5 - 7 John Princes Street
Having braved the rain, day-glow teenagers and the bafflingly slow tourists of Oxford Circus on a Friday night, we made it to the new look Ponti's Italian Kitchen. We immediately sank into a booth and started sipping on very good glasses of prosecco.
This is one of the two Ponti's ‘new look’ waitress service restaurants. The décor comprises bright tiles and old photos, whilst the ambiance is lovely and chilled compared to the horrors waiting for you outside! The staff were wonderfully friendly and helpful. Although we were early and they weren’t by any means full, our dithering and chatting were good-naturedly put up with and we never felt so much as rushed.
We decided to share a starter of blue cheese and pear crostini which could have done with being a little crispier but was very tasty nonetheless. The menu is more geared to this kind of sharing instead of ‘full’ starters – a lovely social way to eat and if there’s a group of you it's even better, as you get to try practically everything. The main menu is full of old favourites. On a rainy evening such as the one we visited on, the spaghetti Bolognese, lasagna and tortellini looked very tempting indeed – proper comfort food, like someone else's mama used to make I’m sure. (Mine only really specialized in pineapple upside down cake for one reason or another).
Over more delicious prosecco we ordered a steak and the chicken Milanese - a lightly coated chicken breast which came with olive oil mash and spinach. There aren't many places in the West End that you can order rib eye steak for under £12, never mind one so well-cooked and flavoursome as this one. The house garlic butter on top was spot on too. So good in fact that I didn’t notice that the thick cut chips which were supposed to accompany it were missing. (Never mind – more room for pudding!)
The chicken was equally well received and there was enough mash for us to share (good job the chips didn’t arrive really).I am always wary of eating chicken breast in case I find it sporting one too many fibrous dry lumps, but gladly there was none of that here. Crispy breadcrumbs and juicy chicken and all for under £8. Bargain.
We were both feeling well fed, relaxed and content. The music was just loud enough to hear the tracks you liked but quiet enough to talk over. Then we noticed the little deli shop inside the restaurant, which looked very interesting - unfortunately we only got as far as the cakes! Piles of brightly coloured cupcakes and crumbly meringues sat on proper old fashioned cake stands in the window, tempting in weary shoppers and nearby office workers no doubt.
Ponti's do advertise afternoon tea and cakes, and I can highly recommend the carrot cake if you need a break from your shopping trip, to rest your feet and take stock of your spending. The ladies are also worth a visit, which isn't something you find yourself saying very often. They were lovely, like spending a penny at a very posh house!
It was a pleasure to spend an evening in this new restaurant with its lovely, well-priced food and great staff to boot. Pop in, take the weight of you feet and have a slab of cake – go on.
**Ponti's Italian Kitchen: **5-7 John Princes Street, London W1M 9HD. (There is a second Ponti's Italian Kitchen based at 54 Duke Street, London W1K 6JN).
**Reviewer:** Tara O'Reilly