Tel: +44 (0)20 7352 8827
Address: 289A Kings Road, Chelsea, London, SW3
Cuisine Type: Italian
Sloane Square (DISTRICT, CIRCLE)
Buona Sera is aesthetically a departure from the usual layout of any restaurant you’ve been to lately. Crammed into a space that would look tiny were it a shoe shop is a rather unique collection of tables… stacked essentially on top of each other. You can sit at a normal level of course, but directly above you in the rafters will be someone else enjoying a meal – and there’s no continuous, conventional, separating floor. We found, after we’d ascended the vertical ladder-like stairs holding onto a fireman’s pole, that the climb was worth it. Despite the small size of the restaurant, Buona Sera have managed to create very private spaces where a romantic meal for two is very much an option. The lower tables seat more people so the restaurant can also cater for small parties too.
Oddly, this is a spirit-free restaurant, in the sense of only providing wine or beer, so for a pre-dinner drink it is probably best to stop off at one of the Kings Road’s innumerable bars first. Once at the restaurant, however, charming staff appear from nooks and crannies to assist you as you take in a varied mix of music which started with (Lord save us) Celine Dion and gradually improved through lounge music into outright jazz. A modest but wide-ranging selection of wine, reasonably priced, includes a bottle of verdicchio at £12.50, which, despite appearing in a bottle atypical of the wine type, was good value and pleasingly smooth. Beers available include the ubiquitous Nastro Azzuro; and of course there are soft drinks in addition.
Surrounded by fans, mirrors, just the right level of lighting and plants on shelves dividing those atop firemens’ poles from each other, we studied a menu which included antipasti all costed at £4.60 (except the zuppa del giorno at £3.50). These comprised several startling but welcome items, such as costine piccanti (sweet and sour spicy spare ribs), fegatini al balsamico (sauteed chicken livers with balsamic vinegar and fresh spinach – simply divine and offered in significant portions) and zuppa di cozze alla marinara – mussels with tomato, white wine and garlic. Like the chicken livers, this dish was excellent.
A sizeable selection of pasta dishes are available, all for the incredible price of £6.80, which for this area of London is to say the least unusual. gnocchi ragu di manzo – homemade potato dumplings with beef ragout – looked and smelled lovely from the table across from us – and the menu offers lasagna Bologna with the helpful legend “there is only one way!” assisting your choice. Tagliatelle nere, a homemade black pasta with mussels, tomato, garlic and chilli was one of the sexiest dishes I’ve seen and delivered on taste too. As with theantipasti there is a significant selection of vegetarian options too.
As more wine appeared we were observing the selection of secondi piatti – which features much of a chickeny nature. Charcoal grilled skewers of it, breasts of it, strips of it – you name it, they’ve got it. But a fish casserole (£9.90), king prawns in saffron and lemon sauce (£10.90), roasted lamb with lentils (£8.90), charcoal grilled steak (£9.90) and cassolata all show that variety is available too. The latter of these dishes was labelled as “rustic stew of beef and lamb with spicy sausages and beans” and in terms of taste was one step away from home cooking, had the cook at home been rustic and Italian. Various salads are also available, either as a main course or a side dish, from insalata primavera (basic mix of tomatoes, mozzarella, avocado and basil) to the delicious insalata di novelle e pancetta(warm new potatoes with fresh spinach, crispy bacon and mayonnaise). These range in price from £4.80 to £7.80.
Feeling like a pair of airships after that lot, we declined on pudding, resolving instead to finish with coffee. A selection of cakes and ice creams are available, however.
Take off the wine and the beer and the meal cost us around £34 for two – crazy, considering the quality of the food and the prime location. Get along to Buona Sera now, before they get too popular and raise their prices.