Assaggetti – Informal Italian Dining in the Heart of London:
I’ve been to Assaggetti before, for a media event where the large lower ground floor dining room was the venue for drinks and canapés. On that particular occasion I was going on to another event and didn’t really get much of a chance to look around.
So, lunch seemed like a good idea;)
We started with an aperitif – prosecco for me and a rather nice orangy drink called Aperol for the Hedonist. And ordered a selection of small dishes to start. The Assaggetti menu is perfect for grazing, with lots and lots of dishes priced between £3 and £6 so that you could, if you chose, just order a selection of those. There are pizzettine which we didn’t sample but which looked rather good and a whole selection of other small dishes to choose from including cold meats, seafood and a range of antipastini.
We had some focaccia to go with our splendid olives, ‘messy polenta’, calamari and creamy burratta. The calamari was crisply battered and served with a slice of lime.
Burratta came with slices of not quite ripe enough tomato and a single basil leaf. I loved the cheese itself and will blame the tomato on the appalling weather across the UK and the fact that I am just back from Tuscany where there was just a little more sun!
The polenta WAS splendidly messy, oozing with cheese and served in a small baking dish.
Really quite a good way to start a meal.
Of our mains, the black risotto with cuttlefish was a little disappointing and watery but my Tuscan sausages were exactly what I wanted on a chilly day in May, beautifully meaty and served on a bed of kale. I really enjoyed the aubergine stew too, which was rich and warm and which I would happily have eaten with just a chunk of focaccia.
Service was friendly and informative and on a wet Wednesday lunchtime, the place was busy without being over crowded.
Assaggetti is just off Picadilly Circus almost opposite the Haymarket theatre and well positioned for pre-theatre or post-theatre dining. The menu is perfect if you are looking for light, informal food. Though this is by no means a gourmet experience, pricing reflects that. By Central London standards most dishes on the menu are very reasonable, with our mains around £10 and with the sides and small plates all less that £6. And, thankfully, the drinks menu is also exceptionally reasonable which, in my experience can be a rare combination. On balance I think the small dishes were better presented and better value than our mains – and more fun to order and eat too – and I wish I’d tried the pizzettine;)
Disclosure: We dined at Assaggetti as guests of the restaurant.
Assaggetti is on 71 Haymarket, St James’s