Cucina Asellina revisited | ME London Hotel, 336-337, The Strand, London WC2R 1HA
By some weird coincidence we revisited the revamped Cucina Asellina at the plush celeb haunt ME London hotel exactly two years after the first visit. Although when I say we, I mean my sister and I, Ade was coming with fresh eyes.
I think his eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw the stunning front of house girl, I was quickly reduced to feeling like a total scruf bag. My comeuppance for ogling the chef at the Palomar perhaps. The room is still beautiful but slightly less informal, I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed the oversized black and copper lights that hang from the ceiling before.
They’ve added some plush raised banquette seating by the windows where we watched a couple slow-dancing outside – only in London… Although these seats look super comfy, I ended up spending the majority of the meal trying to stop myself from sliding off and ending up underneath the table. Maybe it was my cheap Primark tights not providing enough grip.
A typical Saturday for us is normally spent back at home in Kent, frantically trying to get through the housework, catching up with the blog and never-ending D.I.Y. Sipping cocktails at lunctime at Asellina felt like a huge luxury. Especially for Ade as his refreshing La Bianca (£11) with a white Sangria base tasted like holidays and sunshine. My Signora Asellina (£11) with limoncello and raspberries wasn’t too far behind.
The new menu by head chef Stefano Lorenzini and chef director Barry Vera, consists of over 30 regional tapas-style Italian dishes divided into eight sections, all priced for less than £10. Plus there’s an offer on Bookatable – any four dishes and a cocktail for £29.50 per person, which is pretty good value for such an opulent hotel. I spotted some of the dishes I had last time were still lurking, including the Tirimasu – one of the best I’ve had.
The waitress advised us to choose three dishes each which came out two at at time so we didn’t end up with a cluttered table and the worry that our food would go cold. Golden Frittura mista with calamari, soft shell crab, prawns and whitebait (£8) was well seasoned and crispy. Veal meatballs, roast tomato sauce and basil (£5) juicy and fresh with a robust and tangy sauce and not at all filling (that’s a good thing by the way).
Herb fettuccine and venison ragu (£8) was a real highlight, the herbiness from the pasta perfectly matched the meat. Again, a lot lighter than we anticipated, you could easily get through quite a few of the dishes here. The Square spaghetti, pomodoro, fresh basil and olive oil (£8) was certainly al dente with a texture that can only come from being handmade. I know it sounds like a boring thing to order at a restaurant but I’m really glad we did. It’s an all-time belly-pleaser for me.
We thought the Saltimbocca, roast ham, mozzarella and wild mushrooms (£7) was to be a pizzetta, that was the section we ordered it from after all. When it turned up it was more of a pizza toastie which we initially thought was a mistake and that it must be meant for someone else’s table. Once Ade got over the disappointment of it not being a mini pizza he got stuck in, enjoying the mushrooms and the creamy melted mozzarella.
Apart from the whole having to share thing, another problem with small plates is when dishes don’t match each other very well. Grilled prawns, rocket, fennel and orange salad (£9) arrived with Brocolli, garlic and chilli (£4) which would have been better suited to the meatballs. But hey, just a small quibble. The prawns were of incredible quality, sometimes prawns are just well, prawns but these were large, juicy and full of flavour.
Before we knew it we were all done, realising nothing else was coming made us feel a little sad. But this is another good ‘bad’ thing, the opposite would be pretty annoying. Plus there was still dessert to be had! Ade is an Affogato (£5) freak so he was all over that. My heart said Tirimisu but my head told me to try something different, so I opted for the Chocolate tortino vanilla gelato (£5) – a warm gooey fondant style dessert.
Whenever we’ve visited ME London it’s always been at peak times so getting a spot at Radio the rooftop bar was always a no-no. Although it was busy, there just about enough room for us to people-watch over a couple of cocktails. London Fashion Weekend had bought out the beautiful people, more good news for Ade, bad news for me.
ME London Hotel, 336-337 The Strand,
London WC2R 1HA
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7395 3445
Book a table online
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday: 6:30am – 11:00pm
Sunday: 7:00am – 10:00pm
Nearest station: Covent Garden (6 mins walk) Charing Cross or Leicester Square (10 mins walk)
We ate as guests of Cucina Asellina, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.