Tuesday, 13 April 2010

La Porchetta review - pasta right up Islington's Upper street


Address: 141 Upper Street, London N1 1QY
Tel: 020 7288 2488
Nearest Tube station: Angel

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £20 pp
Service charge: 10%
Taste: ***
Service: ****
Ambience: **
Suitable for: those looking for something
better than Strada
These days we feel a bit lost without La Forchetta, the place that we normally headed to for reliable and affordable pasta. We walked past it last week again while strolling along Angel’s Upper Street. “Hey look,” I waved to Wife, “they have removed yet another piece of boarding, maybe it’ll reopen soon.” So it has come to this. Given a choice, I would probably squat outside the restaurant and bid my time.

Honestly, La Forchetta wasn’t even that good to begin with. It was the sort of place where you could just pop in for a pasta after work and not feel guilty about it thereafter. In the sense that it wouldn’t burn a hole in your pocket for I am never a person who would be guilty about all that carbo – I would just go get a looser pair of jeans.

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Wife emailed me at precisely 4.30pm that day. “Fancy pasta at La Porchetta?” read the email’s subject. Upon clicking on the email, I realized that she had called earlier and made a reservation at La Porchetta, which is further up along Upper Street that very evening. That’s what I adore about Wife really. She fully believes in consultation and we invariably reach an amicable agreement as in the case here.

Like La Forchetta, La Porchetta is a chain restaurant. In fact, there is another La Porchetta near Exmouth Market along Rosebery Avenue, a mere 15min walk away. But for some reason, we have never got a chance to pop in for a pasta.

“Welcome!” the burly head waiter with an white apron grinned widely as we stepped into La Porchetta. The only reason why I assumed that he was the lead staff was because he was the only guy who went around explaining which each dish on the menu was upon request. We were led to a table for two just beside the window. I felt jollier already as we were seated down.

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“Can I get you any drinks, sir?” Sensing my hesitation, he quickly continued, “What about some corretto?” and he went on to explain that espresso with grappa, an Italian brandy made from pressed grapes - just the drink that I needed at 9pm on a weekday.

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Surprisingly, the corretto (£2.80) went supremely well with the traditional bruschetta (£4.10) that we ordered for starters. The fresh tomato cubes on the toasted homemade bread doused in olive oil easily soothed the kick that a sip of corretto gave. Don’t be deceived by the utensils for the bruschetta is definitely meant to be eaten through deft maneuvering using ones’ fingers.

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It’s interesting how you can pick up certain things just by watching TV programs. I was watching Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes the other day and he was speaking to this Sardinian chef who was flabbergasted that spaghetti alla carbonara nowadays are made with parmesan cheese and bacon. That, to him, was nothing short of blasphemy. In his opinion, the real carbonara should be made with pecorino cheese and pancetta. The one served at La Porchetta was served with parmesan cheese and bacon but at £7.60 per serving, I guess I can’t complain, can I?

I thought that the spaghetti was a tad undercooked and the milk in the carbonara sauce was too much for my liking. Then again, my palate might be been damaged beyond repair by La Forchetta. All in all, the serving, like most spaghetti carbonara, was huge

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The linguini mare e monti (£9.95) that Wife ordered came with a couple of sizable peeled tiger prawns. While the parsley and chopped tomatoes added a peppery and tangy taste to the dish, the accompanying sliced chorizo came across as somewhat heavy. Not that I have any complain about that as most of it ended up on my already cleaned up plate by the end of the evening anyway.

The bill came up to more than double compared to our last visit to La Forchetta but we were more than satisfied as we left the restaurant two hours later. Well, though it is a further walk from Angel central, it would be a tough choice for me when La Forchetta reopen its doors.

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3 comments:

Su-Lin said...

Sounds like they cook the pasta to the Italian al dente!

I used to go to La Porchetta lots for pizza (now to Franco Manca as it's closer) as it used to be the best place in London for pizza, according to my former roommate (she was Italian). But that was a decade ago so not sure how the pizzas are now!

C K said...

@Su-Lin,
Thanks! Realised the part about al dente. An Italian colleague of mine told me that most pasta in Italy itself are cooked this way. It's a personal preference really, I thought that it was a bit too hard.

Hmm, I'll go for a pizza the next time I'm there. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I would not recommend this restaurant. I suffered from severefood poisioning there having eaten vegetairn food and I so disappointed at the lack of acknowledgement by the restaurant.

Very poor