Bestie and I meet at least once a month for dinner and a catch up. Usually I choose where we go, but this time she was invited by the PR of restaurant 21 Covent Garden to dine at their restaurant. Located in the piazza, a pretty prime location, I was surprised that I had never heard of this restaurant before. The area is a tourist Mecca and most of the restaurants and bars around there aren't that great in my opinion, so I wasn't all that excited about eating at 21. How wrong I was!
Set over three levels, the restaurant is located in the vaults with the bar and a roof terrace on the upper levels. The restaurant is quaint and atmospheric and I think would be perfect for a date and as it was in our case, for a girly catch up.
Looking over the menu, it was quite hard to decide what to order. There were a few things I had my eye on. We decided to share starters and ordered the Arancini with Gorgonzola, pumpkin and sage (£6.25); Black pepper calamari with saffron aioli (£7.25) and the Toasted wild boar raviolini with marinara sauce baby capers & pecorino (£7.25) Out of the three, the raviolini was my favourite. The marinara sauce was packed full of flavour and I really enjoyed the sharpness the capers added and crunch from the croutons. The calamari was well cooked, just the right amount of batter and well seasoned. The Arancini was my least favourite, I thought the rice balls too big and a little claggy and I didn't really taste any of the strong Gorgonzola cheese, which is a shame.
As mentioned, there were a few dishes I liked the sound of, but in the end I went for the Macaroni & Cheese with tallegio, mushrooms and cherry tomato (£11.95) and added pancetta (£1.50). The bowl that arrived was huge and I really didn't think I would eat the whole lot. But it was so delicious that there were no issues polishing it off. The pasta was perfectly al-dente, the sauce was silky rich and the added pancetta adding a lovely smokiness. It was one of the nicest mac & cheeses I have had in a very long time!
By this point I was almost in a food coma, but that didn't stop us from ordering a cheeseboard for dessert! All the usuals were present - goats, blue, soft and hard cheeses but the stand out element of this dish for me was the apple and cinnamon chutney. I don't think I have ever had a chutney like it and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Service was friendly and special mention must go to Paul, the restaurant manager, who is clearly the heart and soul of the place.
We were guests of 21 on this occasion, so did not pay for our meal. But the prices are reasonable, the location is fabulous and I wouldn't hesitate to go back to try the rest of the menu. It really is great to be surprised from time to time and 21 did just that!
Until we eat again!
21 Covent Garden
21 The Market, London WC2E 8RE