I've got a wonderfully Italian feast for you today, and I wish I could narrate this for you with a wonderfully Italian accent, as that's the experience we had at Rocco in Chelsea. If what you fancy is a relaxed, friendly atmosphere with bubbly staff and delicious food, this is one to put on your list.
The restaurant is located a short walk from the back exit of Earl's Court station, and I'm pretty sure I must have walked past it before but never acknowledged it. It's a large, welcoming and attractive space, and although the night we went was Good Friday and therefore was not particularly busy, I've read other reviews that say they are often packed.
We started with glasses of Aperol Spritz, a drink that takes me back to the days I lived in Salzburg as it was a common aperitif there - not so much in London, and I don't know why! I love it. We were given some lovely focaccia, ham and cheese to nibble on while we chose our dishes.
The waiter explained the highlights of their menu, telling us that they had just gone to the fish market that morning so the seafood was very fresh and recommended. Their special, award-winning spaghetti was what really stood out to us, so we both chose to have it as a primi course - homemade tagliolini pasta with flavour of lemon from Sorrento and raw tuna.
Not only does this imaginative combination look beautiful on a plate, it works like a charm together. I absolutely fell in love with this pasta! It's light yet rich, and the raw tuna just goes perfectly with the lemony tagliolini. The only tiny tweak E and I agreed could have made it even better for us, was for the pasta to be slightly more al dente. I realise that's a matter of taste though, and it didn't particularly bother me. This was the dish of the night for both of us.
Now, I don't usually get a primi & secondi at Italian restaurants, but when the waiter was recommending dishes to us, we just couldn't resist trying a couple of the mains. E chose the slow-cooked veal with potatoes, and I went for the sea bass with parmesan risotto.
Although my eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach and I struggled to finish this, I really enjoyed it - the fish was perfectly cooked and the risotto was lovely. I kind of wished I could go for a brisk walk to work up an appetite to finish the plate! (E helped, thankfully.) E also liked his veal, although the meat was not quite as melt-off-the-bone as he'd hoped. But the flavour was there and the meat was great quality, and he managed to polish it off which is a good sign. Overall, our mains could have been a little more seasoned, but we both agreed that they were cooked very well and would easily have satisfied us even without the primi course!
This was all washed down nicely with a lovely bottle of Italian red wine - they have a nice selection and a cosy looking bar in the restaurant too.
By this point, we were definitely feeling pretty full - but of course, there's a separate stomach for dessert.
But wait... a smiling waiter came along with a cheese trolley. We looked at each other and shook our heads, but being the foodies we are, he managed to persuade us to try a tiny bite of taleggio, with a little honey. A tiny bite, of course, was a whole plateful.
Being a cheese lover, I had to do my duty and try a taste - and inevitably, loved it. I'm actually embarrassingly new to the whole cheese & honey combo, but I could probably live on this stuff.
And finally, we were at dessert! How do you measure a good Italian restaurant? By their homemade Tiramisu, of course. E and I are both very picky with Tiramisu, and so were relieved to find that we really liked this one - a lighter version than some, but lacking that terrible watery/bitter taste that some have which ruin them, in my opinion. We were so happy to end the meal on a good note!
During cheese and dessert, the head chef came out to say hello and have a good, long chat with us about how he came about becoming the chef of Rocco and his passion for Italian cuisine. His love and enthusiasm was so abundant, it really made us appreciate their efforts and skill. E enjoyed the chat very much, talking about various cooking tips and techniques - something he doesn't often get a chance to do with professionals. We also saw him greeting and chatting with other diners which was great to see - it's really a nice thing to see the faces that create the food in the kitchen.
He also, completely unprompted by us, showered us with digestifs. Two special bottles of vermouth popped up at our table, and he insisted that we try both and see what we thought - I mean, by this point we were in a food and wine coma so we were bound to like anything! Seriously though, I don't know much about vermouth but the Oscar 697 bottle (made by his friend, actually) was sublime.
Can you even believe that we managed to roll ourselves home after that epic meal? We really had a fantastic evening, and I would go back for that raw tuna and lemon pasta alone.
Thank you Rocco and the vivacious Italian team for a very good friday indeed.