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Feb 24, 2012 09:28 AM

[London, SE1] La Barca

There’s something wonderfully comforting about an old school Italian restaurant. And La Barca is so old school that, when I glanced round, I half expected to see red and white check tablecloths and candles stuck in Chianti bottles. Everything else seemed in place – wine bottles everywhere, elderly waiting staff (all Italian), photos of now aging stars in their youth (surely you remember Jill Gascoine in The Gentle Touch?)

And, of course, there’s a menu packed full of trattoria classics. There was excellent bread – a generous basket left on the table with four different sorts – the foccacia was a stand-out. There was also some freebie olives.

Now I don’t know how they found flavoursome tomatoes in February, but they’d found enough to top my bruschetta. They were helped by a goodly drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of garlic slices and shreds of basil.

If you’re going to want to eat calves liver, then I reckon you want to eat it in an old school Italian restaurant. It’s probably the best bet for getting a good plate of food. The Italians seem to understand better than most that there’s a need for minimal cooking and, here, it must have been the work of seconds. It came with a sage butter sauce – rich from butter but cut through by the judicious use of the herb. I’d taken the waiter’s recommendation for spinach and sauté potatoes. This really was a good plate of food.

If further was needed to convince me that I liked La Barca, then serving a little bowl of Cadbury’s mini-eggs along with the espresso was a master stroke.

Including a bottle of water and service, the bill was just over £45 which felt that, much as I’d enjoyed myself, I hadn’t experienced the bargain of the week. Although the place was packed, so what do I know

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  1. I like La Barca too, but one thing it definitely isn't is cheap. £45 is becoming very much the average cost for a restaurant in London, but I'd normally expect some wine with that.