- Location: Grappolo, 1 Plough Place, London, EC4A 1DE (nearest tube station is Chancery Lane)
- Date of Visit: Friday 26th July
- Time of Table: 7.00pm
- Deal Bought From: Amazon Local
- Deal Price: £29 for Two
- Dinner Companion: Twin sister, Jess
Getting More for your Money?
This dinner deal includes:
- Two Starters
- Two Main Courses
- Two Desserts
- One Bottle of Wine
- For Two People
What we ate…
- Starter: Affettato Misto
- Main: Entrecote di Manzo
- Side: Spinach cooked in Garlic and Oil (not included)
- Dessert: Tiramisu
- Starter: Scamorza
- Main: Polpette al Sugo
- Side: Spinach cooked in Garlic and Oil (not included)
- Dessert: Torta di Mele
What we drank…
- Bottle of Trebbiano Rubicone to share (house white wine)
What did we think?
A few simplistic strides down a side street near central line stop Chancery Lane leaves you standing on the well-polished doorstop of glass exteriored Italian restaurant Grappolo. Upon entering, you couldn’t help but be impressed by the trendy yet not try to hard staggered and tiered layout of this multi-purpose place. The reception desk was the same level as the entrance, with a sleek black logo instantly catching your eye as you walked in. Down some steps led to the main restaurant arena, scatted with square tables accentuated by inoffensive neutral toned chairs and general décor. Down some further steps would lead you to the bar and small lounge area and also the open kitchen; temptingly sending scents drifting your way. It definitely felt airy, roomy and comfortable and although it carefully garnered this relaxed atmosphere, it didn’t scrimp on style to do it.
Housing a deli, restaurant and bar Grappolo has many strings to its well flavoured bow but what is most intriguing is the fantastic mix of traditional Italian cuisine and flavours, jazzed up with the presentation and pep of an eclectic London setting and influence. Run by Italians living in London, it was evident to see the mass of inspirations and ingredients that combined to create a selective yet mouth-watering menu.
I was really looking forward to this voucher meal, as not only could we pick the full three courses from their entire menu, but we also had the choice of the house white or red wine to accompany it. Opting for the white, it was pleasantly sweet and smooth whilst also being refreshing and light – ideal for a Friday night. Flicking through the menu, which wasn’t extensive, you were instantly bombarded by the Italian classics, clearly announcing Grappolo’s roots to diners. I decided to start with an Italian meat platter which consisted of Parma ham, Italian salami, mortadella, buffalo mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes. I absolutely love the combination of the gooey and thick mozzarella with the intensely sweet and juicy sun dried tomatoes so I was already on to a winner, and being a natural carnivore, I really can’t go wrong with meat. I had one thin slice of each type of meat, so this was by no means a substantial starter – in fact it erred on the small side but did whet the appetite for the next round. The meats were pretty much the same as you would get from a supermarket packet, as in nothing fancy had really been done to them, but I still enjoyed the mix of flavours of textures, especially with the extra cheese and tomatoes to really bring them to life.
For my main course, I bravely ventured away from pasta, pizza and meatballs to sample some of the steak, which was beef sirloin, served with a green peppercorn sauce and thickly cut chips. I was actually blown away by the quality of this dish and so impressed by the fantastic flavours that seemed to burst from every well-appointed mouthful. I asked for my steak to be medium rare and it was completely spot on, meaning that it cut like butter, didn’t take three years to chew and was succulent too. Juicy and meaty it was a gorgeous piece of meat, only enhanced by the swimming pool of creamy sauce scattered with spicy peppercorns. I definitely don’t mean this negatively – I love sauce with meat, and my main complaint is that there is never enough sauce to last the entire dish. One of the things I loved about this particular dish was that there was tons of sauce, so not only could I have it dripping deliciously on every speared forkful of steak, but there was also plenty to swirl my chips in too, so that was really great. The sauce also wasn’t too overpowering either, which can happen with peppercorns, but just revved up the meaty tastes perfectly.
We decided to push the boat out with a side dish too so we were also presented with spinach that has been sautéed in garlic and oil. I do like a bit of spinach but this spinach was brilliant, the garlic really giving it an extra depth of flavour which I really loved and now would like to try and recreate at home. Granted it didn’t look too inspiring, just plonked like a mini molehill on a plain white dish, but this could be ignored because it tasted great. To be honest, on the whole I would say the presentation was rather simplistic. Literally your meat and two veg all sat next to each other on your plate. Although there is nothing wrong with this, it is something I could do at home, and one of the plus points of fine London cuisine is cooing over the prettiness of your plate. A very enjoyable main course though, and I was more than impressed with the quantity of food, the fab flavours and the quality of the meat. The chips were lovely too – not too crispy but still fluffy inside, and the simple side salad also ticked the box nicely. It’s not fussy food, but it hits the spot. Jess had gone for the classic meatballs, which looked huge but with a chunky tomato sauce, tasted awesome as well. Oddly enough, her meatballs were served with mash – I would have expected spaghetti as an accompaniment but as a dish it seemed to work well.
