If there’s one thing that turns me off a bar or restaurant (except obviously communal seating or the dreaded words ‘family friendly’), it’s a banner strung across the joint declaring that punters can watch the sportsball while they sup. I say ‘can’. In my experience, there’s usually little choice in the matter.
Of course, I understand why. Pubs sell beer, which football fans drink a lot of. Makes sense to draw them in, even if they are prone to getting a bit lairy and occasionally biting each other’s noses off. But it’s not for me, and I can’t think of anything worse than eating my dinner surrounded by a bunch of blokes getting themselves all worked up over something as inconsequential and fundamentally silly as a game of foot-the-ball. (Yes, I know there are female fans too, but they seem to be a bit more restrained on the nose-biting front.) Besides, all that polyester in one room has got to be some sort of fire hazard.
So, had I not already agreed to do lunch with my pal Sarah, I would have kept walking right past The Italian Job in Notting Hill, a pretty blue corner pub that had had all its prettiness sucked out by the festoons of banners posters declaring that, indeed, you can watch live sport here. And that would have been a shame, because The Italian Job is not a football pub. It is a foodie pub that just so happens to show the football every now and again.
(I’ve been told that some of the football it shows is Italian football, which somehow makes it…I don’t know, more authentic? I’d like to think Italian football fans are a bit less hysterical about the whole business, but I’m probably wrong.)
Fortunately we were there on a relatively quiet weekday lunchtime so the place was mercifully free of football and its loud and shouty handmaidens. Which was good, because I needed to concentrate on not demolishing a plate of burrata (£9.50) in all its entirety (we were sharing, and I understand it’s bad form to inhale a whole plate of cheese while your tablemate is in the loo). With burrata, I usually find that less is more – a little drizzle of truffle honey is usually all that’s required – but this version was like burrata in wedding season, resplendent on a bed of watercress and bedecked with flowers, with a jaunty piece of crispbread perched on top like a little hat. Normally I’d reject all of this frippery as a distraction technique – the thing costs nearly a tenner, after all – but I’ll let it off because of the gob of coarse, nutty ‘burned’ red pesto that comes with. It worked tremendously well with the cool creaminess of the burrata.
Fresh, homemade arancini is a relative bargain at £6 for four, especially given that the kitchen likes to get creative with the fillings (we had beetroot), and the charcuterie board (£13.00) is a generous starter for at least two.
There’s pasta too, but I’ve been frequenting the likes of Padella and Flour & Grape a fair bit lately, so the bar is set pretty high. Alas, my gnocchi Castelmagno (£13.00) with truffle oil was a bit one-note. Not to say I wouldn’t absolutely have your hand off if you were to bring it to me in bed after a heavy night, preferably with a cup of strong black tea and a very large spoon, but, sitting at a table, during the day, completely sober, I wanted a bit more from it.
Sarah chose more wisely – her glossy, buttercup yellow parcels of pumpkin ravioli with sage butter were lighter (and more lunch appropriate for people who have things to do on a Wednesday afternoon, which sadly included the both of us).
For this same reason, we didn’t try any of the many Italian craft ales the pub is known for, so I’ll have to swing by again next time I’m in that part of town. Obviously, I’ll need to check the football fixtures first.
The Italian Job, Notting Hill, 45 All Saints Road, London, W11 1HE
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.