Andy Mossack gets a taste of sharing Italian tapas at Como Garden restaurant in Kensington.
Como Garden on London’s Kensington High Street is one of three restaurants owned and run by the Zandi brothers. The Spanish siblings opened their first resto with Latin-American themed Zuaya just off Kensington High Street, and quickly followed it with Como Garden literally next door, before recently completing the triangle with El Norte in Mayfair.
Como Garden is strategically in the perfect position. Practically opposite the immense Royal Garden Hotel, the opportunities to hoover up any guests looking for a trusted neighbourhood Italian are more than plentiful if it can deliver the goods. And fortunately, I think it certainly does that.
Inside, Como Garden feels like the garden patio of a lakeside Italian villa with plenty of greenery everywhere, and even a gnarled olive tree sprouts proudly in the centre of the room. The only noticeable difference is the food, which doesn’t just stop at Lombardy but takes us into every corner of Italy including Sicily.
With Spanish owners, the concept of tapas-style sharing plates shouldn’t be a surprise, so why not use it with Italian cuisine too? Works for me. As my waiter was quick to point out: “Our menu is based around a sharing concept, we suggest 3 to 4 dishes per person. Each dish is freshly prepared, and we bring out your food as soon as it’s ready.”
I suddenly had a mental image of an Italian momma hard at work in her family cucina bashing out enough food to feed an army from recipes handed down through the generations. As it happened, the impending feeding frenzy was somewhat more refined, but the authenticity of the dishes was spot on.
A little chef’s present got my taste buds up and running and fine-tuned into Italian. An absolute belter chestnut soup with truffled cream. It was tucked into a tiny cup but overflowed with flavour.
With the Italian vibe now on full steam ahead, I kicked off with a couple of antipasti plates. Arancini with Parmesan & Fontina Cheese (£4.75 each). This Sicilian staple arrived sitting proudly in its own metal pan, a crispy breaded pyramid with a drizzle of sweet honey and topped with a sprig of coriander. The cheese combo worked very well; parmesan is what it is, but mixed with the Alpine nuttiness of fontina, a melting cheese from the Aosta Valley in northwest Italy, it gave the flavours a real boost. Really liked that.
My other starter was a plate of six crunchy zucchini batons stacked in two sets of threes (£5.50). Lightly fried without a hint of oil, they were a delightful nibble.
I decided to forgo a pasta course, despite the obvious attraction of it being freshly made and the temptation of more than a few enticing choices and dive straight into a main.
This was where things got complicated. Do I pick some comforting tomato & parmesan beef meatballs (£13) or perhaps sea bass with cherry tomatoes, olives and capers (£18.50). In the end, I went for a tagliata as it is my favourite Italian meat dish.
Slices of tender sirloin steak cooked with salt and olive oil (£19.50). It’s normally served on a bed of tomatoes and rocket, but as this was tapas style, I got it as a separate side dish. As an extra treat, I ordered another Sicilian favourite – caponata. A bowl of slowly fried aubergines with tomato and roasted pine nuts in an agrodolce sauce (£8). It’s not unlike melanzane parmigiana but without the parmigiana and with an added sweet and sour flavour courtesy of the agrodolce. From my recollection of eating caponata out in Palermo, this one certainly held its own and memories of the old capital came flooding back.
Of course, washing it all down with a glass or two of Sicilian Nero d’Avola (£7.50 per glass) made it all the more memorable.
Finally, as with all great Italian meals, the dolci awaited and my particular favourite, panna cotta (£7) was on the menu. I always do a wobble test with panna cotta to check it’s not set too firm. Using a strong shake, to pass the test it needs to wobble well without sliding and although this one failed to wobble, it nevertheless tasted delicious.
For me, Italian tapas works just as well as the Spanish original, and Como Garden is Kensington’s answer to an authentic Italian neighbourhood eatery. Full marks to the Zandi brothers for the concept, and I suspect it won’t be too long before Kensington’s yummy mummies discover it as their bolt hole for coffee and dolci.
All food images (c) Andy Mossack. Featured image (c) Jack Hardy
Tell me more about Como Garden restaurant in Kensington
Como Garden restaurant 37 Kensington High Street, Kensington, London W8 5ED
T: 020 7937 7287 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday to Saturday: 12pm – 11.30pm Sunday: 12pm – 11pm
Terrace Dining: 12pm – 10.30pm