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Friday, March 9, 2007


The day: 6th March 2007, Dinner.
The place: 45 Grafton Way, London W1T 5DQ
The venue: Sardo
The food: Regional Italian
The drinks: Reasonably wide selection, many Sardininan and several Italian choices, starting from the low teens. A few choices by the glass

We were back home in London for just a few days and we decided to focus on Sardo. We knew it was popular and we read mixed reviews about it: so we had to investigate. To be honest, by looking at the simple trattoria style dishes at fine dining prices we suspected something was deeply wrong. But let’s say we did it for you, dear readers
Still, as we got in the place was buzzing and the rustic decor was warm and enticing. So we had some hopes after all. We were seated at a table which was comfortably away from the others. In other sectors of the elongated room, however, the situation looked a bit more crammed. Most tables are quite tiny.
The menu offers traditional Sardinian dishes, especially as far as first courses are concerned (culurgiones, malloreddus, bottarga spaghetti, fregola), while all other sections of the menu consist of more ordinary proposals (e.g. tomato and mozzarella, beef carpaccio and wild boar prosciutto as starters; grilled swordfish, grilled tuna, lamb ‘battuta’, calf liver as mains; and tiramisu, almond and chocolate tart, and panna cotta as desserts).
We decided to begin with ‘bottarga spaghetti’ (£9.90) and culurgiones (£9.50). The latter are ravioli-like pasta with a cheese and potato filling.
Normally at this point we tell you about the complimentary starter (available even at a much less expensive place like LMNT). None of this at Sardo.
In the meantime the bread basket arrives.
In all fine Italian dining establishments we have introduced to you so far, the bread basket is complimentary. At Sardo, no. you pay £1.50 per person for the privilege. Is it at least a special offering? Yes: it is a pathetic assortment, a grand total of two varieties: greasy focaccia-like bread and ‘cartamusica’, nowadays definitely not rare in London. Ah well there were olives too, bar for three of them of the tasteless pitted variety, they, too, bathed in oil to at least add some flavour.
For the three stone carrying olives there was nowhere to put the stones. Man had to suck one such stone for a couple of minutes before a plate for this purpose finally arrived (after we asked for it). Perhaps the presence of the three higher quality olives was an unintended treat…

The primi arrive.

The culurgiones have a very characteristic (and definitely not easy to make - see the sequence here) seal, looking a bit like a wheat grain. On this basis what was brought to us was not culurgiones, but rather ravioli with a culurgiones filling. A pity for a restaurant whose distinctive name appeals to its regional character. Man found the taste of the cheese filling unrecognisable, difficult to square with the samples we had several times in Sardinia. Woman was more taken aback by the shallowness of flavour of the tomato sauce: bar for the colour, the presence of tomatoes was barely detectable.
The spaghetti alla bottarga had a more definite flavour. They were cooked well (nicely al dente), but the quality of the spaghetti itself left Man underwhelmed. More fundamentally, the sauce was terribly heavy and greasy. Woman found this excess fat flattened the flavour considerably. Man only worried about the fat content of his diet.
For mains, we went for a homemade Sardinian Sausage, the cheapest option at £12.00, and grilled tuna steak (£15.75).

