An Italian successor to Fitzrovia’s Passione (RIP), offering interesting dishes – often with a Sicilian twist – in unadorned surroundings; charming service makes this an establishment it’s very hard not to like, but the realisation of dishes on our visit was a little up-and-down.
Drawn by a rave review elsewhere, we hastened along to the new Italian restaurant on the Fitzrovia site formerly called Passione. Right from the off, it’s not hard to understand just why the trail-blazing earlier scribe liked this place so much: it’s a palpably personal operation where charming staff-with-pedigree (head waiter ex-Zafferano, for example) are trying very hard.
The setting is about as unadorned as you’ll find, which gives the clear impression the passione of the new régime must be directed to the food.
There’s certainly no faulting the generosity of the Italian fare (which mainly comes with a Sicilian twist). A preliminary dish of almonds, excellent olives and a tasty arancino (rice and cheese ball) was a meal in itself. A basket of breads offers a profusion of types, including home-made grissini and a mini pizza. A Sicilian fish soup – the best dish of our visit – came notably well loaded with fish. The wine list is ample too (including by the carafe) and not greedily priced.
On food quality, we were less convinced. Our sampling from the menu, though not particularly extensive, had enough ho-hum moments to make it difficult to see how we could ever have ended up writing a review in ‘rave’ territory. If our reservations had a theme, it was a slight absence of finesse: stodgy bread; pasta that didn’t thrill; and dessert pastry that was a touch too solid for comfort.
This is, however, one of those rare establishments to which – even though our initial meal was up-and-down – we’d like to return. Especially in the West End, it’s hard not to like any restaurant which clearly has a big heart. And that’s a test this place passes with flying colours.