We then smoothly went on to dessert, this time with me opting for the classic with the coffee and creamy concoction of tiramisu, while Jess chose the apple tart with vanilla ice cream. When dessert arrived, it was probably the fanciest presentation we had seen so far – mine had an elegant zig zag of chocolate sauce across the white plate along with a decorative scatter of coco powder – but it was microscopic in portion size. I know you don’t want a huge afters, just something to hit your sweet tooth at the end of a filling meal, but this was ridiculous! Jess’s single scoop of ice cream was larger than her portion of tart, and my tiramisu could be easily eaten in three polite spoonfuls (or two less polite ones). This meant that dessert was over very quickly and a bit of an anti-climax after such an excellent main course.
To counter balance this, we decided that we would treat ourselves to a liquor coffee, settling on Bailey’s as our booze of choice. However, by this point, it was near impossible to get anyone’s attention. We waited and waited, and then had to ask for the coffee menu. We then waited and waited some more before getting a waiter’s attention to take our order. We then waited, 35 minutes, while watching the manager who was manning the bar take beers out back, for our coffees to actually arrive at the table. We were so close to just walking out and stuffing the coffee to be honest. In our experience, coffee is always the quickest thing to come to your table as it’s an item that the staff try and push on you the most as it is extra money for them on top of your voucher and speedily delivered. This really wasn’t the case at Grappolo, and it is such a shame as the coffee, when we finally received it, was absolutely divine. It had the perfect amount of Bailey’s in it to give the flavour a boosting and enriched taste yet it didn’t overpower the coffee either. It was so lovely yet the experience of getting it was a complete farce.
Making a second reservation? I’m undecided to be honest. The voucher provided fantastic value for money, as for £29 we both had a three course meal and a bottle of wine to share, which is really excellent. However, the service was appalling. When we first arrived, it was all smiles and attentiveness, like you would expect from a restaurant of this quality. However, as the night progressed and got busier, we were completely forgotten about and ignored. The manager came to deliver our main courses, yet couldn’t work out what table he had to go to, so continued to walk around the entire restaurant area before finding our original waiter to ask him where he had to go. Getting any of the waiting staffs attention was like mission impossible the more the evening wore on and it really put you off ordering anything to be honest.
The whole situation with the coffees was also absurd and we denied point blank for pay for them – something neither of us have ever done before or take lightly. Because we didn’t pay for the coffees, we only paid £8.50 on the night which covered the side spinach and my steak supplement. We took the tip off entirely and made sure to leave exact money. I told our waiter we wouldn’t be paying for the coffee and he was more than understanding assuring us that that was fine and understandable. What we couldn’t understand however was how they could be so attentive and conscientious at the start of the evening, and then forget our existence by the end of the night? Never have I felt so ignored in a restaurant. Our waiter kept apologising, blaming the manager for the wait on the coffees since he wasn’t usually behind the bar, but both me and Jess found this completely unprofessional to blame your management – the one person who should know the business inside and out. Whether the manager was rubbish or not is beside the point, you shouldn’t be talking them down to customers.
If you went without a voucher, the prices were reasonable, but I’m not sure if it be worth a second visit. Starters and desserts were tiny so not really worth it, and if you are eating out, you want more of a treat than just a main course, which was the one spectacular course in my mind. A great bargain and one great course served with great wine, but was all the hassle worth it? I don’t think so.
The Dinner Dates Opinion:
“Grappalo gave a really good first impression, the atmosphere and the décor was sophisticated and classy. The menu was great and there was lots of choice. For starters I had a grilled vegetable and mozzarella concoction which was very nice albeit on the small side for the price. My mains was meatballs and mash which was really lovely, there was lots of homemade tomato sauce with it and overall I really enjoyed my mains. For dessert I had an apple tart which was nice, but again on the small side, was pretty much over in three bites which would be disappointing if we were paying the full price. The service at the beginning of the meal was attentive, but then it went downhill from there. Our mains went on quite a walkabout before it reached our table and after dessert we were pretty much forgotten about. We had to ask for the coffee menu and then proceeded to wait 35 minutes for a coffee. The service errors were blamed on the manager being on the floor, which isn’t professional. This resulted in us not paying for the coffees or any service, which is a first for us as we have never had something bad enough as not to pay. Will there be a return visit? I’m not sure, because the food was great and I really enjoyed my meal, and sometimes the staff do just have an off day. But then again, the service wasn’t good enough at the end of the meal and the starters and dessert I think were too small. Undecided.”