It’s just as well Strop booked – this place is packed. Although it might have been wise to get in a bit earlier, I think to myself, as we troop through the front room, past the kitchen and down the side to the out-backiest, out the back table they have. Right next to the toilets. Hmmm, we may need to re-set our expectations about just waltzing up to King Street eateries and getting a table up the front. They obviously do things differently down the south.
Tonight we are joined again by John and Pauline (Thai Pothong, Thanh Binh) who have recently pressed the retire button, sell-house button, and backpack-off-into-the-sunset button (although due to them not being as young as they once were, they are opting for backpacks with wheels). We are, frankly, jealous.
Soffritto is right next door to 3 Olives and is another of the quality eateries that we are enjoying and coming to expect in this part of the quest (which I have just decided to call the elbow of King St – or possibly the knee – I’ll let you know which I settle on). But while 3 Olives is all bright and relaxed, Soffritto is much more sombre and subdued. The front dining area is so dark, that from the street you have to look carefully to see if it is actually open. It feels as if this is a place that takes food seriously. Where we are sitting out the back is brighter, and has radiant heat lamps to keep the winter chill at bay, but unfortunately they only work on one surface at a time. We toy with the idea of periodically changing seats, rotating around the table as a kind of rotisserie but before we can put this plan into effect Pauline has had a quiet word with the staff and they have promised us a table inside as soon as the current occupants finish their coffees. Sometimes you just have to ask. That is a life lesson I am still in the process of learning, my default position being to simmer in a stew of equal parts bitterness and regret.
A little plate of hot battered olives is the first thing to arrive at our table followed by a very pleasant bottle of tempranillo. Hot olives seem to be everywhere nowadays, and this is a good thing, but these are a bit too hot I discover as I help myself to the first one and have to do that thing where you try to hold the hot thing with your teeth so it doesn’t come into contact with your tongue or other soft sensitive parts, and suck air in around it to try to cool it down enough to chew. Everyone else is too busy talking about Morocco, and sharing camels, to notice my distress. They don’t eat their olives until they have had time to cool down a bit. Sensible bastards.
The menu is Italian-ish, not huge but well balanced. There is a five course degustation option and a special for three courses, but we opt for à la carte, and give the entrees a miss. Having overlooked the slow-cooked lamb last week at 3 Olives, I decide on the lamb shoulder with pappardelle, John picks the roast beef with pancetta, and Strop and Pauline opt for the barramundi. Before the mains arrive we are invited to join the chosen ones in the warmth of the main dining room and given some yummy bread and olive oil. The bread is made on the premises, which the waiter points out a couple of times (he seems very proud – maybe he made it himself) and it is crunchy and hits the spot. Despite the full house, conversation is easy. Soffritto is not one of those noisy places that makes me think it must be time to get my hearing tested. The floor staff are good, moving efficiently and quietly through the crowded room.
I thoroughly enjoyed my lamb pappardelle, although it may have had a bit more salt than it needed. The barramundi was excellent, with tomato and just enough chilli, and John’s beef disappeared very quickly. For dessert Strop and I couldn’t go past the steamed marmalade pudding, and John opted for the chocolate pudding. Pauline decided against dessert, but was later observed tucking into quite a bit of John’s chocolate pudding. This sharing may have been a better option for Strop and I, because the marmalade puddings were quite generous and we are not the kind of people to leave any food behind. By the time I’d finished my coffee, I could barely move.
As we made our rotund way home, John and Pauline pressed their cold noses against the glass window of Corelli’s, where their son has just started working. It was a heart-warming scene as young David stuck his head out the door and told his parents to go home and stop stalking him.
Not sure what exactly is coming up next. Whatever it is, it’s bound to be brilliant.