You don’t necessarily have to go to the West End to find good restaurants – if you’re lucky there might be a place near where you live that is always reliably good. Take, for instance, Trattoria Sorrentina in Harrow.
It may be a common fallacy that the best restaurants are only to be found in the heart of any city – local neighbourhoods can also turn up trumps. A local restaurant for local people may not get the attention that celebrity chefs have showered upon them, but they can still provide excellent cuisine without too much fuss. Trattoria Sorrentina is doing just that in the north-west London district of Harrow. Harrow isn’t a place particularly noted for its restaurants, unless you venture up to Harrow-on-the-Hill where the famous public school is surrounded by smarter eating places.
Trattoria Sorrentina is adjacent to what used to be the Granada cinema but which is now a fitness centre. The restaurant has been established for more than thirty years and, although it looks traditional with elaborate murals on the walls, there is certainly nothing old fashioned about it. It looks clean and fresh and the attention to detail extends to linen cloths, flowers on every table and the really attractive presentation of the food.
Unlike some modern Italian restaurants which can appear cold and lifeless, Trattoria Sorrentina seems immediately warm and welcoming. There’s a feeling of comfort here that puts you at your ease. The restaurant obviously has a loyal following among local residents and business people. It’s an ideal place to hold a business lunch or enjoy any sort of celebration such as birthdays or anniversaries and indeed there is always a party menu available with a wide choice of dishes for eight or more diners. The ambience is delightfully quiet and all in all it’s just a very pleasant situation in which to enjoy good food.
Good food? That is certainly the case here, with a range of fine cuisine served with such distinctive flair, it almost takes your breath away. A la carte starters include Mozzarella with Parma ham, tuna mousse wrapped in smoked salmon, carpaccio of beef with Parmesan and baby scallops with bacon and chicory. There’s also a list of pastas and soups while main courses of fish include king prawns with garlic and chilli, monkfish, dover sole, tilapia fillets, sea bass and mixed fish. Other main courses offer veal, baby chicken, fillet steak medallions, calves liver and vegetarian sausages. Whereas the average a la carte spend might be from a very reasonable £10 to £20 per person, the set lunch also represents extremely good value at just £10.50 for two courses or £13.50 for three, including coffee and petits-fours. For starters there is always a fresh soup of the day plus a choice of mozzarella and tomato salad, melon, mushrooms in garlic and wine, and marinated anchovies salad.
The mushrooms are exceptionally good steeped in their rich and intensely flavoured sauce, but the anchovies are even better. The tiny marinated fish are presented on a bed of salad leaves spread out all over the plate. They look an absolute picture and they taste just divine. Fine fresh crusty bread and superior butter complete a perfect first course on the set-lunch. The selection of main courses is just as eclectic: fresh ravioli in spicy tomato sauce, breast of chicken in cream and mushrooms, Venetian-style calves liver, grilled salmon with olive oil and lime, and fillets of sole. The salmon is a cut above most you might find elsewhere, packed with flavour and enhanced by the lime and olive oil dressing: simple but nonetheless perfect. Another revelation is the sole which arrives as four neat little examples of the fish with a delicious accompanying sauce of tomato, wine and fennel seeds: just superb and so hot and fresh tasting, that it’s a true pleasure to tuck into this sort of food. Again the presentation is faultless which makes the food appear even more appetising. With the main courses come a large bowl of fresh, mixed vegetables including new potatoes, carrots and broccoli to which you can help yourself. This is truly heaven on a plate.
From a choice of chocolate fudge cake, cassata ice cream, profiteroles or lemon mousse, the last two prove to be excellent – nicely soft choux pastry buns filled with cream and topped with chocolate, and a smoothly luscious mousse with a delicate lemon flavour. Coffee and petits-fours complete an exceptionally good meal.
The bulk of the wine list is devoted to Italian bottles, although there is also a range of wines from around the world. Of the Italian bottles there’s a white Frascati at £16.50 and an Orvieto at £18.50. The red Salice Salentino from Puglia is £21.50, and there’s a Barbera at £20.50 and a Barolo at £39.50. The full range of prices runs from £9.50 for the house wines to £54.50 for some really special bottles. The house Champagne is £36.50 while Dom Perignon is £135. The house red is a Valpolicella and the house white a Pinot Grigio. This last at £3.50 a glass makes a pleasant accompaniment to the meal.
The Last Word
How encouraging it is to find such a very good Italian restaurant in Harrow. It is certainly worth a detour to find such fine cuisine served so imaginatively in pleasant, comfortable surroundings, at a very reasonable price and with such a truly warm welcome. This is why Trattoria Sorrentina is still putting Harrow on the culinary map and why it deserves five stars by anybody’s standards.