It was as if we were wandering the cobbled streets of Rome as we ducked into a little side road in the heart of The City.
There’s something special about the City of London – old buildings with their original facades standing next to sleek, modern architecture. Roma has captured this juxtaposition well with its contemporary interior design, chilled music and authentic, traditional dishes.
We were greeted by our waitress Sarah who guided us to a table by the window, inviting us to get comfortable in grand, high-backed chairs. A glass of fizz was brought over and we opened our menus ready to choose where this Italian culinary experience would take us.
As you would in Italy, we commenced with antipasti. We were offered a small dish to try, which was a perfectly toasted crostini, topped with borlotti beans and an olive. Borlotti beans are frequently used in Italian cooking and with their sweet and creamy texture they complemented the well seasoned, soft yet crunchy bread.
Whilst ordering our starters a basket of fresh bread with oil and balsamic arrived at our table. Maybe my face gave something away as our waitress said, “In Italy, people don’t leave a restaurant hungry.” I could tell it would be the same here!
I started with a generous portion of mussels and clams served with a lovage dipping sauce. The shellfish was perfectly meaty and boasted a subtle sea flavour, accompanied by the intense celery-like flavour that the lovage gave the broth. The slight hint of red chilli gave a gentle heat throughout the dish. Using the char-grilled bread, I made sure to soak up as much of the remaining juices as possible.
My guest chose the scallops. He was presented with 3 perfectly cooked scallops sitting on a bed of smooth red pepper puree and topped with pancetta. The knife glided through each scallop as easy as slicing warm butter. The saltiness and crispiness of the pancetta made for a great combination. As pleasing as his starter was it didn’t stop him from eyeballing my bowl of mussels…Of course, I was generous enough to share!
I don’t usually order pork, however, I was tempted by the picture of this dish I’d seen earlier on Roma’s website. We were told this dish is cooked to a traditional Italian recipe. The chef butterflies the pork belly and adds lots of rosemary, it’s then rolled and cooked at a low temperature for many hours. The pork was so tender it fell apart as soon as I started to cut the meat. The outer layer of crispy crackling contrasted so well, especially as it had taken much of the flavour of the casserole sauce.
To accompany my pork I chose the tenderstem broccoli, which had been sautéed with garlic and finished with spicy chilli and a little sweet balsamic glaze.
The wine list is vast and our waitress mentioned she was also the sommelier. Perhaps with fish dishes, a white wine may have been more suited, however, my guest and I fancied a bottle of red and asked for a recommendation. The Nero D’Avola, Corte Ferro 2014 from Southern Rome was the suggestion. Its aromatic and sweet yet mellow notes, was a wine, we were told we could both enjoy with our meals.
Italian summer dishes don’t get much better than a big bowl of fresh shellfish and linguine dressed with cherry tomatoes, garlic and chilli. This dish, that my guest chose, lived up to every expectation; it was beautifully presented and highly colourful. The large tiger prawns stood out from the rest, they were so tender yet meaty and really did melt in the mouth. The pasta was cooked al dente, as you would expect, and there was plenty of it!
A light, colourful, salad perfectly matched the linguine alla pescatora. The bitterness of the chicory and peppery rocket leaves alongside sweet tomatoes was a refreshing pallet cleanser between mouthfuls.
We really weren’t going to leave the restaurant hungry and even though we were rather full, the waitress brought over a sweet treat. Currently not on the menu, the chef has brought his mother’s recipe for cannoli to London. The dessert is a firm crispy pastry tube, piped with soft ricotta with hints of orange and chocolate, sprinkled with walnuts.
In September, Roma will be launching its Italian version of afternoon tea, so watch this space and make sure to try these!
You can’t have an Italian meal and not finish with a double espresso. My guest and I sat back in our comfy chairs, drank our coffee and took a moment to people watch. Roma is a hidden, city gem and one worth a visit. Whether you’re looking for a date spot, dinner with friends or trying to woo a client, the delicious, traditional menu and friendly attentive service will surely impress.
Roma Bar & Restaurant
14 New London Street, London, EC3R 7NA