Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Review - Osteria Del Tempo Perso, John St, Glasgow

A few weeks ago I was invited along to the opening of new Italian restaurant, Osteria Del Tempo Perso in Glasgow's Merchant City, but as it clashed with our trip to London, I had to decline the invitation. Osteria Del Tempo Perso is the third restaurant of Italian brothers Marco and Matteo Iacobelli with the first one opening in their home town of Lazio back in 2003 and more recently, the second one opening in Edinburgh last year.
Having missed out on the opening night, we were very kindly invited to try out the restaurant at a time that suited us so we booked up for last Saturday night.
The walls of the restaurant are adorned with hundreds of clocks of varying sizes and styles, all telling the wrong time, very fitting indeed as Osteria Del Tempo Perso translates as 'the tavern of lost time'. After spending an enjoyable couple of hours here on Saturday evening, I could happily lose an hour or two working my way through their extensive menu and wine list.
We arrived a little early on Saturday evening but as the restaurant was not overly busy, we were seated quickly. As we scanned the menu, our waiter presented us with an aperitif of a chilled glass of prosecco. If, as predicted, there is a world shortage of prosecco then someone better warn the team at Osteria as they are serving up huge measure! Not that we were complaining as the prosecco was delicious and a wonderful way to start our evening.
Ordinarily, myself and Nicola rarely go to Italian restaurants as I can do pizza and pasta at home, and although the menu does feature a lot of the usual suspects, there were a number of traditional dishes that also caught our eye. I've always believed that the Italians do 'meat and two veg' very well and I planned on putting that to the test with my own choice of main meal.
But before we got that far, we chose two starters that we could share between us. We ordered a focaccia with goats cheese, tomato and chilli (not put off by the menu warning us that it would be very spicy). We were expecting the focaccia to be a light and airy affair but what came out was more along the lines of a stone-baked pizza, generously topped with crumbled goats cheese and fresh cherry tomatoes which were sweet enough to compliment the sharpness from the goats cheese. Sliced red chillies completed the toppings but they didn't live up to the earlier spicy warning. Did this stop us from wolfing down the focaccia? Of course not, after all - who doesn't like pizza?
Our other choice for starter was deep fried calamari. This was a generous portion of tender squid in a light crispy batter served alongside a lovely homemade tartare sauce. Calamari can often be over-cooked or coated in too heavy a batter to allow the squid to be the star of the dish but that wasn't the case at Osteria as the calamari was quickly put away by myself and Nicola.
We let our prosecco be the accompanying wine for our starters and chose a bottle of Pecorino Velenosi for the table. I'd never heard Pecorino wine before but I'll be looking out for it in the future. The wine comes from the Le Marche Region in the eastern region of Italy, between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea, an area that is well regarded for its white wine production. Oddly enough, the wine had noticeable notes of cheese on the nose but tasted crisp and dry with tropical fruit flavours delivering a nice full bodied finish. The wine worked wonderfully with the two big flavoured mains that we had ordered.
I mentioned earlier that the main reason that we don't do Italian that often is that I can serve up very good pasta at home but in a strange break from tradition, Nicola struggled to take her thoughts off of the Pappardelle Carbonara and after a few minutes of looking over the menu, her decision was made.
The carbonara was fantastic. Thick ribbons of golden pasta, cut in to small easy to eat lengths, coated in a thick glossy carbonara sauce. Italian ham, garlic and egg yolk were all working together to create a truely authentic flavour. The dish was a great example of what can be done with just a few quality ingredient, although in order to make the dish a little more impressive on the plate, a giant sail of parmigiano and rosemary was doing its very best to take the dish to open seas. The sail did taste great although maybe it was just a little too extravagant?
I ordered the Saltimbocca alla Romana, thin slices of veal wrapped in Parma ham and cooked with sage in a Marsala sauce. Saltimbocca literally means 'jumps in the mouth' and that is exactly what happened to my taste buds when I took my first mouthful. Wow! The veal was cooked perfectly and worked so well with everything else on the plate. The earthiness from the sage, the sweetness from the Marsala and the saltiness from the ham were a partnership made in heaven. The veal was accompanied by a little mountain of roasted potato wedges, fine green beans and sweet carrots which were all seasoned well. I said earlier that the Italians do 'meat and two veg' (3 if you count the potatoes) very well - tonight was no exception.
Both myself and Nicola each had a hint of food envy when our meals were brought to the table, so in a first for us, we swapped plates halfway through dinner so that we could satisfy those pangs of envy. I think we will be swapping plates more in the future.
By this stage in our meal, we were both beginning to feel a little full but when we were asked if we would like to see the dessert menu, we thought 'when in Rome' and ordered the tiramisu to share and a cheeky little White Russian to wash it down.
Whilst we waited on our dessert, we were presented with a glass of chilled Nectaria dessert wine from Chile. Over the last couple of years we have began to come round to dessert wines and how they help round off a good meal. The Nectaria had a rich sweetness with honey and spice notes that worked well with the coffee flavours of the tiramisu.
When the dessert did arrive, we were glad that we had decided to get two spoons because the tiramisu was huge!
Layers of coffee soaked sponge and creamy marscapone mixture were presented neatly inside a coffee cup with a crunchy cocoa and sugar dust topping. The dessert was a great 'pick me up', it tasted great and we both enjoyed the tiramisu but still struggled to finish it even with our two spoons.
The White Russian was also served in layers with whipped cream floating on top of chilled Kahlua and vodka. I've had a lot of White Russians over the years, some good and some great, and although this wasn't the best one I've tasted, it wasn't bad and worked well alongside the espressos that we ordered to finish off our meal.
I've noticed in the past that some Italian restaurant have a terrible habit of trying to serve up three course and the bill in less than an hour, however at no point on Saturday night did we feel rushed. In fact, the neon lights on the back wall of the restaurant translate as "Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time" - a comment that Abraham Lincoln is often credited with, are testament to the way that the team at Osteria Del Tempo Perso want diners to feel comfortable and relaxed during their visit.
Our meal was covered by the restaurant but this review is a true reflection of our dining experience. With the exception of the focaccia not looking how I expected it to look, everything that we had was well presented and packed with flavour. The portion sizes were generous and the menu is well priced for the quality of food served up.
Myself and Nicola had a fantastic dining experience and would like to extend our thanks to the management and staff for the hospitality shown to us on Saturday evening and we look forward to our next visit to Osteria.
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