A Cena, off the busy Richmond Road, offers a calm atmosphere with a gracious mix of simplicity and opulence.
A Cena was opened in 2001 by Camilla Healy, who grew up experiencing all things Italian from her mother and previously worked at Giorgio Armani’s first restaurant in England. As you enter from the hustle and bustle of outside, your eyes are immediately drawn to the elegant wooden bar with the striking, beautifully lit silver candelabra. The restaurant, despite only having around 15 tables, is far from cramped and is perfectly laid out with simple white tablecloths and traditional silver cutlery. The fresh white walls are classically decorated with vintage style mirrors, giving the room a sense of perspective, whilst leaving you to feel like you have drifted into a heritage dining room. The only downside to the venue is the pokiness of the ladies toilets, although far from an issue as they are still carefully decorated and little time is spent in there!
A Cena creates the perfect atmosphere for any occasion and attracts the kind of clientele that would you expect to find in a smart, well-to-do area like Richmond. The tables are close enough together to provide that cosy feel, but far enough apart to let you embrace in a meaningful conversation. The waiting staff are very much unobtrusive, yet attentive all the same. You are greeted with a smile and nothing seems like too much trouble. A Cena is far from stuffy and all generations would fit comfortably into the surroundings.
The daily changing menu is small, yet not limited. Most starters are about £8 or £9 and include everything from salads to antipasti to fish dishes. The scallops arrive on a seasoned bed of green beans trickled with a sumptuous, light and salty tomato and anchovy jus. The portions are far from stingy and if anything a little too large. The main courses are exquisite with a price range of between about £17 and £20. You do indeed get what you pay for with delectable and superior food, leaving you satisfyingly full but at the same time yearning for the delights of the next course. The pan-fried breast of Gressingham duck is served on a bed of red cabbage and comes with crispy cubed roast potatoes.
The desserts and cheese list are more than appealing with both traditional Italian recipes and some of the old favourites, such as rhubarb and custard. The homemade honeycomb sprinkled on the top of the rich, slice of chocolate tartufo leaves an aftertaste that you wouldn’t even want to wash away with a sip of Prosecco. All the food is made with exceptional care and precision and leads to a dining experience where disappointment is minimal, if not non-existent. Even the most discerning palate would be constantly surprised at the amazing flavours each course brings with it.
The drinks list is well established and boasts a very impressive selection of wines. A bonus too, being the carefully chosen categories the wines have been put into, with the flavour being the priority and not the region. The list comprises over 3 pages with bottles going up to £100 and starting from under £20. This completes the fine dining experience along with a well chosen list of cocktails and of course the optional aperitif of a glass of Prosecco. For the non-drinker or just to round off the meal, the fresh mint tea served in individual teapots is a delightful way to aid your digestion after the rich cuisine.
The Last Word
Whether it be an evening with great friends or a romantic, special evening for two, A Cena is a winner every time.