One of the first stops we made in London was at the Al Fresco Italian restaurant located in Whetstone. We went for a nice relaxed Sunday lunch with some family friends at the eatery.Established in 1995, Al Fresco has quickly become a popular eatery in North London. With a focus on traditional, rustic Italian cooking and freshly sourced ingredients in a lively Italian atmosphere, the restaurant seemed to attract a lot of families who would enjoy the restaurant’s pasta, pizzas among other Italian treats. Since it was a lovely Sunday afternoon, the restaurant was rather busy.The main highlight of Al Fresco, whose name translates to outside, is the décor which reminds me of what I would imagine an Italian garden to look like (since I’ve never been to Italy – at least, not yet). The partial glass roof and lots of leafy plants around the restaurant coupled with some exposed brickwork allow diners to enjoy an outdoor dining experience all year round, especially during those depressing British winters. Since it was the summer, the table décor included dainty flowers adding a touch of bright color.
We settled in and ordered some rosé – Pinot Grigio Blush Ardesia, for everyone. Nothing like a crisp, fruity rosé on a warm summer day.
For our starters, we ordered several dishes from the Antipasti Misti menu. We got the Portobello – a Portobello mushroom baked with goat’s cheese, chilli and garlic, then topped with a layer of rocket leaves. The meaty mushroom complemented the soft goat cheese and the chilli and garlic added unexpected twists of flavor, with the rocket bringing a fresh touch to the otherwise heavy dish.We also ordered the Bruschetta Tradizionale – toasted ciabatta slices topped with fresh tomato, basil and olive oil. These were crunchy and the juicy tomatoes were sweet and just ripe.Our final appetizer was the Parmigiana di Melanzane – aubergines (eggplant) oven baked with mozzarella and tomato sauce. Now, you know I love this particular dish, and I’m usually quite fussy with this dish, but the flavors here worked and this dish oozed flavor.For our mains, DivaDiva and I decided to share the Risotto Vegetariano, a veggie risotto with peas, mangetout, spinach and parmesan cheese. I thought that the risotto was bland and needed more seasoning.My cousins ordered a Caprese pizza and Ravioli del Bosco. The Caprese comprised of a pizza base topped with baby mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, rocket and basil pesto. A play on the traditional Caprese salad, the pizza was delicious.The Ravioli Del Bosco was made of fresh, handmade ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta with a mushroom and cream sauce. This was decadent and quite delectable.Of course, after devouring our mains, Diva and I decided it would only be fair to round up the meal with some gelato from their dessert menu. Their Gelato Artigianale is artisanally made from the Cowdray Estate in the South Downs. I opted for Date, Cinnamon and Caramel – the flavors worked perfectly together and were reminiscent of a sticky toffee pudding. Diva got the classic Stracciatella – an Italian gelato version of chocolate-chip ice cream, that was also yummy. The two scoops of each flavor came with biscotti sticks. The gelatos were incredible and the best way to end the meal!
The meal was superb and the service was a little slow, but it was okay, considering we were a large group and it was a busy Sunday afternoon.
If you are looking for a great Italian restaurant in London, Al Fresco’s décor and the traditional rustic Italian food in a friendly and lively atmosphere may be ideal for you.
Try it out and let me know in the comments below what you thought of it!
Al Fresco Whetstone branch is at:
1327 High Road
Photos by Diva Shah