Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Il Tempo: almost the dolce vita

This Aperitivo bar could be so much better

What if I told you there is a wine bar in Covent Garden that no one knows about? Where you can waltz in at 7pm on a Friday, grab a table, order a house red for £19 and enjoy free snacks all evening.

You'd call me a liar wouldn't you? You'd click off this blog raving about lunatics, leaving me to rue such a bold blog entry and calculate "bounce" statistics on Google Analytics. But more fool you, because such a place does exist. It's called Il Tempo, and just happens to be next to one of the best (and therefore busiest) pubs in Covent Garden – the Harp. So while the weekend-lovers jostled for position at the bar and bought two pints each so they didn't have to queue again, my friend and I sat in our air conditioned wine cave, cut off from the bustle of outside by a sense of wellbeing and a MASSIVE coffee machine.

As we sat and supped our Salento Primativo we took in our surroundings, marvelling at the find. There are lots of reasons why no one seems to know about this place. First and foremost because it looks like a shop. And if it doesn't look like a shop to you, it probably looks like a café - and neither of those places are likely to serve wine and free food. But we weren't complaining. We were in the know. We could now use that timeless, self-inflating phrase "I know this little place not far from here" when we're out with friends and stuck for a venue. So long as you don't say something crass like "a hidden gem", you're suddenly like Samuel Pepys or a walking TimeOut.

The thing is though, word of mouth is a damned powerful thing in London, so Il Tempo really should be better known. And as I write this it becomes clear why it might not be. For a start the décor needs work – it feels less like an authentic aperitivo bar and more like a dying greasy spoon. It's a beautiful space that they've done nothing with. It's all Ikea furniture and 90s art prints. Of course, outdated decor and great food is pretty much the European way, so we shouldn't judge it on looks

Sadly, and it kills me to say it, the other problem is that the food, while delicious, needs work. Look at the picture - it looks like the kind of thing Kerry Katona might eat in an Iceland advert, and the pastry-based bites tasted like they had been made a few days ago. That's probably harsh, especially given the risk they take by embracing the way of aperitivo bars in a city famous for wanting everything for free, but this place is so damned close to being the best damned place I've set foot in in Covent Garden that I have to be blunt in the hope it may come to fulfil all my dreams.

They serve daily specials as mains, which we didn't try, but I'd trust the food enough to – our waiter claimed the chef had worked in a Michelin-starred restaurant. I don't know about that, but I can tell you, if he ups his game, makes the food more inventive and beautiful to look at, and the owners have a little refurb, I might consider using that terrible, terrible term "hidden gem". Maybe.

Il Tempo on Urbanspoon

No comments:

Post a Comment