A lot of dining establishments these days rely on gimmicks ? sharing plates, cocktails served in jam jars, or placing your order via a touchscreen table, writes Colette Doyle. Orso (pictured) is one of those reassuringly old-fashioned places that doesn?t need to resort to any such trickery; the emphasis here is on genuinely good Italian food that uses the finest fresh ingredients.
The menu is neatly divided into easily accessible sections and ?Aperitivi? features cocktails such as white peach Bellini (highly recommended) alongside a small selection of amuse-bouches that includes homemade bread with olive oil as well as fried courgettes ? a flavoursome mound of crispy deliciousness.
For starters, I opt for the classic that is Vitello tonnato: wafer-thin slices of veal coated in a creamy, moreish tuna sauce. My companion?s first choice of cannellini beans and black cabbage soup has run out it?s proved so popular, meaning he opts for pumpkin flavour instead and, when it turns up with pancetta on top, our eagle-eyed waitress whisks it away and replaces it with a vegetarian version instead.
For carb lovers there?s a choice of three different types of pasta, a risotto and two pizzas for the main course, but mindful of my doctor?s orders I decide to stick with protein and go for the breaded chicken with brown butter. The succulent meat is nicely offset by the piquant taste of the capers and anchovies that accompany it and my side dish of roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic is so good I?m loathe to share.
My pesecetarian plus-one orders the sea bass, which comes with a tasty black olive salad on the side; as this finicky diner is also teetotal, I?m delighted to find that the Gavi wine I?m so fond of comes in a handy 500ml carafe, which will allow me to enjoy a tipple but won?t make me look like a complete lush.
When it comes time for dessert there is one that is the acid test for any good Italian eatery: the time-honoured Tiramisu. This version is really moist, soaked in a nectar-like liqueur that I think I can place as being Marsala wine.
This cosy restaurant combines a sophisticated uptown location with a relaxed vibe, while dishing up some seriously authentic fare served with real Italian flare.
Orso, 27 Wellington St, London WC2E 7DB; 020 7240 5269; orsorestaurant.co.uk/
In a world where cooking food is an art form, restaurants need to impress on multiple fronts ? having a great menu isn?t enough anymore and this is giving rise to trendy venues where the d?cor is as important as the dishes, writes Molly Dyson. Luckily for the City, places such as Forge are becoming the norm. Its unique steam punk industrial theme creates an iconic atmosphere that lends itself well to the establishment?s second life as a night club and bar.
The hostess guides me and my partner past an impressive desk that features a lamp made out of a gas mask to the dining area. She seats us in perfect view of the kitchen, where the head chef can clearly be spotted in his impressive top hat and goggles. For starters, we both go with chicken skewers, his with chorizo and mine marinated in a peanut butter and coconut sauce, both of them delicious.
I?m feeling ambitious, so I order the house special, a half rack of ribs coated in a Coca-Cole glaze with chunky chips and spiced corn on the side. The sauce definitely tastes of the fizzy drink, but it?s not overpowering and the meat falls off the bone in perfectly tender bites. Rather more modestly, my companion goes with a chicken burger and agrees to a helping of bacon on top, only to discover when it arrives that it?s the size of Texas. Our bottle of Ch?teau de Beaulieu Coteaux d?Aix-en-Provence ros? ideally complements both of our dishes.
When it comes to dessert, we?re nearly defeated, so we share the restaurant-recommended strawberries and cream sundae while we sip on coffee. Even between the two of us, we leave almost half of the sweet vanilla ice cream, smooth panna cotta and bits of fruit. Forge is available for private hire, but be sure to come hungry.
Forge, 24 Cornhill, London EC3V 3ND; 020 7337 6767; forgedinlondon.com