July’s local restaurant reviews
We check out foodie hotspots in south west London and Surrey, including San Lorenzo, The Anchor, Ripley, Peppe’s and the Lakeside Grill in Esher
San Lorenzo, Wimbledon
Making it to your 50th year in any business is no small feat but in the hospitality trade, where trends come and go and recreational spending can turn on a dime, it’s even more impressive to reach such a milestone. This year, San Lorenzo, the much-loved Italian restaurant in the bustling centre of Wimbledon, celebrates its 50th anniversary. Family run and dishing up a welcome blend of classic Italian fare and seasonal produce, we settled in for dinner to see what’s new. The menu showcases new dishes around every six weeks alongside the traditional staples – pappardelle with wild boar is a favourite with the regulars – and its Romana pizzas, which owner Ghigo Berni spent six months in the kitchen perfecting the dough recipe.
I kick off with a moreish pennette pasta with prawns, tomato and vodka cream. The sauce is velvety and fragrant and reminds me of family holidays in Italy. My companion’s swordfish carpaccio is almost translucent in its wafer-thin deliciousness and the grated lemon, olive oil and thyme dressing adds a zesty note. The British weather wasn’t quite on our side to make use of San Lorenzo’s stunning al fresco terrace at the back of the restaurant but the covered conservatory proved a great spot with just enough buzz.
For main course, I opt for the swordfish steak with lemon, black olives and spinach. It was a generous serving with two juicy and tender pieces of swordfish delicately pan seared. My companion opted for the grilled king prawns with butter and wine on organic brown rice. This dish was envy inducing thanks to the luscious, plump prawns – and lots of them – and the buttery marinade. A side order of the crispy zucchini fries is also a must. Belt notches a little tight from the Italian hospitality, we opted to share a delectable creamy helping of traditional tiramisu with coffee.
Part of San Lorenzo’s charm is certainly its family-run heritage. Ghigo Berni and his brother Paolo are sons of Lorenzo and Mara Berni, who established the original San Lorenzo in London’s Beauchamp Place. And while the Knightsbridge outpost has served everyone from The Beatles to Sophia Loren, Joan Collins, and Jack Nicholson, the Wimbledon sibling has become an institution in its own right, famous for hosting pasta loving tennis stars during the Championship. According to reports, Boris Becker first came when he was 16 and is still a fan and more recently the likes of Maria Sharapova and the Williams’ sisters have taken a seat in the white-table-clothed restaurant. It’s not easy standing the test of time, but San Lorenzo is likely to go on for many more generations at this rate.
Lakeside Grill, Esher
Tucked away in Silvermere Golf Club is the Lakeside Grill, which is open to non-members and has just had a makeover, specialising now in steaks. My guest and I opted for tiger prawns, a generous and juicy portion with a deliciously garlicky sauce. The steak-lover that I am couldn’t decide between sirloin, rib eye or fillet and so greedily opted for all three – there is a sample board with 4oz cuts of each, and all arrived perfectly rare, as requested. The fillet cut like butter, the rib eye characteristically tasty and the sirloin also divine. You can choose from a range of sauces but I prefer to let the flavour of the steak speak for itself – when the sourcing is good I don’t think you need the sauce. Greedier still, I topped off my order with some crispy onion rings and salved my conscience with a side of broccoli. My guest ordered the supreme of chicken, served with chanterelle mushrooms, which she declared delicious. Too full for dessert, we almost declined – but I spied Yuzu tart and with desserts created by ex Nobu pastry chef Asuka Tsuji – thought I had to give it a whirl: no regrets, with this Asian take on a lemon meringue pie worth every calorie. It was stunning – and I am no sweet toother. Silvermere is located near to Painshill Park so if you’re over that way, do plan a little diversion to the Lakeside Grill, particularly on a warm evening when the terrace on the lake will come into its own.
If you live in North Kingston and have kids, then chances are that Peppe’s is already on you radar. If not, you are missing a trick – this rustic Italian has a vast playground and garden out the back, crowd-pleasing food and a great welcome. It also has fans further afield, with Sicilian ex-pats coming from the other side of London – and on meeting Peppe, who hails from Palermo, it soon becomes apparent why. While he is a big part of the community here, supplying pizzas for free for local school fairs, his love for the food from his homeland comes across with a passion. Showing us a clip of a fantastic freshly caught beast of swordfish, he told us how each week, he makes a call to Sicily to find out what fish the night boat has caught , he takes his pick, it is flown straight over, then goes on to the specials menu. We later tried a huge plate of the fish – seasoned and grilled to perfection. He also brought us another Sicilian speciality of red prawns alongside tender thinly sliced octopus – delicious. There are Italian favourites on the pasta menu, but we wanted more of the Sicilian inspired dishes. We tried a flavourful plate of pasta with sardines, fennel and pine nuts, and a dish of pasta with slow-cooked swordfish and aubergine – both superb. Pizza too is something special here with Peppe combining five types of flour to get the exact thin crispy base he is looking for. My kids devoured two huge pizzas, topped with a rich tomato sauce, choosing a combo of anchovies and olives from the wide selection available. Peppe’s is a great slice of Sicily in Kingston, and a firm favourite in summer when kids can burn off steam in the playground, while parents chill in the adjacent garden.
The Anchor, Ripley
Travelling from north Surrey, our journey to The Anchor Ripley was straightforward – only around 20 minutes – which makes this an ideal destination if you fancy a break from your usual hangouts. The 16th-century red-bricked pub with its higgledy-piggledy vibe and wooden beams certainly make an impression, but as historic pubs go, The Anchor has an informal atmosphere and a classically homely feel. As my guest and I settled into our cosy corner for two, we sipped a cool glass of Albury Estate sparkling wine – dry and refined – one of the pub’s many local partners who are championing excellent British produce.
First up was the pub’s signature black pudding scotch egg accompanied by puffed pork skin and apple sauce. The scotch egg was crispy, yet tender with a melt-in-the-mouth yolky middle, while the pork-skin elevates pork scratchings to a whole new level. This is the stuff of comfort food – and both made me grin.
One pork dish wasn’t enough, so I went for a triple sitting, and chose the braised pork belly with a white bean casserole and guacamole. The beans added crunch and texture to the salty and smoky piece of meat, which just fell apart. A must-try is the crispy roasted hake served with poached fennel, a fresh and delightful combination balanced by a tangy mustard sauce. Order, too, the polenta and Parmesan fries. I didn’t need them and if I hadn’t had eaten so much I’d have happily munched my way through the whole lot. By this point, my calorie counter had combusted, so it only seemed right to finish off this decadent meal with something luxuriously naughty. Enter the dark chocolate parfait – so creamy, I was glad the mango sorbet tempered the richness of the dessert.
Many gastro pubs in Surrey charge a pretty penny for mediocre dishes. “You get what you pay for” isn’t always an adage that reflects when eating out – I’ve often paid a lot for not very much in terms of quality and execution. At The Anchor Ripley, however, the prices are reasonable considering the exceptional food, and the first-rate service. And while not everyone is into fine dining such as at Steve Drake’s flagship restaurant, Sorrel, in Dorking, which holds a Michelin-star, The Anchor offers up the same measured, delicious cuisine, but in much more relaxed surroundings. Plus, it’s got a handful of coveted awards, too, including Michelin’s Bib Gourmand.
So ‘reasonable’ really doesn’t have to mean scrimping on quality, and I will return again, just so I can have another bite of that ever-so pleasing scotch egg…