20 August 2014

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The best aperitivi in London


Polpo_2010_-_Cold_Deli_Bar.jpgAperitivo is an Italian ritual that originated in Milan. It sees friends and family unwind together in the early evening with a cocktail and a few nibbles, or cicchetti. As more and more restaurants and bars in the capital start to offer Italian-style post-work cocktails and snacks, aperitivo has gradually found its way into the London lexicon. If you’re planning to go continental this summer, here are our picks of the best restaurants and bars offering the aperitivo experience.

by Kayla Keegan

Apero at The Ampersand Hotel, South Kensington

Light floods this smart wine bar, located in the cellar of The Ampersand Hotel. Come Pimm’s o’clock, good shouts from the cocktail menu include the frescobaldi (gin, limoncello and fino sherry) and the cellini (cider brandy, fresh mint, cider liqueur, orange liqueur and eucalyptus sugar). Can’t decide which small plates to order? Opt for something sophisticated, such as courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta and cucumber.

Banca, Mayfair

Where better to head for aperitivo than a London restaurant that aims to recreate Milan’s sophisticated dining culture? From Tuesday to Friday (5-7.30pm), complimentary small bites are served with any cocktail ordered. On Thursdays, aperitivo hour gets in full swing in Banca’s chic dining room, with classic Italian cocktails such as the negroni served with an assortment of traditional Mediterranean nibbles.

Barbarella, Fulham

This Fulham nightspot is perfect for a relaxing night out with friends without being too hard on the pocket. Choose from a selection of delectable cicchetti, such as the pancetta-and-taleggio arancini, or salmon tartare, all for £7, while listening to classic live piano music.

carluccios marylebone 2012 - Carluccios_2012_Marylebone_0047_SMALL.jpg

Carluccio's, Marylebone (pictured, left)

When the clock strikes 5pm, grab a stool at the bar of this friendly chain and get to grips with aperitivo time. Cicchetti such as Sicilian aubergine stew with Italian flatbread all cost less than £4 – and there’s £5 off any bottle of wine to accompany your Italian-style tapas. If wine’s not your style, try a Venetian bellini, made with passion fruit, before aperitivo time ends at 7pm.

Fornata, Soho

This dapper and unpretentious Soho site is perfect for post-work, pre-dinner drinks with friends and colleagues, combining charming staff and affordable small plates with a relaxed atmosphere. Refuel at Fornata after a day of shopping, or before hitting one of Soho’s buzzy bars.

Il Tempo, Covent Garden

When the sun sets on Covent Garden, this chic wine bar takes centre stage. From 6-8.30pm, complimentary cheese, salads, cured meats and tarts are served alongside classic aperitif-style wines and refreshing cocktails such as Aperol spritz.

MASS0353_-_2011_Massimo_WEB.jpgMassimo, Covent Garden (pictured, right)

Massimo’s glamorous oyster bar offers an all-day aperitivo menu, with native oysters from £3 a pop, plus Mediterranean crudi (raw-fish delicacies) such as langoustine with rocket, Ligurian olive oil and Amalfi lemons, or mackerel tartare with capers and roast-chilli oil, starting from £5. Order speciality drinks, such as Italian artisan beer Birra del Borgo, or Martini or Aperol spritz cocktails, to wash it all down.

Mele e Pere, Soho

The welcoming, lively dining room at this casual Italian eatery is a great place to relax before seeing a show. During the week, from 4-7pm, any drink – from a pear bellini to a refreshing white wine – is half price when you order any small plate or starter. Tuck into well-rendered modern-Italian classics, such as stracciatella cheese with tomatoes and basil, cured San Daniele ham, or delicious arancini.

Pizza East, Ladbroke Grove

There’s no need to make a reservation here – just stop by between 5-7pm from Monday to Wednesday for Pizza East’s take on the aperitivo tradition. When you order an Italian-inspired cocktail or a glass from its wide range of wines, treats such as complimentary beef carpaccio, lardo-and-pear crostini, pizzette, and grilled sardines are lavished upon the table.

da Polpo - Da_Polpo_2011_-_IMG_0328_-_Fritto_Misto.jpgPolpo Campari Bar, Soho (pictured, left and top right)

For simple-yet-tasty bites in the centre of town, look no further than Polpo’s tiny cellar bar. If you can squeeze into it, it’s perfect for a thirst-quencher and a plate of cicchetti with friends. Try the anchovy-and-chickpea crostini or the potato-and-Parmesan crocchette, all washed down with a classic Campari spritz. This spot closes at 4pm on Sunday, so make sure to stop by earlier in the week.

This feature was published in May 2013.

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