Three weeks ago, when London was blissfully, stiflingly hot, I sweated my way across town to Shoreditch, to meet a very old friend from my youth in Scotland. Wee Stu and I met at a school disco aged around 15 and spent the next five years getting up to all sorts of mischief together.
It was all strictly platonic of course as, although Wee Stu didn’t officially ‘come out’ until we were around 23, he always threw the best parties, loved shopping and could be counted on to compliment my mother on her good taste in shoes and interiors. Of course, Wee Stu’s own taste has itself always been extremely reliable, so when he suggested a visit to his favourite local restaurant east-side, I knew we were in for a treat.
Bottega Prelibato is a tiny little place – deli by day, authentic Italian restaurant by night – tucked on trendy Rivington Street, the home of East London’s new media scene. Run by an old raving friend of Wee Stu’s – “from my trance days,” he explained airily – Bottega Prelibato is as close to a traditional Italian trattoria as you are likely to find this side of Italy. With its exposed brickwork, industrial exterior and monthly showcase of artwork by up-and-coming Hackney artists – not to mention the modish clientele – however, there is no mistaking its hip Shoreditch location.
Wee Stu knows all the staff by name here and, on the night we visit, is greeted like a long-lost friend, despite the fact that he was only in here a couple of weeks ago. They are indeed charming – friendly and attractive – and the atmosphere is at once bustly and inviting, warm and cosy, understated, classy and not too showy, all of which bodes very well for the food.
On the night we were there, the waiter recommended a delicious bottle of red from Veneto (the name of which I wrote down, but somewhere between it, the second bottle and the rounds of limoncello which followed was sadly lost – my apologies) and we were presented with a blackboard on which a choice of homemade, fresh egg pastas (Bottega Prelibato’s speciality) were written up alongside a daily-changing selection of meat and fish dishes.
There is a choice of sharing platter starters here featuring cured meats and charcuterie, cheeses such as burrata, mozzarella and pecorino, and antipasti staples such as plump olives and stuffed red peppers. For those who don’t like to share, a choice of individual dishes such as beef carpaccio, clams or stuffed artichoke hearts are equally tempting and it is hard not to fill up on the basket of freshly baked Italian bread – “not good for the beach bod,” tutted Wee Stu as I reached for more.
Wee Stu and The Heid both plumped for pasta for their mains and, stealing mouthfuls between my own meltingly delicious beef tagliata with parmesan and rocket, I was reminded what an entirely different experience it is eating fresh pasta as opposed to the stuff you get out of packets – sublime.
Puddings – including traditional favourites such as tiramisu, ricotta cheese cake and panna cotta – are homemade, naturally, but with a bottle of limoncello, placed on our table to “finish up” and stomachs full to bursting with what must be some of the best Italian food in London, we resisted, relishing instead the light-headed release of London in summer, the buzzy, balmy night-time air of the capital’s hottest, hippest neighbourhood, and – of course – the company of old friends. More weather and more dinners like this please.
45 Rivington Street
City of London
T: 020 7739 4995