Featured Restaurant: Porta Grande

9th March 2018

294 Uxbridge Road • Hatch End • HA5 4HR • 020 8428 0111

Reviewed by Lisa Botwright

Last autumn, a cosy Italian eaterie called Fellini entered its metaphorical chrysalis – and emerged as a stylish restaurant-cum-wine bar, with a new name of Porta Grande. After its sophisticated revamp, this butterfly now makes a self-assured, striking-looking presence on the Hatch End high street…

The slightly old-fashioned conservatory that used to be at the front of the restaurant is now reinvented as an intimate drinks lounge, part of an expertly re-configured open-plan space that’s been beautifully re-designed in dark teal with accents of bitter orange. The light fittings over the bar are stunning, and, mixed with the table candlelight, hit exactly the right atmospheric note.

The cocktails are enticingly great value, and evidently created by a mixologist with his tongue firmly in his cheek – try a ‘Smooth Italian’ or indulge in some ‘Porta Grande Bliss’. Guests are welcome to pop in for a drink, with no obligation to dine.

But we’re here for the food, and stride on past the bar and through the busy restaurant to take our (beautifully upholstered and rather comfortable) seats in anticipation. We find an à la carte menu full of well-loved Italian classics, and a list of specials (changed monthly), which tempt us with original and unusual modern European interpretations.

The Husband (TH) and I choose from the latter menu, with the Spiedini Esotici Skewer – a collection of scampi, smoked pancetta, mango and fennel – for him; and Zucchine Alla Menta con Stracchino – marinated courgette with olive oil, mint, parsley, garlic and stracchino cheese – for me.

Both are delicious, and indicate the chef’s skill in elevating his dishes with layers of balancing flavours. I soon learn to fill my fork with the perfect zingy mouthful of courgette, mint leaf and wedge of salty cheese – while TH rhapsodises over how well the crispy pancetta works when wrapped around the tart cubes of mango and sweet scampi.

Our mains are more robust and hearty, befitting the horrible wintry evening outside. TH selects Linguine Al’ Frutti di Mare (seafood linguine) and I opt for Pesce Rosso con Chorizo – red snapper with chorizo, new potatoes and asparagus. The dense and meaty fish sits atop medallions of crispy potato and chorizo, with the asparagus lending a lighter finishing touch. TH’s seafood dish is very impressive, with an excellent offering of langoustine, squid, mussels, clams and king prawns in a rich, garlicky tomato sauce.

We round the meal off with a shared dish of mint and pistachio ice-cream. By now, I can resist the cocktail menu no longer, so we add a glass of prosecco with limoncello. Drink and dessert pair beautifully.

Porta Grande isn’t quite perfect – not yet. The music is a little at odds with the trendy vibe (we must have heard Somewhere Over The Rainbow at least three times) – although there’s talk of event nights coming up. And what’s with the chunky wine glasses when the rest of the decor has been so well thought-out and themed? But these are little gripes when, overall, the restaurant is incredibly good value, with well-priced food served by friendly staff in stylish surroundings.

There is a quote that says ‘happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you’. Sitting quietly in our corner of the restaurant, we’ve whiled away a very contented couple of hours. Thank you Porta Grande.

STARTERS: £6.50-£8.75 • MAINS: £10.50-£19.75
DESSERTS: £1.80-£4.50 • HOUSE WINE: £16.50

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