On the former Kensington site of Timo (RIP), a new mid-range Italian of some ambition; there were some real highlights on our early-days visit, but many aspects of the operation were still very much in need of ‘tightening up’.

Celebrating a birthday, we headed to this new Kensington Italian whose charms – of cuisine, if not of setting – have already been sung elsewhere.

It’s certainly true that the long, low room – the sort which has ‘no good tables’ – is not an attraction in itself. The layout seems to have been largely inherited from Timo, a restaurant which itself, in its day, had quite a name for its Italian cuisine. The intrinsically poor lighting was done no favour by a couple of blown bulbs.

But, no matter, we were in a celebratory mood, and it was the food we’d come for. And then we waited for someone to offer us a menu. And then we waited a bit more. Nothing kills the party mood in a restaurant like waiting for the staff to notice you’re there. Only possible exceptions: you’ve hit a mad peak time, or the first week of operation. Neither applied. Service, throughout, lacked that ease and charm at which Italians so often excel.

By now a general feeling of deflation was setting in. The bread, though, was impressive. Perhaps the food would save the day? Well, in our table of four, some people professed themselves very happy with starters such as a salad of tomato and Mozzarella. We’d heard the trofie al pesto was a bit of a speciality, but it lacked any of that lightness of feel which, for us at least, distinguishes special pasta from the run-of-the-mill.

It was a main course of duck and apple, though, which really bemused us. These, surely, are two tastes which, while close enough, need a liaison to be turned into an actual dish? A la fran̤ais, pommes dauphinoises, say, would do the trick. But here there were two ingredients crying out for liaison whose absence was striking Рall the more so as the plate was innocent of pretty much anything other than the two ingredients which had been advertised.

Our party spirit now exhausted, we called for an espresso (excellent, as it turned out) and our bill and departed into the night without sampling the puddings which are also, apparently, very good. There had been hints on our visit that there is indeed a good restaurant here struggling to get out’ but, in our view, it needs someone to ‘get a grip’ if it’s ever going to be liberated.

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