02 November 2012
So it exists. An Italian restaurant in Chelsea, with zero pose factor, friendly service and most importantly of all excellent renderings of the kind of trattoria classics that will normally have one rushing to the nearest discount flight site to eat the real thing in Italy. Frantoio delivers on all fronts and is definitely been added to my must-gos.
A family run affair, my friend and I arrived with no booking, but like that unexpected guest who is welcomed and immediately greeted with a feast we were seated at the bar area, and whilst a table was found, enjoyed a selection of Parma Ham, Salami Milano, Paramagiano and a glass of Prosecco to get the proverbial ball rolling. Looking around, our fellow diners all had the ‘repeat visitor’ vibe about them: ordering without looking at the menu, laughing, smiling and seemingly oblivious to the fact that it was a week night and work beckoned the following day. Unlike many of the other eating establishments in Chelsea, there was no overly thought out interior design concept, paps at the door or strange mood-lighting more akin to a nightclub than a restaurant. This was a space without pretention and where food and ambience were the main order of the day.
It was late so we just had mains: I only had a mouthful of my companion’s lamb cutlets, but they were beautifully pink, succulent and not ruined by some ‘voguey’ sauce. What I can rhapsody about is my two pasta dishes: The first, spaghetti with crab; literally tasted like the sea. In a good way. The spaghetti hadn’t been boiled to oblivion, the sauce light and tomato based, operated almost like a dressing, allowing the crab, the hero on the plate to sing loudly and not be obscured by a din of other ingredients. My second pasta plate was pappardelle with venison . Whoever had cooked this had clearly treated it as a labour of love: slow braised venison with a ragu that was intense and almost smokey in flavour. In short the perfect late Autumnal treat.
As I am always on the look-out for restaurants that are doing things excellently, I was rather perplexed to find mixed reviews for Frantoio: my advice to anyone who is a fan of delicious Italian regional fare that is served with a smile and will not break the bank is simply this: mission it down to the bottom of the Kings Road for this neighbourly treat.