Park Plaza County Hall
1 Addingtom Street
London SE1 7RY
Tel: 020 7021 1919
On an absolutely freezing Saturday evening we found ourselves wandering around London’s Southbank. Trying to find L’Italiano whose address states it’s situated in the Park Plaza Hotel County Hall. This was my mistake, thinking it was in County Hall. Why do hotels do this? Assuming the name of a local area is completely understandable but to name their hotel after a building when is not in that building is a bit odd to say the least. After consultation of the address and a map we found the restaurant, which sits on a mezzanine level in the hotel, but there is no signage at street level. So having made profuse apologies to my blue-lipped family we entered and sat down.
Charming service is something I feel strongly about in restaurants and as I was in no mood to accept anything less than charming service, I was delighted by the excellent treatment we received. From the get go the manager and waiters fussed over us. Sympathetic to our or should that be my mistake of almost freezing the family to death.
The space is bright and large, plenty of room and comfortable sofas around the edges. There is an up-market children’s menu called the Bambibi, which has a word search, maze to keep them busy and their menu. Grown up food it is too, for the little ones with pizzas, lasagne, meatballs, mushroom risotto, grilled prawns and a few pasta dishes on offer, great to see kids being thought of as mini adults. My seven year old would not have been happy with the usual two dishes and micro portions that are commonly found.
The grown ups had a broader range, we started with some good crostini, olives and rewarding triangles of garlic bread with a sprig of fresh rosemary on top. We had worked up a massive appetite walking in the cold so these didn’t last long. Then came the antipasti, these were also good. A great beef carpaccio with rocket salad and Parmesan shavings was like butter. It melted in the mouth releasing a pleasant lemon note. Incidentally the famous Italian hors d’oeuvre is named after the painter Vittore Carpaccio because of his use of red pigment. I had aubergine Parmigiani that was a meal in itself. Layered in thick tomato sauce and cheese I think it’s one of the few ways to really enjoy aubergine. A buffalo mozzarella salad was ordered and eaten but not by me, I was still trying to warm up.
I mentioned that L’Italiano has no sign at street level but despite this it was full by 8pm. So either they were all staying in the hotel or this place is on the culinary map. The food is very good, nothing flash or trying to be clever just good honest Italian food served by friendly staff, I could feel the chill leave my bones.
As for mains, my eldest son has quite a mature palate and was looking forward to his grilled baby chicken with rosemary potatoes and broccoli in garlic oil. It had a rustic feel to it, a tasty bird with fresh vegetables. M had fillet of sea bass with sautéed spinach and some beautiful braised lentils. The braising really does work a little magic with a somewhat ordinary side. My rib eye and chunky cut chips with sautéed greens was cooked rare, just as I like it. Good to see that all the mains we chose had different fresh greens with them. Starters are about £7-£8 and mains just below £15.
The kids had a cocktail list to choose from with the expected lemonade and grenadine (Shirley Temple) to the more unusual guava juice and vanilla syrup (New York). The wines on offer stayed mainly in Italy with a few exceptions. My Cannonau de Sardego was a Sardinian triumph and hit the spot with the rib eye. To M’s joy they also had fresh mint tea, the perfect palate cleanser.
Desserts reared their heads as they tend to with children at the table. A sound cheesecake with plum compote was the 14 year old’s choice. He ate it all. M, with her sweet teeth still working despite the chattering they had to endure earlier decided on the County Hall Special, a kind of warm chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream and space dust. It passed the cut it open and see if it runs with a river of chocolate test perfectly. My cheese board had some the Italian greats; Pecorino, Gorgonzola and a creamy goats, it came with giant grapes and biscuits.
Dinner at L’Italiano is a pleasure and the staff very helpful. My only concern is that you’ll have to look hard to find it. Clearly though it is doing something right as we were surrounded by contented diners. It is worth the search, as the South Bank is full of mediocre chains that don’t satisfy. Oh, and that sophisticated children’s menu I mentioned earlier, well our seven year old performed to type and chose a pizza! But I must add it was no ordinary pizza, this one was hand made bursting with fresh ingredients and adorned with a little bow at the top to use as a handle if a knife and fork prove too challenging.