We were really excited when we discovered a swanky looking new eatery on the coming-up-apace Roman Road, just a stone’s throw from our East London residence (I say that as if we have many houses – I can assure you, at present, we don’t). And so, with the rentals (Grandma Kat and Jim) coming up for Easter weekend, we decided to give it a whirl, and see whether the Roman Road can serve up mafioso-worthy Italian just a stumbling distance from home (especially considering Mama’s poorly feet from years of wearing too high heels).
Having already imbibed a good couple of cranberry proseccos with the old dear – and realising my 7 p.m. booking was probably rather ambitious with two junior-school aged kids in tow, even on a long weekend, I was rather nervous when we were shown to the ‘Chef’s Table’ at the back of the restaurant. Here, we were perched on stools rather than comfortably seated on chairs and with Mother dearest pushing 70 (though with the amount of work she’s had done, she doesn’t look a day over 50) it all began to feel a little precarious. Grandpa Jim, bless him, can be a public liability at the best of times. But nonetheless, they were game enough, and the kids were happy to have a bird’s eye view of the restaurant – a chic spruced up wood-and-chrome furnished dining area – and of the chefs in the kitchen, albeit through a tiny hatch.
Aware of the fact it was approaching the children’s bedtime, we ordered briskly and thus, perhaps, foolhardily – some pleasant house white wine and lemonade for the kids, a selection of tapas to start including: delicious truffle salami, burrata, bruschetta with Uduja sausage, pork jerky for the kids (which, truth be told, kept them both quiet for ages, but was too chewy for the adults) and some deep fried fritatta balls. I’m not entirely sure we ordered these but which were nice enough.
It was then, when ordering, that I realised my error in booking an Italian. Jim is a fussy bugger (although he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of wildlife, and his latest book on pike fishing will no doubt available to pre-order soon on Amazon). But he only generally likes English food. There was nothing on the menu he would eat. I resolved to ignore him and sample the tapas, but what with the kids rejecting anything spicy (the bruschetta was fiery) and Ma looking as though she didn’t want to spend a lot of money, when we clearly over ordered, we were off to a rocky start despite the charming maitre d’s best efforts to smooth our dining experience (I’d warned him I would be reviewing the meal on my blog and he was accordingly attentive.)
Likewise – and I’m always a big fan of restaurants that refuse to cater crap to kids, but can make it tricky when they are clearly hoping for burger and chips – choosing the mains proved a little challenging for our diverse requirements. Ma and I selected ricotta chicken; the kids were happy enough to order meatballs, and we tried to tempt Jimbo with something called Hunter’s Stew, which I believe contained pheasant but I may well be wrong.
Whatever was in (polenta?) it didn’t work out. Sadly, it was a shade too Italian for Jim. But thankfully he sat politely enough while the rest of us enjoyed our meals. Ma and I agreed our chicken was too much chicken and not enough ricotta – the roulade felt a little dry, though it was tasty enough accompanied with fresh broccoli. But the kids wolfed down their meatballs, even in a rich and quite grownup tasting tomato sauce, served, as they were on a bed of noodle thin crunchy fries.
By this point, we’d polished off the wine, and ordered another. The kids were getting clucky, so I pacified them with iPhones until the puds – a boule of cherry and tiramisu icecream each; a healthy (possibly raw) peach and nut something or other (which, again Tom said was “pleasant but not exceptional”) and a rich chocolate and amaretto fondant to split with Ma – arrived at the table.
But before their arrival, I’d caught a glimpse of what Ava, who was happily playing Dragon City, had had to view in order to get a free gem – a gruesome and entirely unsuitable advert for Walking Dead 2, so the next 15 minutes were lost to my white wine-fuelled rant about insidious advertising techniques of the games app industry, to my deep day-after shame.
Luckily the puddings were delish. Replete, and with the rain lashing down outside, we were grateful it wasn’t far to get home (so close in fact I was already practically home with the kids when the manager deposited a confused looking Ma back onto the Roman Road having lost her way out from the bathrooms.) She went to bed in a traditional family huff, along with the kids who were sugared up and shattered, while Tom and I enabled Jim’s daily constitution to the nearest pub, which just happens to be the Palm Tree, a proper old school East End boozer complete with sticky carpet and direct as a jackknife staff with cash-in-hand mentality.
Here we were regaled with its cadaverous band of cockney regulars performing hits from the age of swing. In many ways, it was a perfect family evening, even if I did end it having a hissy fit about the neighbours putting the rubbish out four days early so that the foxes would get into it. But mostly that was just the wine grumps – another deeply ingrained family trait, it seems.