Fawlty Towers meets Prezzo at Amici, an Italian restaurant on Kennington Lane which, despite this description, actually does some decent food.
If this statement has left you confused don’t fear, for I too am baffled by the place. Never have I left a restaurant feeling so torn. Was it good? Was it average? Was it awful? Honestly I am still unsure.
Firstly, and most importantly, allow me to describe the food. Amici serves standard Italian food such as pasta and pizza dishes for standard prices in a standard Italian chain restaurant sort of way. Pretty standard. But that’s not all…oh no. If that were all I’d sum the place up as average and have done with it.
Amici also does some interesting (and really very delicious) meat and fish dishes. When I visited there was even an array of tempting specials that would not have been at home on the menu of any Bella Italia. These dishes are not served at standard prices, though. They’re served at vastly inflated quite posh restaurant style prices.
And so you’ll see the reason for my confusion and bafflement. It seems upon entering Amici I entered two restaurants simultaneously and was, as a result, confronted with a menu twice the size of my flat which threatened to rip by brain apart through sheer oddness.
Here is the menu. You will see it a small hand clutching it which appears to be that of a borrower. It isn’t, though, it’s my normal sized hand. This menu, might I add, is double sided.
The menu was so vast that I couldn’t be expected to read it all and thus went for one of the specials instead, as this board only included six dishes which made making a decision somewhat more manageable. I went for the wild turbot, which really seemed to excite our waiter.
The turbot was expertly cooked; moist and meaty, almost justifying the quite exorbitant price of the dish (£18.50!!).
Friends ordered the veal and found it quite acceptable, no complaints there. The lamb shank was enormous – reminiscent of a scene from The Flintstones.
Side dishes of deep-fried zucchini with pine nuts and garlic mushrooms exceeded expectations – I’m thinking of returning for the zucchini alone, it was that good.
But then we ordered puddings, and it all went downhill…
Puddings are not Amici’s thing. The tatty dessert menu is a pretty clear indication of their lack of interest in sweet treats, but that just won’t do. Pudding is my favourite part of the meal and I demand that it be respected. I gave Amici the benefit of the doubt and ordered a chocolate brownie; friends went for the tiramisu (predictable), amaretto biscuits in a chocolate sauce (disaster) and sticky toffee pudding (definitely from a supermarket).
The chocolate brownie was the least offensive of the bunch.
The tiramisu was topped by hot chocolate powder. I’ll accept that some restaurants just aren’t big on desserts, but if you’re an Italian restaurant you do need to serve a decent tiramisu, for crying out loud…
The ‘amaretti biscuit’ dessert was so bad it made me actually laugh out loud. It was this: amaretto biscuits arranged around a puddle of neat disarrono. Each biscuit wore a blob of nutella like a little hat. My poor little brother was terribly disappointed, I fear he may never fully get over it.
Sticky toffee pudding – appeared to have recently suffered from custard tsunami, came from a plastic pot, was definitely from a supermarket. Piece of plastic found in custard confirmed suspicions, although all was eaten so can’t have been too awful.
The service: As mentioned previously our waiter was an excitable fellow. My partner had phoned the restaurant earlier in the day to reserve a table. Throughout the conversation the Amici chap had addressed him as ‘chef’. Upon arrival an embarrassed Italian chap then divulged the fact that often the chef phones him in order to pretend to book tables, and he had thought it was him. A stunned and slightly awkward silence followed as we all tried to work out what was happening. The waiter then proceeded to take an order for a coke, talk to us for a good ten minutes (ok maybe five) about said coke, before promptly forgetting all about it and then being quite incredibly shocked when reminded of the non-arrival of the coke.
Later we ordered puddings, and waited a long time for their arrival. When they did arrive our waiter explained that the reason for the waiting as “he did them and then I did them as well because I didn’t know he had already done them.” Bless.
Amici appeared to have at least four waiting staff that night, although only one seemed to be responsible for any kind of actual service. The rest just did waiting. I wondered if they had taken the job title too literally.
It was the real Fawlty Towers experience, and despite being utterly useless I found the whole scene strangely endearing…
The verdict: I don’t know, I really don’t.
205 – 209 Kennington Lane