Cowie and I once spent a brilliant evening learning to cook glorious Italian food at Cucina Caldesi just down a mews off Marylebone Lane. And it fills me with a sense of warmth and memories of birthdays past when ever anyone suggests going to Caffe Caldesi for lunch.
The onset of financial disaster meant that we had held back from visiting Le Gavroche in favour of the much more modest, but still excellent, Caffe Caldesi. After we had got the bitter taste of not going one of London's best restaurants out of our mouths we had a complete riot... far more fun in fact than we would have done otherwise.
Our table for 5 could barely support the weight of the contents of the entire anti-pasti menu! All 6 of their starters appeared on our table and were devoured with a combination of greed, starvation and foodie curiosity. As you'd expect all of the wonderful hams and cured beef were exemplary. But the joint stars of the show were the ball of mozerella and the cougette matchsticks with calamari - a sqeeze of lemon transforms them into little sticks of joy.
Main courses were good too. My haddock was fine, but the spinach and tomatoes stole the show. The skin on the fish could have been crispier and the flesh was well cooked but its integrity had been compromised - maybe it fell apart as it left the pan and was carefully reconstructed. It didn't affect the taste - but as we all know we do eat with our eyes.
The girls had linguine with tomato, chilli and cream which looked great. I've had it before and can testify to its depth and kick. Jess had a vast veal escalope which was large enough to feed the whole of Northern Italy. Tasty though.
My panacotta with passion fruit was perfect. I am a complete sucker for passion fruit. Handled correctly I fall head over heels for it. It wobbled sexily before disappearing inside my already bulging tummy. Yum and twice yum.
We probably didn't need any Calvados - but it added to the fun of the occasion and put me in the mood for the Pie Competition to follow!
Our only gripe was the lethargic service. They didn't get anything wrong. But they just took an age doing everything. And it didn't help that we were obviously all wearing our invisibility cloaks. Probably best not to wear them next time.