Honest, unpretentious and fairly priced: Italian food has become so second nature to London that any effort in making restaurants appear authentic is no long needed. La Porchetta, though, is a good example of a new wave Italian.
The Victorian structure of La Porchetta is hardly visible thanks to an interior that's been renovated to such a degree that it borders on sterility. If one wall retains some (modern) wooden paneling, the remainder of the space has been sanitised via brushed steel, shiny stone worktops for the tables and a new open-plan kitchen encased in glass. If the image of a stereotypical Italian trattoria with red and white checkered tablecloths is part of the past, La Porchetta isn't exactly the modern and slick Milanese type of place either. It rather sits in a slightly unfashionable middle ground, with scarce décor on the walls and too few elements to identify this place as a true Italian restaurant (rather than just another British-run pizza place).
Ok, so La Porchetta lacks something visually. Yet, the customers do not seem to mind too much. As opposed to other restaurants in the area, this place seems to attract local residents rather than loud office groups... and that’s a good thing. Small groups of friends seem to span all ilks and ages. Another positive element is that the service (most of the staff are from Italy) is delightful and the food and general atmosphere guarantee that customers can truly relax and chat away. The focus is not on the food, rather on the casual conversations.
The focus in not on the food because the menu is composed of unpretentious options needing no dissection or analysis. There are no complex ingredients, no fashionably tiny portions and no exceedingly elaborate presentation. Instead, the menu aspires towards honesty, and achieves just that. Within the antipasti (£3.25-£8), the cured mixed roast vegetables are plenty and flavourful, while the prawns in home made Marie Rose sauce are nice enough, even if they are served slightly awkwardly on a single iceberg lettuce leaf. The simple garlic pizza bread is the ultimate winner.
Within the pasta options (£7-£11), the penne alla Siciliana (tomato sauce, garlic, aubergine, onions and chilli) are cooked al dente and coated with a satisfying sauce that's rich in vegetables and spices. The shin of pork with garlic, onions, Porcini mushrooms and rice (£14) is a huge plate and wonderfully rich in everything - you will struggle to finish it. It would be a shame if you left no space for dessert (£4): traditional and mouth-watering, you can pick from tiramisu, mixed gelato, ice cream cone and more.
There are a dozen wines available, all very reasonably priced at £14.50-£30. The only regret is that only five are available by the glass (£4 for 175 ml) with also a couple of half litre caraffes. Knowledgeably described, there is more than enough to match whatever you decide to eat. Beers (£3.75-£4.50), soft drinks (£2-£2.20), spirits (£3-£4) and the not-to-be-missed authentic coffees (£1.80-£3) complete the selection.
The Last Word
La Porchetta does without sophistication to embrace its customers with a pleasant, laid-back experience and food. Just sit down and unwind.