Angel & Islington is one of my favourite places to eat. Upper Street surely has one of the best selections of excellent restaurants in London. So when I looked into Vivo and saw that they were placed at the top end of this street for foodies, I thought to myself that they had their work cut out to thrive in this den of excellence.
As you enter it is clear that the place is well geared up for lunches. A huge array of salads and meats are displayed under a large glass counter. For an evening meal, you are welcome to choose something from the deli counter, but we decided to go for the dining menu. The look the restaurateurs have achieved is excellent, beautifully decorated with an exposed stone wall running all along the far end of the restaurant.
Before we even looked at our menus we each had a cocktail, one Death in Florence and one Vivo Rosso. If you’re in the area and are just looking for a drink, go and try these cocktails, especially the Death in Florence. Really exciting and original flavours.
After ordering our starters the chef sent over a beautiful bruschetta with aubergine, mozzarella and arrabiatta sauce. I was half tempted to cancel my starter and order more of this beautiful bread dish, but I remembered that wasn’t really the object of the day.
And how glad I was that I stuck with my starter! Ravioli filled with potato and chive, with a chilli and pea puree is not something I would usually order, but, this is up there with the best I’ve tried. The smooth combination of potato and chive, with some expertly made pasta, is something that should be found on every Italian restaurant’s menu!
Along with that we had the equally unusual Milanese-style poached egg which is a crispy poached egg (don’t ask me how that was done!) nested inside a Parmesan basket. Apart from looking disconcertingly like a breaded lemon this was another triumph and yet another shame it’s not found on more menus.
In between our starters and mains the chef sent out another small taster, this time an example of his muscle pasta with pecorino and spicy ‘nduja. Thinking back as I write this now is making my mouth water and already I’m looking at my diary for when I can go back and try a larger portion of this dish.
Then the secondi! Whenever I had heard of the many courses you have during a traditional Italian meal I always thought it sounded like it would be far too much. That was until I went to Italy and experienced it for myself, finding that with superb quality, there can never be too much. As it was with our 5th and main course at Vivo – I was willing it to our table in anticipation of more excellent food.
The sea bream was excellent, a crispy skin, meaty flesh and beautiful sauce. However, this was only slightly outdone by the guinea fowl stuffed with mozzarella and spinach. This bird can sometimes be quite dry, due to its size, however there was no hint of dryness here – it was as moist as the sea from which the sea bream had sprung, and bursting with flavour.
The deserts were, unsurprisingly, divine and a small scuffle broke out between me and my girlfriend over the last of the cheesecake (she won).
If the thought of a 5-course meal followed by dessert doesn’t take your fancy (not sure why it wouldn’t!) you could of course go for a main alone, or you could opt for a selection from Vivo’s delicious deli counter offerings. These dishes are available to eat in, or as a take away throughout lunch or dinner service. They have a massive array of salads, pastas, fritatas, panini and of course…desserts. If I find myself in Angel of a lunch time any time soon, I know exactly where I’ll be headed!
Vivo really shined in every aspect of our meal that night – the service friendly and attentive, the drinks expertly mixed and one of a kind, the food traditional yet experimental. Truly, it deserves a place in one of the best parts of London for restaurants – it will outshine a lot of them.
Vivo – Islington
57 – 58 Upper Street, London, N1 0NY