As you can see from the picture, the cooking of the sausage is not of the classy type. We worried about the free radical content of our diet… However the taste was OK, though the copious amount of pepper in the meat was enough to cover most other flavours (fennel, bay, not to mention the meat itself!). The accompanying potatoes were duly greasy, too, but comforting, we have to admit that.
A nice touch, the two types of mustard (French and Italian) accompanying the meat.
We agree the tuna was the best part of the meal: the fish itself was of good quality and it had been cooked aptly. It was tender and moist. We had asked it medium, and so it was. The accompanying rocket was soggy. Man enjoyed the asparagus more than Woman, but both agreed they were cooked very well. Notice the roughly cut and presented tomatoes, pure pizzeria style.
As we said we were doing this for posterity , but we were not willing to invest much more money in this enterprise, so we shared a dessert. No ‘seadas’ on the menu (you can maybe still find them in Via Condotti, though), so we shared a chocolate and almond tart with ‘filuferru’ sauce (filuferru being a strong spirit) at £6.
The flavour of the sauce was hardly discernible. Woman found the ice-cream too sweet. By this time Man was too dejected to notice, and even talked himself into liking the cake. Woman found the latter pleasant though unremarkable.
At the end, the light: for the first time something complimentary was offered, a glass of limoncello or mirto. Had they noticed Man’s desperate look? No, they did it for everybody. Anyhow, we passed on this one.
We drank a bottle of (0.75l) water at £2.95. For wine, for a second we thought we had found the bargain of the century: a bottle of Sassicaia at £18.00! Oh no, it just a Sardinian table wine called Saccaia (Mancini), a decent and forgettable easily drinkable blend. The overall bill including 12.5% service (and the £3 for bread we can’t still get over) came at £86.74. With a better wine and a more expensive main course than the sausage, not to mention a second dessert, we would have broken our £100 rule. At Sardo of all places.
The service was friendly and polite. The portions are trattoria style. So is the lack of subtlety in cooking and (like some but definitely not all trattorias, more on this story later…) the lack of true passion for the food. So is the complete lack of presentation. Not so the prices, which top those of many fine dining Italian restaurants in London. Though the food is of acceptable standard, we fail to understand how people can patronise this place at these prices, when with a short walk Southwards they could pay less for incredibly more inspiring culinary experiences in venues such as, just to name a couple, Via Condotti and especially Latium. It is a nice thing to have a restaurant in London which concentrates on Sardinian specialities which are sometimes hard to find even in Italy. But this place could have a sense at half the prices. As it is, it doesn’t. Shame on all the British critics whose positive reviews adorn the webpage and the front entrance of Sardo. What do they understand of Italian food, we wonder? Do they think it must be cheerful, greasy, hearty, rustic, unsubtle stuff at overblown prices?
Matthew Norman, hang your head in shame! You wrote: ‘Sardo serves some of the best food to be found in London, and at much more sensible prices than such celebrated rivals as Locanda Locatelli’. Sardo a rival of Locanda Locatelli? Have your taste buds gone mad?!
Terry Durack, hang your head in shame! You wrote: ‘Sardo is the sort of place where you could happily go back to once a week for the rest of your life’. We definitely wouldn’t, even if the meals were paid for by the Independent, for which you wrote this nonsense.
Jeremy Wayne, hang your head in shame! You wrote: ‘A Sardinian restaurant of exceptional quality’. Please go take a vacation to Sardinia and only ever come back if you intend to write seriously about Italian food.


Anonymous said...

Have you ever tried Green Olive?

Man-Woman said...

no - but if it is within budget, we'll definitely try it next time we are back home, thanks for the suggestion!

Anonymous said...

Nice place,good food , beautiful wine list , great value for money...
No bread basket but for the rest i think that you'll enjoy..

Anonymous said...

Ciao! Com'era quel dolce fatto a forma di pianoforte? Sembra un pandispagna con della cioccolata decorata sopra...

Man-Woman said...

Translation of previous comment:
"Hi, how was the piano shaped dessert? Looks like a sponge with a chocolate decor on top..."

Penso ti riferisca al dolce del
San Domenico, vero? C'era si' una base sottile di pds (che forse si vede nella foto come uno strato alla base leggermente piu' chiaro), ma la maggfiorparte della massa era una mousse alla nocciola, con una sfoglia sottile di cioccolata decorata sopra. Discreto, ma non da svenire :)

Eng: I think you are referring to the dessert at
San Domenico, right? Indeed there was a thin sponge layer at the base (perhaps you can spot it in the picture, as a slightly paler layer on the bottom), but the bulk was a hazelnut mousse, covered by a thin decorated chocolate sheet. All right, but nothing to die for :)

Anonymous said...

Your visit sounds really disappointing. We went a few weeks ago with a couple of friends - one of whom is Sardinian. The presentation of the food and the details (bread, olives etc) were miles better than when you went judging by your pictures. One thing I would say, the lamb and the fish mains were better than my linguine with crab. I have had better pasta in my life. But, overall, I thought it was alright.

Man-Woman said...

Hi Woman Writer, thanks for your views.
well, of course there may be variations, plus obviously it is a matter of personal taste. But there were very cheap tricks, and you can tell from low quality tomato sauce, and of course the culurgionis, which we are sure your Sardinian friend will confirm have nothing to do with the original.
For similar reasons we were also pretty disappointed with Terra Nostra, which we later discovered is a sister restaurant, so if you were to go there (which we do not recommend :) ) it would be interesting to have your own view. Rather better, if we were you we would hop on a flight to Cagliari, and compare notes there Sa Cardiga e Su Schironi in particular)

Anonymous said...

Hi, 100% agree with your review. Went to Sardo last Friday and it was exactly as you described it: pathetic bread basket @ £ 1.50 each (the meny says "sardinian brads"...did not know that oily focaccia qualifies as Sardinian bread...)- disappointing starters, mains not memorable. Not to mention the service- waitress kept eating carasau bread from the plastic basket where they keep it, giving her back to the diners. Wow. It's a shame, used to like this restaurant, 5/6 years ago. Not going back.

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