Tel: +44 (0)20 7387 2521
Address: 45 Grafton Way, W1T 5LA
Cuisine Type: Sardinian Italian
nearest tube station Warren Street

Italian cuisine is often mistakenly lumped together in one category but in reality, the regional cooking styles and specialities can be wildly different – Sardinian food in particular, because of its island location and sunny clime. Sardo, a plain but welcoming restaurant, serves some of the dishes that you might find there, and makes a refreshing change from the pizza/pasta formula that so many of London’s Italian restaurants follow hypnotically.

We sat near the back, an oasis of calm compared to the busy main street outside, but the lighting was rather dim, giving the impression of being in a cave. A basket of bread, filled with the increasingly popular thin and crisp pane carasau and carta di musica, was brought to our table straight away, though we only realised there was a charge for it when it turned up on the bill. Only £1.50, but they should at least check if that’s OK with the diners.

We skipped starters, but there is plenty that appeals – from the familiar (grilled vegetables, beef carpaccio) to the more unusual (mosciame di tonno (£7.90) – sun dried tuna with French beans and sun-dried tomatoes; calamari ripieni (£7.90) – grilled baby squid stuffed with calamari meat and aromatic herbs).

The pasta looked good too, again featuring some out of the ordinary choices. Malloreddus(£8.90) is a traditional Sardinian pasta made from hard wheat, and here is served with tomato and sausage sauce. Spaghetti bottarga (£9.90) features another Sardinian speciality, dried mullet roe, which gives the sauce for this dish a pungent flavour.

But we both opted for meat – which dominates the menu – despite our expectations that seafood would feature heavily (Sardinia is, after all, surrounded by water). Nodino di vitello all salvia (£15.50) came as a huge slab of grilled veal, topped with sage and extra virgin olive oil, accompanied by spinach and sauteed potatoes. Very simple, as indeed all the best Italian food is, but a little bland in this case. We both agreed that my battuta d’agnello (£13.50) was the better main course, the tender marinated and grilled lamb steak one of the best meat dishes I’ve had. Other options include pesce spada alla griglia – grilled swordfish with rocket and tomatoes (£13.75) and fegato di vitello al balsamico – calf’s liver in a balsamic vinegar sauce (£12.90), and there is usually a good selection of specials.

Both our main courses were reasonably substantial, but we’d skipped starters just so we could try dessert (all £4.50). Sebadas are a Sardinian speciality, made by filling puff pastry with pecorino cheese and topping them with honey. They were a little on the greasy side, and the rather strange salty / sweet contrast is probably an acquired taste, but worth trying – you might just like it. Our other order of torta di limone was nothing like the French tarte au citron, resembling instead a huge slice of fluffy cheesecake, the marscapone only lightly flavoured with citrus peel and juice, and so lacking the depth and intensity of its French counterpart.

To finish, we tried a shot of liquore su mirtu, a potent myrtle liquor that the owner, doing his rounds of the tables to ensure that all customers are content, heartily recommends, and rounded off with a strong coffee. At £70 for two, for two courses with reasonable drinks and service, this is not the usual cheap Italian option, but then neither is the food the standard Italian fare.

– Tracy Yam, 2/2004