Last weekend my Critic and I took the Eurostar (first class, thanks to the generosity of said Critic) to London and stayed with our good friends David and Carol. After a relaxing day at the Manchester United game (guys) and shopping (women) we met up in a pub near David and Carol's flat before going on to dinner at their favourite neighbourhood restaurant, the San Remo.
If you ever happen to be in Carol and David's neighbourhood, I highly recommend it.
The San Remo is a tiny Italian restaurant just south of the Hammersmith bridge, tucked in a lively street of pubs and shops. As soon as you enter, you can tell this is going to be a good experience: the crowded tables with lively conversations, the cheerful unpretentious decor and the smell of garlic smack you in the face. Our friends had reserved a table for us in advance, and I would recommend you do the same if you are trying it.
Once we squeezed through the maze of tables to our table in the back of the restaurant, one of the three waitresses showed up to explain the specials of the day. In addition to a fairly large menu of pasta, fish and meat dishes, there is a long list of specialties on the chalkboard. (I have to admit that this was not the first time David has taken us to this restaurant and the last time I took my main dish off the board and it was sublime: a perfectly cooked thick steak on a bed of steamed spinach with a delicious muchroom topping.) For starters, David and I chose a sauté of wild mushrooms from the specials on the chalkboard. Steve chose an interesting dish of roasted peppers which were covered with mozzarella and then baked as a small casserole. I have seen this done with eggplant frequently, but never peppers. Steve said it was fantastic and it must have been because it was gone before I could think to ask for a taste.
The main dishes were equally good: Carol and I each chose calf's liver, mine with bacon and hers with sage butter. In retrospect, I would choose her dish as I forgot that in the UK "bacon" is not what I would call bacon. Also, the sage smelled wonderful. Still, the fault was mine and the liver was very tender and tasty. Steve tried a chicken dish and looked quite apprehensive as it arrived because (horrors!) there was a bone sticking out of one end of the chicken breast. All was well, however, as it appeared it was mainly there for show and proved quite easy to eat around. Our man does not like to work for his food. The chicken was enveloped in bread crumbs and herbs and very moist and flavourful. Lastly, David ordered for us "vegetables". I love a restaurant where you can do this - just tell them to bring a selection of vegetables and they bring you a platter with roast potatoes, buttery snap peas and a huge heap of just barely cooked spinach. There were a lot of polite "well if you are sure you don't want to finish that one, I'll have just a little more..." conversations towards the end of the meal.
Dessert. You know by this time, the guys had been drinking all day and we ladies were also pretty merry, so the only dessert I remember was mine. I chose profiteroles because they are ubiquitous and generally not very good in Italian restaurants in Paris. Here, they were slightly different from the usual Parisian version, and in a very good way. First off, I am used to profiteroles being served with very dark chocolate. Secondly, they are frequently served with ice cream instead of cream (which I understand is more traditional). Lastly, they are usually cardboard. Here, they arrived with a thick milk chocolate coating that was really like a home-made chocolate pudding. The centers were filled with soft cream and the pastry shells were so delicate I hated putting a spoon into them. Well, until I tasted them of course. They were absolutely wonderful.
Wine. We drank a fair amount of it and all I can say is that if you like red wine, ask for number 17. This is how David remembers which one he likes and it works for me. The wine list was fairly long and looked very good. But all I know is that number 17 is just fine.
One of the disadvantages of visiting a restaurant that your friends know very well is that you forget to check exactly which wine was chosen for your review. Another is that they can sneak off and pay the bill when you aren't looking and had assumed they were making a visit to the toilet. So I have to add a note here to thank Carol and David again: it was a fantastic dinner and then at the end of it we weren't even allowed to show our appreciation by paying for it! We shall have our revenge in Paris one evening.
Lastly, for those who are interested in brushing with fame, the owner of the restaurant is a huge Chelsea fan and is friends with some of the players. Carol and David have eaten in the same room as Juan Veron. So there. You too can ogle the rich and talented while you eat in Hammersmith.
The San Remo
195 Castlenau, London, SW13 9ER
Nearest Tube Stations: Hammersmith
Tel: 020 8741 5909
Cost: according the London Eating site, around £32 per person. I wouldn't know!
STOP THE PRESSES