"A great little restaurant tucked just off of Old Brompton Road"Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
Tucked just off of Old Brompton Road, you might dismiss this little restaurant – it has only a few tables out front on a tiny tiled area which is bedecked with plants and illuminated by delicate strings of lights. My companion commented that it could easily pass for an establishment in Rome – even though the owners are Sicilian.
The interior décor is traditionally Italian. Those yellow and blue tiles appear on the walls and in the centre of each wooden table. Rustic rather than romantic. There are bronze moulds and tile friezes on the walls and the lighting – despite the large windows onto the street – is too bright to be intimate yet somehow it still felt a bit dark. There couldn’t have been more than about 15 tables in the main dining area.
Personally, I preferred the smaller, intimate area downstairs (where the toilets and one of those walk-in wine cellars are located) although my companion was firmly of the view that the upper main area was much nicer. There’s a bar at the rear of the main ground floor area – but it didn’t seem as if they expected people to sit there.
The staff are lovely. Properly Italian but, surprisingly, almost shy. We felt welcome and well attended but not interrupted (we had a lot of catching up chatting to do).
We ordered a bottle of Verdicchio (extremely good value at £19.90) which was perfectly chilled and light which was placed in a rather creative cooler – a transparent bag. Tap water was presented in a jug with ice and lemon.
The menu is extensive and covers all possible tastes. There were a selection of specials – including mussels (£7.90) and octopus (£9.90) for starters and lobster linguine (£14.90) and pasta with tuna (£12.90) or tuna steaks (£16.90) as mains. There were numerous pasta and other dishes and two whole pages of pizzas – both special and classic. It took quite a while to go through all the options. When we asked what was recommended we were offered various suggestions depending on our preferences which were helpful.
But the big surprise here was the quality of the food – and the huge portion sizes. This is definitely a place to come if you love well-cooked real Italian food and want plenty of it! We were firmly of the view that we could easily have shared one of the starters and still have had more than enough.
I choose the antipasti Italiana (£16.90). This was a substantial plate containing a selection of cold meats (including Parma ham and mortodello) and cheeses (some containing slivers of chilli). There were also marinated, chargrilled vegetables – I adored the thin strips of courgette/zucchini whilst my companion was in raptures over the aubergine which had a bit of an unexpected kick. The plate of bread with dipping oil (£1.50) was almost unnecessary.
My companion’s calamari fritti (£8.90) was a delight – presented as scored cones as opposed to the more usual rings they were really hot, the batter was light and crispy and the calamari beautifully firm and moist. A chilli dip accompanied.
My companion ordered the Saltimbocca (£17.90) for her main course. There was a huge rondel of lightly cooked spinach and two large pieces of veal smothered in sauce. Despite her best efforts she could not eat it all.
I was amazed at my Pizza Italiana (£12.90) – it was so large it was hanging off over the edge of the plate. I felt I had been transported to Naples – the base was crispy but not too thin, the tomato sauce was rich and really fresh and contained tiny whole cherry tomatoes, the rocket was fiery and there was a thick mesh of delicious thin ham covering the entire surface. It could have fed a family of four!
We were simply too full to sample the desserts but my companion had another glass of wine and I sipped a large Limoncello (£5) from an elegant glass – and was transported to a lemon grove in Amalfi!
The total bill for two courses, a bottle of wine and further drinks and service was £99.79. My companion felt this was a little expensive but then we reflected that we could have easily shared a starter and avoided the additional drinks to bring it down to a more reasonable £60 or so.
Just a few minutes’ walk from South Kensington tube station – and therefore close to the museums – this is a great restaurant to take the kids to and so much nicer than the Italian chain restaurants that dominate the area. In fact, on the evening we visited they were singing “Happy Birthday” to a six year old girl who was there with her sister and parents when we arrived. A little later a dad arrived with his son. As the evening continued there were all types of clientele – pairs of women, a group of three young business men and what looked like some younger locals. I suspect many were regulars – it was that kind of place.
Da Spago was awarded the certificate of Marchio Ospitalità Italiana in 2011.
KimT reviewed Da Spago on Fri 03 May 2013