La Barca, SE1 7AB
Kake, Ewan, and ilmari visited on a Monday evening in July 2008; even though it was a Monday, the place was more full than empty. We hadn't booked, but there were enough spare tables that there was no problem seating us.
Service started out a little stiff, possibly because we were less well-dressed than the rest of the clientele, but relaxed as the evening went on.
Kake and ilmari both went for the set menu, which includes starter, main, and side vegetables for £18.50. The set menu choices were printed on a sheet of paper tucked inside the main menu, which suggests that it changes from time to time. On our visit, there were three starter options: composizione di pesce affumicato (selection of smoked fish with horseradish sauce), pici alla boscaiola (thick spaghetti with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes), and cozze all'orientale (mussels with curry and coconut). ilmari tried the smoked fish and Kake the pici. The pici turned out to be a huge portion, so ilmari and Ewan were kept waiting while it was finished; but it really was very good, with the pasta cooked perfectly al dente (I normally don't like undercooked pasta, and think this is probably the first ever al dente pasta I have actually liked). There were two choices of main course; ilmari had the polla alla cremonese (chicken supreme with Cremonese mustard) and Kake the razza al burro nero (skate wings with black butter sauce and capers); the skate was just fine. The accompanying vegetable portions were quite generous.
We felt that the a la carte menu looked a little expensive, with antipasti mostly around £10-12, and fish dishes starting at £18.70 (fried calamari). However, they do have a few less-expensive pasta dishes, and the quality of the food was good. Ewan's starter was avocado, sliced and drizzled with vinaigrette (around £9), expensive but very tasty. Following this, he had the ravioli burro e salvia (ravioli filled with spinach and cottage cheese, around £10) photo -- the pasta was again perfectly al dente, with a thin buttery sauce, and very filling.
The wine list includes a little list of recommended wines; from this we chose the Bricco (£19.90), which was fine.
Kake's verdict: Would definitely go back, though not if I was feeling poor.