It's not uncommon these days for Italian food cravings to strike me suddenly. Whilst the appeal of restaurant pizza and pasta was lost to me in my younger days, this past year has seen me develop a hefty thirst for the stuff. I've started tackling through every likely Italian restaurant near us and Grappino was next on the hit list.
Last Saturday night was cold and rainy and Marc and I had originally planned to drive somewhere for dinner. Alas, the lure of wine was too difficult to resist so we ended up walking to Paddington. The restaurant was just a bit further than I'd expected so we got there approximately 10 minutes late. I'm not sure if our table was given away or there was a hiccup in the booking system but we ended up having to wait another 10-15 minutes for a table. It had stopped raining so we didn't mind.
Grappino is a small restaurant located next to Montrachet on Given Terrace. At that point of the night (around 9pm), it was the only hive of activity in the area. Whilst the main street was deserted, Grappino was packed with people. There were tables inside but we ended up being seated outside next to the street.
The menu features breads and entrees, a selection of pasta, plenty of veal dishes and some other protein-based mains. I was in the mood for pizza but it seems Grappino is too upmarket for that. Oh well. We settled for a bread starter and two pasta dishes.
Ciabatta - with wood fired garlic in olive oil
By the time our bread was brought out, we were starving. That's not to say it took a long time, just that it was late in the night and I for one had lunch rather early. The bread was warm and served with a garlic-infused oil. Bread starters either seem 'whatever' to me or leave a really nice impression. This was one of that later examples. The crust was crunchy and the inside of the bread just had a wonderfully light, soft and elastic texture. I'm used to bread with olive oil or butter but this garlic oil was awesome.
Rigatoni pollo al fredo - roasted fresh organic chicken, cream, green peas and basil
Our pasta dishes were brought out after we finished the bread. My pick was the rigatoni pollo al fredo, which sounds fancy but can essentially be translated to creamy chicken pasta. For me, this was the perfect blend of homely comfort food with top quality restaurant ingredients and execution. The big chunks of organic chicken was tender and juicy. The sauce was rich and moreish without being too thick or overbearing. The fresh rocket and shavings of sharp cheese helped to keep the dish from being too one dimensional.
Grappino's spaghetti marinara - selection of sea provides, cooked in napoli sauce cream of lobster
Marc went for the seafood pasta with a creamy tomato sauce. The seafood was generous and we were both amused by the single lettuce leaf on the plate. I couldn't help but notice that whilst Marc lapped up the rest of his meal, the lettuce leaf lay lonely and abandoned at the end. I had a taste of this pasta and thought it was delicious too. Plain tomato-based sauces often taste too sour and sharp for me and plain creamy sauces are often too cloggy and rich. The combination of the two is just irresistable. I had the dilemma of wanting to steal more of Marc's pasta but because my own was also good, I stayed on that plate because it was closer.
Chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream
At the end of this meal, Marc declared that "we should definitely order food because you're depressed". I think that's boy code for "I want dessert but I want to pin the reason on you". We were both on the same brainwave with dessert, discounting the more elaborate options for a simple chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream. It was heavenly. We both acknowledged that brownies are rarely bad so when you order one at a restaurant, you would expect it to be top notch. I will point out that plenty of store-bought brownies taste very sugary to compensate for the fact that they use low grade chocolate. This brownie didn't have that problem. The texture was perfectly sticky and chewy and the ice-cream helped to cut the richness. I liked the addition of crushed nuts too.
Grappino provided some great pasta dishes that were both heart warming and filling. I thought the sauces on both our pastas were delicious and I polished off my plate even though I was full half-way through. Our brownie was a fantastic way to end the meal and I noticed all the other diners seemed to be having a great time. This is comfort food with a touch of class.