OK so for the third time in a row I find myself at a restaurant in which the premise is to share food. The only food I had previously shared was my birthday cake on my first birthday but that ended in a pool of tears and was an awkward thing for everyone involved. I have to say though I am beginning to warm to the idea. Maybe it is the fact that my aggressive eating style from years of refusing to share means I get a portion designed for two people mostly to myself; maybe it is because I get to eat an array of dishes as opposed to just a couple; or maybe it is a combination of the two – who knows?
The one thing I know for sure is this tapas style of dining is a brilliant idea no matter the cuisine. I have always found that one spectacular dish (in a traditional 3 course meal) is enough to change the entire dining experience. For example if your starter and main is average but your desert is one of the best you have had, it can transform a seemingly sub-par night to a memorable one. This works with any combination of courses. . At Suka in the Sanderson Hotel it was the fried squid, at Senkai it was the dumplings, at the JW steakhouse in the Grosvenor hotel it was the Cheesecake. All dishes so good, they are worth a visit to their respective restaurants regardless of the rest of the meal. Therefore, if you are dining at a place in which you are eating multiple dishes, the chance of finding that memorable dish enhances. So the question was if Fornata’s antipasti menu conformed to this idea or would I just have a table of substandard food.
The first dish to arrive was the Calamari. After my trip to Suka, the bar for deep fried squid had been raised drastically; an an accolade which was not challenged here. The next to arrive was the ‘Fornata Insalata’ which was a chicken salad with fresh artichoke and parmesan; which was delicious. I am rarely moved by salad and usually go straight for the meat or cheese when I order it. This time, however, I had enough fresh and healthy bites to have made the strictest nutritionist proud. Needless to say I had a good go at the meat and cheese but for the first time it seemed this was not an exclusive theme. The pork ribs were good but pork ribs are a dish in which the animal provides most of the flavor and the quality of the sauce, that invariably accompanies this dish, varies very slightly amongst any good restaurant. I had yet to be wowed; alas and it seemed this dream dish I was looking for would be a fruitless endeavor.
That was until the arrival of my next dish. If I was the last man alive and a genie granted me two wishes; my first would be for steak and my second would be bacon. A dish which contains my second favorite meat, wrapped around my first favorite meat, is one that is unlikely to disappoint. But the Ciabattina di Manzo, Pancetta e Pomodoro (to the Italian tongues readers) at Fornata was exceptional.
The combination of the fullness of symphonic flavors in the rib-eye with the unmistakably delicious musk of smoked bacon (unsmoked bacon should be criminalised) was a partnership as perfect as Fred & Ginger and well worth a visit to Fornata on its own. The final dishes were the Calzone Con Polpettine e Mozzarella and Bruschettina Con Salsiccia Piccante (bakes meatball calzone with mozzarella and sausage pizzeta). It would be blasphemous to visit an Italian Tapas style restaurant without having meatballs and pizza; fortunately the only unholy act involved was committed by me – Gluttony. Meatballs wrapped in pizza, steak wrapped in bacon and sausage pizzetas are things on a menu I had never been able to have in one meal but the tapas style sharing menu and Fornata made this trifecta of quality dishes possible.
The rest of the menu is filled with classic Italian dishes suitable for any meal of the day – pastas, salads, pizzas, ciabettas to name a few. The barman who had previously been named Italy’s best cocktail barmen made cocktails you could make Fornata a destination to meet for drinks before a night out in an area brimming with some of London’s most famous clubs. All of the baked foods are prepared in a traditional Brick Bake Oven and the helpful, funny and friendly Italian staff and the spacious Al Fresco option makes for a truly authentic Italian dining experience.
15 Kingly Street
London, W1B 5PS