Behind a restrained King Street facade is a temple to fine Italian dining that has been recognised by the ultimate food authority for the third year on the trot.
L’Amorosa’s Bib Gourmand award (the ‘bib’ refers to Bibendum, the cuddly Michelin Man) means it is now the only restaurant in Hammersmith & Fulham so honoured, delighting chef Andy Needham, the jovial Yorkshireman who made the borough his home 12 years ago.
Unlike formal Michelin stars, Bibs reward well-cooked meals made with seasonal produce in more laid-back surroundings and, crucially, represent value for money. A three-course lunch is around £25... but you’d easily pay double that for comparable quality in other establishments.
Many dishes at L’Amorosa trace their heritage to the Michelin-starred Zafferano restaurant in SW1, where Andy made his name as head chef for 15 years. But he prefers cooking for Hammersmith than for Belgravia’s ‘gold-plated Bugatti’ brigade.
“Seriously, it’s ‘real’ here,” he said. “I love it here; I like the feel of the place. It’s homely. I got to the point in Belgravia that I needed a change. I live in Stamford Brook, and before that I was in Brackenbury Village; my kids are at the local schools.”
Andy said that it used to be possible to recognise award inspectors as they’d sit alone, and only drink water. Now it’s harder. They often turn up as couples and have a glass of wine!
Value for money is the key measure for qualifying for a Bib Gourmand. Meals must be under £28 for three courses, bringing the restaurant into the affordability bracket of a wider public.
L’Amorosa, midway between Ravenscourt Park and Stamford Brook tubes, was opened in a former coffee shop. “I look forward to the changing seasons,” said Andy. “As a neighbourhood restaurant, that’s important. It means that each time people come back there are [menu] changes.”
Now 46, he began his culinary career as an apprentice chef at the Savoy, chopping veg with 110 other chefs, including the young Marcus Wareing.
His cookery education took him to Paris and St Tropez, where he learnt the discipline of French cuisine. But his real love was ‘seasonal, refreshing Italian food’. He learned the cookery and the languages and, at the Michelin-starred Zafferano, employed 25 Italian chefs under him. The regional style of Italian cooking fits well with England’s regions, he argues.
He’s completely at home in H&F. “I’ve lived here 12 years, and I love it. We see a fascinating mix of people. I know people from my children’s schools. You get to know people in a way that you didn’t in Belgravia,” he said.
With just 40 covers, there’s an intimacy to L’Amorosa, which is split over two levels. “It’s small enough for me to come out and meet people,” he said, adding that the Bib Gourmand award was a tribute to the tight team he has around him.
“It’s a team effort, and it’s about the whole package,” he said. “Food should be served with a smile and a conversation. We have a team of mixed nationalities which reflects London.”
He fears for the effect of Brexit, but believes restaurants like his have a role in easing any pain. “It seems to be costing the country a fortune,” he said. “Part of the role of a restaurant is to try to restore people. Hopefully we’ll try to make them a bit happier!”
Ingredients are, as every chef will tell you, key. Homemade pasta such as the canoe-shaped cavatelli go beautifully with a coating of rich tomato, meat and herb sauce in this little centre of excellence in W6, especially after a cured meat starter, drizzled with balsamic. And the panna cotta and honeycomb dessert merits an article on its own.
The Michelin inspectors describe it as “a warm, sunny Italian restaurant; one that we’d all like to have in our high street”, praising the produce quality.
L’Amorosa is located at 278 King Street. Call 020 8563 0300 or visit www.lamorosa.co.uk.
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