06 August 2013
As a real lover of authentic Italian food I was really disappointed with my experience of Bottega Prelibato. As the title of this review suggests, I found it pretentious, and far more wrapped up in its image than its food – which is a complete inversion of what a decent Italian restaurant should be (I spent a couple of years working and living in Italy, so I can say that without wincing too much at how self-important I sound).
The first, and perhaps most irritating manifestation of this was the menu. It arrives on two hulky chalkboards which are dumped on your table, accompanied by a waitress who kindly explains every single item on it to you, reminding you at least twice in every sentence that this restaurant is authentic. At some point someone brings up a chopping board covered in pasta, so you can see what the different types are. Like the world's least helpful identity parade. This was probably the most faddy and unnecessary aspect of the evening – does anyone (particularly anyone that's eating out in Shoreditch) really need to have spaghetti and ravioli explained to them?
In the interests of balance, I must say at this point that the restaurant is beautifully decorated, and a lot of work has obviously been put into the look and feel of the interior – again though, it seems that style has been prioritised over substance, because it was uncomfortably hot inside from the beginning on the July evening when we ate there, with no fans to be seen and no air conditioning. This was particularly unsettling given that the cakes for dessert are all out and uncovered.
All these quibbles aside, I'm willing to put up with any amount of pomp and hot air (gettit?) if it's the prelude to some truly fantastic food – and for the frankly extortionate prices these guys were charging, that was what I was expecting.
Sadly, it just didn't stand up. The starter of scamorza and sausage bruschetta was fine – (but not exceptional. And how wrong can you go with cheese on bread?) but the rigatoni all'amatriciana, normally my absolute favourite pasta dish, was a real disappointment. I like my food spicy, but this sauce was far too hot and totally unbalanced, completely drowning any hint of pecorino or guanciale (though there was barely any of this to be found). The tomato sauce was claggy and tangy, an absolute world away from the rich, flavoursome plate of deliciousness I was expecting, and the ‘hunt the bacon’ aspect I alluded to before was a real letdown. As anyone who as eaten at an authentic Italian will tell you, it's possible to get much better food at a fraction of these prices elsewhere.
If you love Italian food and are looking for something authentic, delicious and honestly priced, steer well clear of this place. It might be an OK bet for a date you're trying to impress, but make sure they have no Italian relations.