afraid of a gargantuan hunk of meat, I have to go with the char-grilled ‘T-bone’ veal steak with potato pave with Porcini sauce, Morel Mushrooms and Walnuts and my chooses Scottish lobster Tagliolini in a tomato and saffron sauce. My enormous cut of meat arrives and in all honesty it would comfortably feed myself and a friend, but ‘being sensible’ it not in my genes when it comes to food. I tend to look at every plate as a mountain that needs to be climbed and waste no time conquering my ‘Everest’ of-a-veal ‘T-Bone’.
The meat is perfectly cooked, delivering the promised charring that so many other restaurants fail to deliver. The first mouthful is flurry of juicy, pink tender veal with charred, crispy fat finished and a little smokiness that makes my choice unbeatable. Although very nice, the accompaniments of this dish can only pale in comparison to the veal; much like a George Clooney movie, it will always be the headline act that gets your attention and not so much the extras. The lobster Tagliolini is delicious with fresh handmade noodles with a rich and lustrous sauce studded with meaty lobster chunks and crowned with a lobster head – no doubt the innocent victim of my guest’s main course choice.
At this point I am ridiculously stuffed, too stuffed to even breathe. ‘Dessert menu? Oh yes please!” – Will my stupidity never cease? Tiramisu for her and for me, the classic vanilla pannacotta with a not-so-classic accompaniment of fried bananas and pecan nut ice cream. Tiramisu is straight forward and just as it should be, no more, no less. My pannacotta is served in a martini style dessert glass topped with not-so-fried (thankfully) bananas and an unnecessary accompaniment of nice enough pecan ice cream. The dessert is rich and creamy although I would be just as happy with a simple pannacotta with nothing accompanying it other than a spoon… good times.
In Italian, the word ‘Incanto’ means charm or enchantment and I would say those are pretty apt descriptives for what the restaurant has going for it. The food is surprisingly good and the staff are particularly lovely – a winning combination for a girl like me. Throw in a shop-front deli brimming with Italian goodies and I’m the happiest glutton in town! I wish more restaurants could deliver true Italian cookery like this, that is unpretencious yet skilled and incredibly flavoursome at the same. Incanto has most definitely charmed me and I always know when I’m onto a good thing and Incanto, is most definitely a very good thing.