MTV boyfriend’s birthday is usually an occasion that I use to justify taking him to a swanky restaurant. Of course MTV boyfriend is not really into swanky restaurants, he is a meat and two veg type of guy. This year, much to my disappointment he put his foot down. No restaurant of the moment, no Michelin star establishment, no even to much feted steak house Hawksmoor that I had pencilled in as being right down his alley. MTV boyfriend wanted to go to a simple, local little Italian place.
Fighting to control my disappointment (after all isn’t MTV boyfriend’s birthday all about me really) I diligently researched the best simple, local little Italian place and came up with Osteria Basilico. So it was that last night we strolled down the road and into this bustling little restaurant situated just off Portobello road in Notting Hill. In a sign of it’s local popularity Osteria Basilico was bursting at the seams. It was so packed to the rafters we could not get a booking until 9.30 at night.
The restaurant is split over two levels, ground floor and a basement. Ground floor is probably the better option if you can get it. The look is that of a cozy trattoria with the occasional brass pan hanging from the walls and tables jammed in. The essentials are dealt with well. Osteria Basilico provides good quality linen napkins and a basket of crusty, warm bread brought to the table along with olive oil and balsamic vinegar when you sit down. A request for tap water brought a large, iced jug. This shouldn’t be such a notable event but it is.
The wine list is limited but it does include a very decent house red at £4.50 for a large glass. While not cheap, this is what a house wine should be like, a chance to suggest a reasonably priced wine that has been chosen by the restaurant as offering good value for money. Sadly it seems that what is often the case in London is that the house wine is used by the restaurant as a chance to offload cheap and nasty wine that they have bought for a song.
Due to the fact that it was almost 10pm by this stage and I was chewing my arm off we ignored the starters and went straight for the mains. Osteria Basilico’s menu is conservative without the negative connotations of that word. It is a song list of Italian classics supplemented with a list of daily specials which are more about making the most of seasonal produce than about trying out wacky flavour combinations. Fresh fettuccine tossed in a veal and rosemary ragout is served al dente with a bit of bite to the pasta. The ragout is chunky and not quite the melting, slow cooked meat that I expected but it is hearty enough and topped with chunks of shaved Parmesan.
From the specials menu the Swordfish fillet is served with a tomato based sauce and topped with crunchy asparagus. The plump fillet is covered in the thick sauce giving a kick of Mediterranean flair and intensity to the fish. The sides on offer are simplicity itself such as a rocket salad served with shards of Parmesan. Just the sort of thing I like. The desserts on offer are what you would expect; tiramisu, pannacotta and gelati. We have birthday cake at home though so we decline this time.
Nothing at Osteria Basilico is going to startle but it is decent, honest food served in an atmospheric, bustling restaurant. I may have pined for a restaurant with some wow factor but maybe MTV boyfriend is onto something with his desire for a simple, local place.
Details: 29 Kensington Park Road, Notting Hill, W11 2EU (Ph 020 7727 9957)
If you liked reading this you might like reading about another simple, local restaurant in Notting Hill – Bloody French. Or you can read about a classic Italian trattoria on the Cinque Terre coast of Italy, Il Grottino.