Friday, July 20, 2007

A little Italian in the sun

This posting is a little late but I got to eat al fresco at the Cantina del Ponte in a brief spurt of summer evening sunlight a couple of weeks ago and I thought it was definitely worth a review. Cantina is in the bank of restaurants previously presided over by Sir Terence Conran overlooking a picturesque part of the Thames, especially when we experiencing some rather rare sun. These restaurants are now owned by D&D (not dungeons & dragons as far as I know) as a result of a management buyout, but I think Sir Terence still has significant interests there.
The neighbours to Cantina are Blueprint Café to the right and Le Pont de la Tour and Chop House to the left so you get to choose between British, French, Meaty and Italian.
We were feeling like a little Italian tonight so Cantina Del Ponte it was. This was not a long luxurious lingering meal but more a refuel before heading for home. So starter was just a shared basket of crusty bread dipped in a dish of olive oil splashed with balsamic vinegar. But as long as the oil and vinegar are good quality, this is never a bad thing.
American M chose a plate of spinach and ricotta ravioli, sage and parmesan and I selected a dish of potato gnocchi, pesto alla Genovese. They both looked good, green flecked, fresh and herby. Clearly we were not just 'feeling Italian' tonight but also vegetarian. Fresh pasta and gnocchi can be a good test for a restaurant; they can both be stodgy and flaccid. But they know what they’re doing here so we were in safe hands! I haven’t made my own gnocchi for such a long time and I was only saying when I was last cooking with D that it was something I fancied doing. The only niggle with gnocchi, (and risotto and pasta to a lesser extent can share this) is even though I love fine versions of them all (I thought I better add fine here as some dreadful crimes have been committed in the name of Italian food) but sometimes you feel you've had enough before the plate is finished. So they can work better as a more delicate starter portions.
And there was an element here with my gnocchi, as delicious as it was I got a little bored with it before I had finished the bowl. And I wasn't full so it was more that I craved a little variety in my mouthfuls. But that was possibly our fault for skipping starter and therefore being given a main course sized portion of our ravioli and gnocchi.
For a dessert we both opted for the sliver of Italian chocolate cake but as neither of us do coffee we substituted the coffee ice cream for the vanilla one. And this was a perfect cake, and the perfect size, rich, dense and chocolatey but not too much that I had some sort of sugar rush part way through. Two Italian forks for Cantina del Ponte, I'll definitely be back to have a full meal here.

No comments: