The Park Tavern is large late Victorian pile of a pub situated on the Wandsworth approaches of the Merton road. It’s just around the ... Read Feature
Know your plates, the art of not ordering the wrong thing
It was a Saturday night, and I fancied a bit of a treat, you know what I mean some posh drinks and a satisfying dinner. What neither me or the Ultimate Rugby fan (URF) wanted to do was go into town, we were both keen on staying local.
As I’ve said before, one of the joys of living in South West London is the great choice of nightlife we have around here, and there’s usually somewhere new to try. For us this time it was cocktails at the Walrus Room, which whilst not exactly brand new, has only been serving up the good stuff on Battersea Rise for a couple of years.
The Walrus Room is decorated in a manner which I’d describe as lottery winning grandmother at a jumble sale. There’s old photos, stuffed animals etc. it feels a bit by the numbers quirky. The cocktails though were up to West End standards, and at about £10 a pop only slightly more expensive than the more mass market sugary concoctions available further down Battersea Rise in B@1 and The Adventure Bar.
Though I found it about as edgy as a temporary tattoo, I would say that the Walrus Room was about the most pleasant place I’ve found for pre-dinner drinks in CJ area. It must have been good as I managed two drinks to the URF’s solo effort.
So much for the curtain raiser, then and well worth it was as well. For the main attraction, we were headed for one of my favourite Italian restaurants, Osteria Antico Bologna which has been dishing up quality Italian food on the Northcote Road for over a quarter of a century now.
Situated near the Battersea Rise end, Osteria is near directly opposite that other stalwart of Mediterranean cooking Buena Sera. Dining here though is a very different experience, with the decor tending to accent calming beiges & browns, rather than the wakey wakey bright whites and peppermint greens of its competitor.
Here the accent is on traditional northern Italian fare, the menu heavily featuring pastas and hearty country dishes and unless I’m very much mistaken not a pizza in sight. The wine list is comprehensive leaning heavily to Italian regional choices, and reminiscent of the sort of encyclopaedias of wine that my father used to be handed when we dined out in the 80’s.
We started with arancine, delicious properly crispy balls of rice and peas. Proof the simple food done well is of course one the great pleasures of life, and that sticking with what you know is not always a bad thing. This is of course where we went wrong.
So Osteria is known for its pasta dishes, pasta is heavily featured on the menu and comes with sauces devised to tempt the Gods. You’d have to be made of strong stuff to turn down toppings made of wild boar ragu or fresh west country crab, well that’s exactly what we did.
For my main I went with lamb cutlets from the specials board, whilst the URF went for the sirloin steak. The lamb cutlets were nice if perhaps a touch too underdone even for me, but the steak well that’s a different story.
Why oh why oh why do restaurants continue to put steak on the menu, charge the Earth for it and not do a particularly good job. Friends of mine always ask why you’d order steak at an establishment that specialises in a national cuisine, again it’s a bit like ordering the chicken and chips at a Chinese. For me though if you put something on the menu it should be done with the care that all the other dishes are.
The URF’s steak was cooked well in parts, not so well in other parts and overdone in the rest. It was like it’d been stuck on some sort of lucky dip grill were only parts of it were actually lit. To say it was salty would be like describing the ocean as wet, the bit I tried tasted almost entirely of salt with subtle undertones of beef.
To add insult to injury we got talking to a pair of Canadians sitting next to us who had ordered, you guessed it, the crab and the wild boar pasta and looked as happy as someone who’d found an unexpected and substantial cheque in the post.
The evening ended well though with the URFs invention of espresso Baileys, pretty much dropping a shot of espresso in a Baileys, stimulating and delicious. I’ve had many good meals at Osteria and will be back, but returning to what I said, even if you’re putting steak on the menu just to satisfy customers who are have an aversion to adventure with their taste buds, you should make it something you’d be proud off, not just something else to put in the upper quartile of your price list.
Till next time
The Walrus Room,
Osteria Antica Bologna,