February 05, 2006

Sardo Canale

Sardo Canale
42 Gloucester Ave, Primrose Hill,
London NW1 8JD
020 7722 2800

Don't get put off by the rather over-slick-looking website - or, indeed, the slightly over-designed, in a modernist and not entirely tasteful way, interior of Sardo Canale, the sister to the Sardo in Fitzrovia. I went to the wilds of Primrose Hill (where, not being of the Primrose Hill Set, I am rarely seen) recently and ended up at Sardo with a locally based friend and my parents, rather late for a Thursday night - around 10pm. Everyone else there was coming to the end of their meals and we were told that we'd need to order mighty quick.

But despite this slightly inauspicious start, the food we had was actually excellent. Starting with just a tuna tartare and a salad to share between the four of us, we could definitely have ordered more starters, but nevertheless these were good. But it was our main dishes that really stood out. We went for pastas all round, for speed and not wanting a super-heavy meal, and when they arrived my heart did sink a little bit as they were Italian-sized 'primo piatto' pastas definitely intended to be followed by something more substantial. But actually the portion size was a little deceptive and the quality of the contents made up for the size, big time.

I had fantastic squid ink 'chitarra' pasta (a kind of fresh spaghetti made by being pressed through a frame with wires, hence the name) with porcini, clams and prawns in a lightly creamy, tomato-y sauce. It was really a brilliant dish, excellently executed (the only perhaps low point being the prawns, which were almost unnecessary) and proved the point that a small amount of something really tasty fills you up much more than a whole lot of crap. My father had an also excellent dish of pasta with a traditionally Sardinian sausage sauce - suitably rustic but cooked with the refinement you might expect of somewhere with swanky interior design. We then shared two puddings (quality of food making us feel full-ish but still not that full) - a very good ricotta tart and a panna cotta.

A bottle of Sardinian red was pleasant if not breath-taking. I have to admit that if I had been paying, I might have felt a little under-served. My pasta was around £12 and the others a little but not much less - quite a lot for what would really have been a starter, had we had more time. The 'real' mains are more reasonably priced at £12-16, so definitely better value - and the other starters are £5.90-£8.90 which is OK. Altogether four of us, with a couple of bottles of water, got out for £120 - £30 a head, which isn't bad for the quality, but I would have liked to be a wee bit fuller, perhaps, for that cost.

Still the staff were actually very friendly despite hurrying us a bit earlier, the plentiful supply of bread was varied and very good, and I would definitely return here if I ever found myself lost in NW1. The trick might just be to order a real starter and main, despite the fact that our pastas were fantastic, and then feel a little fuller for much the same price.


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