Monday, 12 July 2010

Adventures In Food

As 'Avventura' prepares to open its doors tomorrow evening, the Worcester Park Blog takes an exclusive look at (and taste of) the town's newest restaurant which promises to bring the West End to Worcester Park. 

It's a brave of anyone to go into the restaurant business at all - let alone in the midst of an economic downturn, in sizeable premises (with up to 100 covers) and in a town which already has its fair share of Italian eateries.

Yet that is just what Salvatore, Michele and Roberto, the team behind Avventura, have decided to do - and they bring to their new venture an impressive track record in Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK, France and Italy.

Avventura's menu invariably reflects the restaurant's High Street location, but whilst the food on offer is more accessible and down-to-earth than would be found in the Central London and Michelin-starred establishments to which the team are accustomed, the emphasis on quality remains and the passion for authentic Italian cuisine is undiminished.

It is with just such passion that Salvatore tells me of his search for quality seasonal ingredients, paying that little bit extra to guarantee the finest and freshest produce. Where possible he sources his meat, seafood and vegetables from local suppliers but only if they can meet his exacting standards.

Salvatore and Michele, at the pasta-making table!

The freshness of ingredients extends to the pasta - which is not only cooked to order but also freshly made by hand each day on the pasta table at the back of the resturant (if you are so minded, just ask to see the team's impressive array of pasta-making equipment).

Salvatore's passion for authentic Italian cuisine is matched by that Chef Michele Brogi who has previously worked alongside Giorgio Locatelli at Zafferano and most recently in Florence’s three-Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri.

The quality of the ingredients and the skill of the team back of house is inevitably reflected in Avventura's pricing . Expect to pay around £8 for a meat-based appetizer and £13 for a fish main - towards the higher end for Worcester Park, but by no means extravagant.

In addition to the appetizing menu of fish, meat, pasta and pizza dishes there is a range of Chef's specialities (squid burger or oven-roasted suckling pig, anyone?), although these dishes do need to be pre-ordered.

When I found out that another Italian eatery was set to open in the old Caffe Piccolo unit, I somewhat sceptically asked how this new venture could hope to succeed where Piccollo had failed and how it could even begin to compete against the might of Pizza Express as well as the two other Italian restaurants in Worcester Park.

The answer, as I found out on my visit last night, is that it won't really try to compete - at least not directly. As Salvatore himself puts it, he will simply allow the quality of the food at Avventura to 'speak for itself' (presumably with an Italian accent), carving a niche by offering high-end but accessible authentic Italian food.

The restaurant is family friendly, but instead of patronising its younger clientele with the the usual nuggets-and-chips options, children up to 12 years of age are able to choose smaller portions of any of their dishes at a discount of 30% on the regular prices.

Avventura is staking a bold claim to the quality end of the Worcester Park restaurant scene and if the great dishes and friendly service I experienced are maintained (the starter of burrata mozzarella was simply exquisite for a warm summer's evening and you simply haven't lived until you have sampled Chef Michele Brogi's buffalo ricotta and basil pesto ravioli) then this will be the most welcome addition to Central Road for many a year.

The Worcester Park Blogger enjoyed...

Starter: Burrata mozzarella with olive oil (served on a bed of aubergine and garnished with anchovies, olives and oven-roasted tomatoes): £4.95

Main: Ravioli of buffalo ricotta & basil pesto with cold tomato sauce: £9.95

Dessert: "Meringata" crispy meringues with wild berries & lemon sorbet: £5.00

Avventura opens on Tuesday 13th July at 82-86 Central Road, Worcester Park. Tel: 020 8335 3355 -

The adjoining 'Espesso' cafe is due to open late July/early August.