Tel: +44 (0)20 7720 0204
Address: 153 Battersea Park Road, SW8 4BX
Cuisine Type: Italian
Website: tube station Stockwell, Battersea Park, Queenstown

This branch of Metrogusto (there is another in Islington) is one of London’s unexpected treasures, hidden away in the more run-down and less accessible part of Battersea, just down the road from the Dogs’ Home and, coincidentally, from a client’s offices. I took the client and a colleague here for lunch towards the end of an assignment, a welcome change from getting our (cold, soggy, uninspiring) sandwiches from the nearby Asda, after two weeks of which I was on the verge of packing my own lunches.

The décor wouldn’t be out of place in a gastropub – wooden tables, chairs and floor, bar at one end, specials chalked up on a blackboard. Not too smoky or noisy, this is a great place to eat if you want to talk over excellent food and receive efficient but unintrusive service.

Start with a basket of fresh bread and olive oil while you peruse the short but tantalising menu, offering “progressive Italian” food. We didn’t have time for starters (£5 – £7.50), but expect the likes of buffalo mozzarella and tomato marinated in basil dressing, grilled stuffed baby squid with piquant sauce, and capunatina – a salad of sweet and sour aubergine.

I had one of the specials for my main course (£11.50 – £16.50), wild sea bass with deep-fried aubergine, which came as beautifully cooked fillets of fish with cubes of aubergine scattered artistically around the edge of the plate – tasty in their own right and, thankfully, not the crunchy, crouton-like texture I was expecting. My two dining companions both chose meat dishes – one was steak with mashed potatoes and the other escapes my memory – and both declared them to be “very good”. We didn’t order any wine – on the pretext of having to work in the afternoon – but then ordered a couple of beers and a G&T anyway. A shame, because the wine list sounded interesting and thoughtfully compiled.

The client had advised us to save room for dessert (£4.50 – £5.50). My pear tart with pecorino ice cream was an adventurous combination, the pecorino maybe a little too pungent for some tastes, but I rather liked it. After all, the pear and cheese combination is a tried and tested one – think pear, walnut and gorgonzola salad or pear and stilton soufflé – just not typically for the dessert course. Our other dolci orders of chocolate tart with white chocolate ice cream and tiramisu were also gobbled up, leaving just enough time for some coffees before heading back to work.

Part of Metrogusto’s charm is that, unlike restaurants in the city, it isn’t inundated by suits or tourists at lunchtimes, but the less convenient location means that it is less likely to attract destination visits of non-locals, or pull in passing trade (unless you’re on the way back from the Dogs’ Home). Which is a pity, as it isn’t every day you stumble across hidden gems like this.

– Tracy Yam, 2/2004