Where to eat in London .... Italian/French at La Gourmandina

Having thoroughly enjoyed making the most of the fantastic fitness classes throughout London, I'm now expanding my blog into reviewing food venues- taking advantage of the many lovely restaurants and eateries London has to offer!

Unsure which venue to choose for my first restaurant review, I decided to take a look down one of my favourite streets in London (Lamb's Conduit Street), where I found a lovely little French/Italian place - La Gourmandina. After a quick email to the lovely owner, Marie, I was booked in with my friend Steph for dinner the following Friday.
Outside La Gourmandina
Owned and managed by Marie and her husband, the Italian-French couple like to define themselves as “French and Italian Enogastronomic Ambassadors”, serving a wide variety of traditional French and Italian dishes. After explaining the theme of my blog to Marie, she openly admitted their cuisine naturally uses a lot of butter, cream etc, therefore isn't traditionally 'healthy', however all their dishes are handmade and produced from high quality organic ingredients.... which sounds healthy enough to me!

Upon entering, we walked through the front cafe and bar area, which serves up a variety of salads, meats and pastas over lunch time....(one I'll need to try another day).

Lunch menu

We were then shown our seat in a seperate room dining area at the back of the venue - "as close as you would get to a real cafe in Venice, outside of Italy" - as one diner beside us commented!
The waiter service was absolutely fantastic - after being offered drinks and a bottle of water, we were given cute little breadstick twists as we were guided through the menu, explaining today's specials and making his recommendations.

Upon reading the range of such delicious sounding options, Steph and I were stuck - we wanted it all!! As a result, we decided to go for the sharing platter as a starter, allowing us to sample a little bit of everything....

Sharing Platter

First mistake! Although gorgeous, the platter was very generous... not quite the 'small' starter we had anticipated. Still though, I'd definately recommend this option to nibble on with a couple glasses of wine (given their vast selection, it would be a shame not to trial some of Italy's finest!). Back to the food - the cured Italian meats were delicious, as were the pates and cheeses, particularly when accompanied with the toasted walnut and date bread and fig chutney. Although the waiter had kindly talked us through the order in which we should eat the cheeses to maximise the taste, we unfortunately failed to remember this when we delved in! The highlight of the platter was the Le Crescentine, a deep-fried focaccia dough filled with stracchino and pork sausage. As Steph commented, a bit like a posh meatball!

When you can't choose, go for all three!
Next up was the main. The option I liked the sound of was the 'special' pasta dish; an freshly made Tuscan pasta shaped in tubes, bound with olive oil, pesto and breadcrumbs, and topped with a fresh fillet of fish, king prawns and scallops. Steph's plate of choice was the Bigoli E Salsiccia - a venetian spaghetti like pasta, served in a ragu of sausage, fennel seeds and fresh tomatoes, topped with pecorino cheese shavings. But the one catching both our eye was the Calamars A La Provencale- squid stuffed with rice, capers, parsley, peppers and tomato sauce. Unable to make a decision, in the end we went for all three.... and thoroughly enjoyed tucking into them all! The best one, we both agreed, was the stuffed squid - the fish itself was fresh and cooked to perfection, and the rice and vegetable mix inside was perfect for mixing in with the lightly spiced tomato sauce.

The two pasta dishes - a portion each
Stuffed squid with clams - placed in the middle for sharing
After claiming to be absolutely stuffed, so much so that we couldn't stomach another thing, the waiter brings out THE most delicious looking deserts I have ever seen. Needless to say, despite our claims of fullness, once we saw these we managed to find room to polish them off!

How could we say no?!
First up was a giant creme brûlée - a rich custard base with real vanilla shavings, topped with a perfectly crunchy hard caramel. The favourite, however, was the strawberry tart - appearing as a Special on the menu for the first time that evening. A delicious dark chocolate biscuit tart, filled with real coconut ice cream then topped with fresh strawberries and a warm chocolate fudge sauce. The flavours and textures were the perfect compliment - it couldn't have been done any better!! (FYI - we requested this appears as a regular on the menu).

Vino selection
Need to Know

Best Part
: The Stuffed Squid. And the Strawberry Tart. And the Sharing Platter. Oh, there's just too much!

Worst Part: I would have liked to order their Fregola Al Frutti Di Mate (Seafood Sardinian pasta) as my main, but unfortunately they were all out of this dish. Nevermind- at least I now have a good excuse to return!

Price: Three courses for two people, not including drinks, would be around £40-£60 (bearing in mind most people wouldn't order the huge platter and three main courses, as myself as Steph did!). Excellent value for money considering the quality of food, generous portion sizes and the outstanding service we received.
Best for : That's the great thing - La Gourmandina can really be visited at any time, for any occasion! I'd love to trial the fresh salads on display at lunchtimes, in addition to their brunch menu featuring throughout the day on a Saturday. Equally, it's just as nice to visit for a coffee and cake during the day, or bottle of wine and canapés in the evening. There are no rules!

Overall: All in all, an absolutely fantastic experience - everything from the service, to the atmosphere, to the food itself was really top notch! Marie and her team couldn't have done a better job, and I cannot thank them enough for such a delightful evening.

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