Tom tries Costello

Looking for an excuse to eat something good on a Friday evening, I made my way along to West End Lane’s latest newcomer, Costello, where, together with Jonathan, we’d very kindly been offered dinner on the house.

Our attentive and wonderfully sparkly-eyed waitress looked after us well (I’m trying to tone down my waitress comments – I’ll get shot one of these days), and I nodded enthusiastically whilst simultaneously forgetting everything she told us about the evening’s specials.

Anyway, I started with a risotto of woodland mushrooms, peas, Parmesan and truffle oil. Portion size was vast – we later learned this was a deliberate ploy to offer value – and value this was, because here was quality as well as quantity. Without doubt, a magnificent dish; deep, strong flavours blending together, and with the viscosity and texture of the rice spot on. We discovered via the manager, Colin, that the head chef (his brother) is a connoisseur of risotto and actually tests other establishments’ versions to gauge his own; this attention to detail shows.

Pausing to gulp a little (OK, a lot) of the excellent Australian Shiraz, I looked on with wide eyes as my scallop dish appeared. Several voluminous specimens, on little pea “pancakes”, with a garlic cream sauce and slithers of smoked bacon (yes – sounds nice doesn’t it!) With such big molluscs, Jonathan wondered whether they’d be cooked through; they were absolutely on the edge – but done – and therefore wonderful. This is where I became further impressed; as with my starter, the sheer intensity of flavours was again very much in evidence. The garlic cream sauce was powerful and rich, but I felt the scallops stood up to it, perhaps evidence of their freshness.

Jonathan was maybe a little less lucky with his choices; his grilled chicken, cinnamon apple and black pudding intro not quite hitting the mark on texture or balance. His main course salmon was flaky and pink, but the spicy skin hadn’t quite worked and the asparagus looked a little sorry on the plate [Ed: cold plates also didn’t help]. I feel this was justice; he never seems to do any work, eats out every day, and drinks even more than me yet doesn’t seem to get hangovers [Ed: not sure ANY of those things are strictly true!].

I genuinely didn’t have need or capacity for dessert on this occasion, but noted that Costello bake their own as well as ordering in from a posh supplier in Primrose Hill. I had a glance at the options in their sweet cabinet or whatever it’s called, and there were plenty I’d happily try especially having seen Jonathan’s apple cake, which he assured me was excellent.

So, a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and I’ll no doubt report back again soon on the cakes and things. In the meantime, I heartily recommend a visit; just ensure you haven’t already had a big full-English for breakfast and a pizza for lunch. Or, invite me along too and perhaps I’ll assist you in demolishing another risotto.