La Brocca – West Hampstead

Reviewed on September 22nd, 2014 by Dina

It had been many years ago that I had been to La Brocca and I remember it to have been a lovely restaurant. It was going to be interesting to see if it would still be just as good this time round. The hope was that it would be especially as it was a belated birthday meal for my friend.

La Brocca is split into the bar and the restaurant, with the bar on the street level and the restaurant on the lower level. The restaurant entrance is separate and it is down the steep stairs. The bar was heaving the evening we went and we had to squeeze past the customers to get to the restaurant entrance.

The staff welcomed us into the restaurant and we were given a table towards the back of La Brocca. The restaurant was fairly dimly lit and it looked that the outside area had been decorated with lots of greenery and plants.

La Brocca Pumpkin RavioliLa BroccaLa Brocca PizzaLa Brocca InteriorLa Brocca Mint TeaLa Brocca Interior 2

Pizza and pasta was our meal for the evening and it was all freshly cooked. The staff were really friendly and let us customise the San Remo pizza into a vegetarian one. Originally, the San Remo pizza had toppings of baby spinach, mushrooms, egg and Parma ham. The ham and the egg were replaced with roasted red peppers and onion. A crisp base, an intense flavoursome tomato sauce, lots of vegetables, all topped with fresh baby spinach made this a perfect pizza.

Big pillows of the fresh pasta ravioli were stuffed with the orange pumpkin and served steaming hot. The sauce was made of plenty of juicy cherry tomatoes and was fairly spicy. The sweet soft pumpkin was a great contrast to the spicy heat of the sauce.

Fresh mint leaves steeped in hot water made the mint tea. It was served with slices of lemon.

La Brocca was just as good as it had been many years ago and it seems like this restaurant is a timeless place. It does simple no fuss Italian cuisine with big bold flavours and great freshness.

La Brocca, 273 West End Lane, West Hampstead, London, NW6 1QS

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Ristorante Al Paradiso – Venice

Reviewed on June 18th, 2014 by Dina

The original place that we had in mind was a pizza place called Antico Forno. But when we arrived there, it was a take away place and we wanted somewhere with a sit down dining area.

Antico Forno was visited a couple of other lunchtimes and it did do one of the best pizzas. Big freshly cooked pizza slices with generous toppings and a tasty pizza base too. The hard part was always deciding which pizza to choose as they all looked so good. Sitting by the Grand Canal with pizza from Antico Forno, nothing could be more blissful!

Now onto Ristorante Al Paradiso which was only a short walk away from Antico Forno. Ristorante Al Paradiso was slightly hidden away in one of the side streets but not too far from the main restaurants lining the Grand Canal.

Ristorante Al ParadisoRistorante Al Paradiso SpaghettiRistorante Al Paradiso BreadAntico Forno Pizza CounterAntico Forno PizzaGrand Canal Venice

Hunger had definitely kicked in so we started off with the bread that was given. Unfortunately, the bread was quite hard and a little stale. It was quite airy and there was not much depth to it. The rolls were more like breadsticks. For the main course, the Spaghetti Al Pomodoro was had. It was an average dish. The spaghetti was cooked well and the tomato sauce was tasty.

It was nice to dine outside in the section lined with boxes of flowers. The staff were friendly and service was good. Saying that though, if you are in the San Polo area, it is more worthwhile to head to Antico Forno!

Ristorante Al Paradiso, Sestiere San Polo, 767, 30125, Venice

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Miracolo – Kings Cross / Chancery Lane

Reviewed on May 15th, 2014 by Dina

Miracolo is no ordinary Italian restaurant. What makes it stand out is that it specialises in medieval food and most of its menu is based around this.

This restaurant is very welcoming and feels spacious and warm from the moment you first step in. There are big white sofas and tables in the entrance and then the dining area is adjacent to the drinks bar.

The striking decor is created by the contrast of the grey walls with the wonderful orange and reds on the canvas paintings. Later, I was told by the staff that all the artwork was from the collection done by the textural artist Gill Hickman.

The staff at Miracolo were so friendly and gave lovely efficient service all accompanied by happiness and smiles! When certain dietary requirements were mentioned, the staff checked it all with the chef and made sure that we were correctly informed. The staff really did make us feel that our custom was valued.

Miracolo Torre di Melanzane SaladMiracoloMiracolo Spinach and Ricotta RavioliMiracolo Lounge AreaMiracolo InteriorMiracolo Interior 2

The Miracolo menu is very refreshing and all the dishes certainly did impress not only in taste, flavours, quality but also in presentation. The menu has some vegetarian dishes including risotto, pasta, dips and a cabbage filled pie. But if you are feeling adventurous, then your choice can be between dishes which have rabbit, venison, wild boar, goat, pheasant, partridge, quail, salmon, tuna and duck pie!

The meal started with the Torre di Melanzane salad. A tower of warm grilled aubergine slices sandwiched between caramelised onions was presented on a criss-cross grid of balsamic vinegar. It was delicious with the pine nuts. The sweet onions complemented the treacle like balsamic vinegar and it worked well with the aubergine. The homemade bread that was served with it was very moreish and helped to balance out this starter dish.

A safe option was chosen for the main meal but it was still special. Big pillows of ravioli generously filled with ricotta and spinach topped with a black truffle sauce. This dish was stated on the menu as Circa mid XIV century! The black truffle sauce was very tasty. The only thing that I would change is that I would prefer less oil in this dish. Apart from that minor thing, the spinach and ricotta had so much flavour. It has to be one of the best ravioli dishes that I have had to date.

Instead of a soft drink, I was in the mood for a cup of tea. The Earl Grey tea was served in a small silver teapot with hot milk on the side. The staff did not mind giving us a refill of hot water too.

Miracolo is a truly wonderful Italian restaurant and it should be proud of all the dishes that it serves. The food is amazing and of such a high standard. The service is great. Dining at Miracolo was a real joy and it is good to have discovered such a fantastic friendly restaurant.

Miracolo, 73 Grays Inn Road, Kings Cross, London, WC1X 8TP

Rating: ★★★★★

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