Featured Restaurant: Rucola

14th July 2017

Station Road • Little Chalfont • Bucks • 01494 762498

Reviewed by Alan Cox

Rucola is positively buzzing on our arrival, and the patronage steadily increases as the evening wears on. From intimate tables for two, to big parties of ten or more, the place is a hive of activity with diners of all ages. And you’d be hard pushed to find a warmer welcome, and a friendlier, more relaxed atmosphere…

The unfussy and modern interior of this Italian trattoria is striking, with its bright red feature wall adorned with black and white prints, contrasting with the black furniture and tiled floor, and coupled with crisp white linen tablecloths and napkins: visually it makes quite a statement. But it’s the appetising aromas from the kitchen that impress even more.

In addition to the regular menu, full of traditional pasta, pizza and other hearty Italian dishes, is the ‘specials blackboard’ – almost another menu in itself.
We tuck into some rather moreish garlic bread batons and a dish of olives as we contemplate our choices.

I opt for Parma Ham, Gorgonzola and Fresh Figs from the specials. The presentation is very pretty, with the figs cut and fanned like a flower, the ham in curls – all sitting on a bed of rocket and sprinkled with pine nuts. Good quality meat, mature cheese and fresh fruit combine to make a lovely, summery and light starter.

Also from the blackboard is my daughter’s choice, Mussels in a White Wine sauce. Maybe a little more French than Italian, nevertheless this is a really generous portion of steaming hot shellfish in a savoury broth. The garlic and chilli really lift the taste, but there is just one thing missing… some rustic bread to mop all the lovely juices.

It’s hard to go wrong with a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio, but this particular bottle is not as chilled as I like, and doesn’t really have much depth of flavour. Sadly, it’s a little lacklustre.

The pace of our evening, however, is spot on, and considering just how busy the restaurant is, the staff are attentive, polite and friendly throughout.

Next, and arriving on huge, white oval plates, are our mains – once again from the specials – Ravioli filled with Parma Ham in a butter and sage sauce and Monkfish Provençale. The homemade pasta is fresh and light; the sauce perhaps a little creamier and thicker than expected, but without overpowering the saltiness of the flavoursome Parma ham.

I’m particularly keen on my succulent monkfish tail: it’s ‘meaty’, just as it should be, and with the delicious whole baby tomatoes in the sauce impressively retaining their shape, rather than turning into a mushy mess. With the odd kick of chilli, there are moments when this sauce really sings out.

We also order a selection of vegetables: buttered French beans, roast potatoes and a bowl of zuccini fries in a light batter – a veritable veggie feast.
From the moment I arrive, I can’t stop smiling at the sweet trolley while it makes its rounds among the tables. Dated? Perhaps. Appealing? Certainly.

I’m not disappointed with my Tiramisu, which is light, fluffy and creamy, and, with a generous glug of Amaretto poured over it, slides down easily. My daughter, better able to resist the decadent trolley, opts for a more refreshing bowl of Lemon Sorbet.

A glass of Limoncello rounds off a highly enjoyable meal in a very pleasant venue, with genuine Italian warmth and hospitality shining through.

STARTERS: £6.50-£11.50 • MAINS: £7.90-£18.50 • DESSERTS: £5.50 • HOUSE WINE: £15.50

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