A short apologia to begin. This week has been chaos. I've been running around London like the proverbial headless chicken, trying to keep up with work experience and interviews and plagued by a stubborn cold. It's definitely better than doing nothing, but I've been coming home every evening too knackered to follow through with any of the blog posts I've been planning. It makes me worry about how I'll manage once I actually have a job! Posts from lovely bloggers like Michelle and Sophie come in very handy when I feel that things are slipping out of my control, providing me with tips on how to manage my time more efficiently and helping me to come to terms with the fact that I'm just not super-human. Sometimes, something's gotta give.
Let's step away from the rush hour hustle and bustle for a minute, and cast our minds back to a fortnight ago, when I sat down to dinner at a little local Italian restaurant, Ostuni. It's on Lonsdale Road, just off the street I grew up on, surrounded by narrow roads lined with small Victorian houses typical of Queen's Park. The road itself used to be fairly run-down and industrial, home only by the local surgeries and a car repair shop. The entire area has become much more gentrified over the two decades I've been living here, but with the arrival of Ostuni it seems that it's finally becoming a destination rather than a little pocket of London you happen across on your way to Notting Hill, St. John's Wood or Camden.
The interior of Ostuni represents a flightless departure from the suburbs of north-west London to southern Italy. Its bar is adorned with rustic tiles, its staff chatter in Italian and the menu features simple, hearty fare from the Puglia region - the name 'Ostuni' comes from a city in Brindisi province. I feel charmed by the decor; the lampshades you see in the picture above are actually potting sieves you'd use in the garden - an original, quirky touch.
We ordered a carafe of rosé - a farewell to the Indian summer - and perused the menu.
We ordered the selection of antipasti to start. I'm a big fan of sharing small plates or tapas-style eating, especially when mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, olives and cured meats feature! There were also some slightly more exciting dishes like marinated artichokes, truly delicious meatballs, and one plate that was totally unknown to me - a bake of mussels and breadcrumbs. It might sound a bit odd, but rest assured it was the highlight of the antipasti, and an excellent example of la cucina povera - food traditionally thought of as for peasants, with frugal methods to ensure the meal didn't cost too much - like using breadcrumbs as a substitute for parmesan.
And next, mains. If we were really in Italy we'd order pasta followed by meat, but these bowls were large and very filling! My mother, the birthday girl, opted for her favourite, linguine vongole. The clams were well cooked and seasoned - another simple yet delicious plate, and a hit with my mum, which is saying something. We always quake a little bit when we see her order vongole, because we know she uses it as a way to test the quality of an Italian restaurant!
My pasta of choice was 'foglio d'ulivo' or pasta resembling olive leaves, accompanied by mushrooms, a smattering of burrata and truffle oil, and shavings of truffle. Magnifico. So rich and creamy, I could barely finish it, and so didn't even need to order pudding. There was birthday cake at home, anyway...
This little Italian restaurant may seem humble and homely - and actually, it is. But it's clear that it's a gem, and well worth a visit if you're a fan of southern Italian food. As I got up to leave, I clocked actress Toni Collette sitting at the table behind me. Queen's Park really is going up in the world, and I'm so glad I have a little local to fall back on every time I'm craving pasta!