45 Grafton Way, London, W1T 5DQ www.la-tagliata.com
An up-market Italian that creates simple, classy food in a warm environment
There’s something about big swinging whatsits that makes them like butch food that costs a lot, preferably washed down with some hearty red wines and even heartier banter.’Hey Mungo, you old bugger, how much did you bloody lose this morning?’
La Tagliata, its name comes from a classic Italian dish, has done pretty well over by Liverpool Street. It was never going to attract the steak hipsters, but men in suits liked it a lot and they have more disposable income.
Now it’s got another branch in what used to be itself hipster central before and just after the second world war, Fitzrovia. This was where artists and musicians would hang out it in what was then a pretty unloved postcode. It still feels a little seedy, but in a nice way, a comforting way. Men in suits would not feel comfortable here.
La Tagliata is very upmarket inside though. Warm and cosy and with a soothing colour scheme. A mirror at the end fools me into thinking it’s bigger than it is until I suddenly spot myself squinting back.
It has a menu that is all you’d expect from an Italian restaurant. Despite having the Best Restaurant In The World within its borders, Italian cuisine in London remains largely as it has been for decades, especially with’starters’ – selection of sliced meats, mozzarella and tomato, aubergine parmigiana etc. etc. Nothing wrong with any of those, but they don’t excite me anymore.
So, I skip and go for pasta as a starter; Linguine Alla Bottarga e Carciofi (pasta with capers, artichokes, anchovies, chili and roe of grey mullet Ã¢â‚¬Å“bottargaÃ¢â‚¬Â). It’s one of my favourites and one of the few pasta dishes I never make at home being too lazy to seek out bottarga. This is a very good example of it, although the chili is invisible.
The sauce’enrobes’ the pasta, as Nigella might smile to camera while raising her eyebrows, so that each forkful comes up rich and mouth-filling. The pasta is, as one would expect, perfectly cooked. A proper linguine too, not flat but rounded on one side.
Then for mains, being in La Tagliata I have to try the eponymous Tuscan dish, not least because I really wanted to use’eponymous’ in a review.
It is, in fact, basically steak with rocket, parmesan and cherry tomatoes. Simple as that. The steak is often marinated in garlic, red wine vinegar and maybe some rosemary first, but the main thing is it has to be cooked on a blindingly hot skillet and it has to be rare to medium. Anything more and it’s not worth eating.
So I was a bit surprised when the waitress asked me how I wanted the steak cooked, I was tempted to scream’properly!!’ and I am sure Ray Jayner would have done just that, but I could tell from her accent she was not herself Italian so simply said’rare please’.
It turned up just right; red to its very edges where the meat met caramelized perfection with the added joy of random salt flakes. Easy to cut, it was easy to eat too, no gristly bits and you could feel the rare meat melting as you chewed the seared sections. Packed with flavour and a perfect cut.
Adding rocket and parmesan to each forkful, and dabbing it in the balsamic reduction, made it even better. I was disappointed that the cherry tomatoes were bog-standard pale tasteless Dutch ones simply sliced into quarters, though. I was expecting vine tomatoes gently’popped’ on the hotplate and sweet as sugar. You can buy these tomatoes cheaply in Lidl, so there’s no need to use the insipid Dutch ones.
S has a similar dish but with tuna, not being much of a meat eater herself. This too is cooked correctly, just slightly seared. Eating fresh tuna cooked all the way through is just a terrible waste of good tuna, might as well eat the canned stuff, and this is actually very good tuna. It comes with radicchio and Belgian endive, and a pink pepper and leek dressing which is well-received. Simple dishes done well.
One gripe is that I forgot to order any sides, I had meant to order roast potatoes with garlic and rosemary, but somehow forgot. I would have however expected the waiter to have recommended a side without being asked, so we were both left a little hungry and vaguely annoyed.
S has the lemon tart next, a good palate cleanser after a fish like tuna. It’s pretty and fresh tasting but it’s not on every day. I have the Tiramisu, because I always do. It’s a generous one, but could have been a bit boozier. I still have some of my glass of Primitivo left, it was a great match with the steak but less so perhaps with tiramisu.
La Tagliata is all a modern capital city Italian should be, which is to say no trattoria clichÃƒÂ©s (not a giant pepper mill in sight) and the classics done just about perfectly and with top ingredients.
A bit more customer service, we hung our coats on the backs of our chairs as no one offered to take them, wouldn’t go amiss but otherwise it’s a class act.