My <gulp> 37th birthday was just a few days ago and I was delighted to celebrate it with my mum in the UK. We’d spend a few days in Edinburgh followed by a few more in London, culminating with a meal at River Cafe, a new favorite special occasion spot. Well, the final day came along with some serious downpours and wind. It was also election day and the whole city just felt chaotic. Thanks to the weather, the 15 minute taxi to River Cafe was now looking like 45 minutes. And that is exactly how we landed on the very well rated, Il Porto, on Kensington High Street. The quaint spot purports itself as the city’s oldest family run restaurant. While I have no idea if that is true, the service was phenomenal, so I would absolutely believe it.
Even with the short notice of our reservation, the staff was so kind, seating us in a cozy booth and unpromptedly bringing us each a glass of prosecco. Very nice prosecco, that was quite cold and had tiny bubbles. None of that gross, lukewarm plonk.
After that came some delight light in the middle, crispy on the outside bread, and the best salad I’ve eaten in recent memory. It was seemingly simple, but the ingredients must have been exceptional. A mound of rocket was topped with the most wonderful goat cheese, walnuts, and lurking below, colorful slices of beetroot. My mum and I both died over this salad and vowed to recreate at Christmas.
After weighing several options for the main, the waiter chucked our other ideas and steered us both to this pasta- Strozapretti Romagnoli which is characteristic of the Bologna region that the family is from. The creamy dream featured a cheese that apparently is hard to come by anywhere else – squacquerone, a creamy brother of ricotta. The pasta was divine and neither us could finish the richness.
The dessert menu was your standard Italian favorites. We opted for a dark chocolate cake with vanilla gelato. The cake was a bit dry, but not rich which was quite welcome.
If you are staying near Kensington, absolutely Il Portico MUST be on your list. The small trattoria is a welcome change from flashier, pricier London restaurants. Let me know how it goes when you do!