Isola by San Carlo: New Menu Brings Italian Summer to West End

Isola by San Carlo: New Menu Brings Italian Summer to West End

By Helen Down

Isola, one of the jewels in the crown of Italian restaurant group San Carlo, is within spitting distance of Selfridges. And it shows. Even on a stormy Monday night, Isola was buzzing with well-heeled shoppers recuperating after a day of retail therapy. Its draw? Unpretentious Italian classics crafted with amore.

Having just launched its summer menu – which features Italian paragons such a burrata e pomodoro, tagliolini with crab and caviar, and coda di rospo gratinata (pan-fried monkfish) – Isola’s food and atmosphere contained enough vibrancy to outshine the hurricane outside. Should the weather ever permit al fresco dining on its St Christopher’s Place terrace, you’ll be instantly transported to the Med.

With waiters dressed in stripy waistcoats and dinky bow ties, the vibe is 1950s retro meets Amalfi coast. We duly embraced the ambience by kicking off with two summery cocktails, the Tutti al Mare and Al Fresco. Both were bursting with fruit flavours and thick foam worthy of a pudding. An indulgent beginning.

For starters, we opted for gamberoni luciana (tender prawns in a creamy tomato sauce laced with just the right volume of chilli and garlic) and a plate of prosciutto, melon and mozzarella, which burst with market fresh vigour. Next up, never one to miss a truffle, I ordered ravioli tartufo e pecorino. The musky smell hit me before the dish even landed on our table. Slightly al dente at the edges, five tortellini were served in a neat line, oozing creamy pecorino under frilly black truffle shavings. I told myself I wouldn’t eat it all. But I couldn’t resist. Heaven. Absolute heaven. My dining companion went for lamb cutlets on sweet and sour peppers that carried all the Sicilian notes of an authentic caponata. Despite our contented bellies being full to the brim, in the line of duty we ordered tiramisu. Its contrasting layers of fluffy and dense didn’t disappoint.

We were so immersed in Isola’s Italianess that when we rolled out, we were shocked to find ourselves in howling West End wind, not the Med. Such is the power of an Italian that’s as authentic as Isola.