Although it’s a relative newcomer to the capital’s restaurant scene, a recent visit to this classy Italian establishment – located on the ground floor of the five star ME Hotel – revealed it to be heaving with well heeled types. Step inside the modern, understated entrance and it’s not hard to see why.
The overall appeal of the place – that’s based on the popular Asellina in New York – is pretty big: think high ceilings, a theatrical open kitchen, stylish wooden floors, roomy tables and soft leather banquettes.
As for the food, diners get to choose from a selection of elegant, uncomplicated Italian dishes, all of which are beautifully presented. The Arancini – more’ish rice filled balls bursting with basil pesto and mozzarella – make for a satisfying starter (although admittedly it’s hard to muck up such a simple dish) while the Frittura mista (calamari, whitebait, prawn and lemon) were so good we couldn’t help but hoover them all up…
Similarly mains also impress. Standouts include the traditional Square spaghetti with tomato and fresh basil and the Tortelloni Di Ricotta with black cabbage and walnut pesto. The proportion of pasta to sauce is just right – enough to coat the tortelloni without drowning them in sauce. Meanwhile the wood fired pizzas that the table next to us ordered appeared to have bubbly thin bases bursting with high quality ingredients: we watched as our neighbours polished off every piece with a huge smile. If you’ve got room (portions are generous) round off with the Caprese – a chocolate cake as rich as Bill Gates that’s served with a seriously good hazelnut ice cream and caramel sauce. To drink, there’s an extensive range of wine although the emphasis is arguably on cocktails.
Prices match the glamour but service is impeccable and the surroundings suitably handsome. Essentially Cucina Asellina is unlikely to ever become a serious destination dining venue – it’s too near Cecconi’s and Cafe Murano for that – but it does provide a welcome injection of style to The Strand and is worth knowing about if you’re in the area and looking for a pre or post theatre dining spot.