Published on April 9th, 2014 | by Gavin0
21 Covent Garden
Summary: Makes a good effort at appealing to Covent Garden's diverse community
Covent Garden dining can be extremely hit and miss (much more miss than hit if I’m honest). Although you can find some gems such as Balthazar and Dub Jam, these are hidden amongst the attention seeking, but often rather poor tourist spots. Situated in the main Covent Garden square is 21 Covent Garden, an Italian restaurant spread over 3 floors that aims to appeal to the tourist and Londoner alike. A tall order you might think? I went for a meal to see for myself.
Walking through the mimes, street artists, and singers around Covent Garden’s famed cobbled streets it would be easy to miss 21 Covent Garden. It was in fact the packed outdoor seating area which first caught my attention, and looking at the amount of tourists sat in the sun drinking Prosecco, my initial feeling was that I was in for a very long evening. Thankfully as I have a reservation, I’m whisked off downstairs into the intimate, dimly lit main restaurant with plenty of character, and more importantly, very few tourists.
Now this is more like the Italians I love; based in the Covent Garden Piazza, the restaurant keeps much of the charm of the Georgian building. It’s homely, warm, and there’s plenty of Prosecco cocktails on the menu to help you relax. On the food menu you’ll find many of your favourite Italian dishes and doesn’t deviate drastically from tradition.
To start we order the risotto, crostini, and my personal favourite Italian snack, arancini. The wild mushroom and truffle risotto is gorgeous; although the truffle is overshadowed by the pepper kick, I savoured the balance. However, despite being made from the same risotto recipe, the arancini was disappointing. Instead of sticking to tradition by moulding the rice around a mozzarella ball, they’ve chosen to go with gorgonzola sauce on the side, which didn’t quite excite my taste buds as much as arancini usually would.
For mains we were recommended to try the stone baked Figaro pizza, topped with (deep breath) salami, parma ham, pepperoni, goat’s cheese, red onion, olives, and cherry tomatoes. This was by far the most impressive dish on the menu and would hold its own against the heavyweights of the London pizza scene Pizza Pilgrims, Franco Manca, or Soho Joe. Generously topped, fresh ingredients and a thin base with just the right amount of crunch- I was in my pizza element.
We also tried the salt marsh lamb ragu which reminded my Italian companion of her frequent visits to Brescia as a child. The chef excellently executed the home made feeling, and the slice of focaccia on the side added a nice touch, but the dish was let down by slightly overcooked meat.
Although the temperatures were in the high teens outside, crumble desserts are my weakness. The winter berry and apple crumble with mascarpone was truly heavenly and you’d be mad not to order if you’ve got room. The banana and chocolate tiramisu is nearly as indulgent; certainly much more banana-ry (most imaginative way to describe it!), but even as a chocolate lover, my guest could appreciate the creamy texture.
21 Covent Garden makes a valiant effort at appealing to the diverse crowds that visit one of London’s top attractions. The setting is romantic, the staff are attentive, and most importantly with any ristorante, they’ve got a fantastic pizza and risotto offering. If there were a couple of changes to the menu elsewhere they would be well on their way to becoming one of the most popular haunts for tourists and locals alike.
21 Covent Garden, 21 The Market, London WC2E 8RD