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Best local Indian Restaurant in Essex 2014
One of the finest Indian restaurants in Essex Caraway Indian Brasserie, in Gants Hill, has won the prestigious Best Local Indian Restaurant Award in the Restaurant Guides

The Hart Brothers
The Hart Brothers, who have made Quo Vadis and Fino into such success stories

10% Discount with Privilege Card from 11am to 7.30pm
10% Discount with Privilege Card from 11am to 7.30pm
50% off the food bill Monday through to Saturday

In an age when Italian-style fast food means having a quick plate of pizza or pasta, Vapiano takes things one step further and makes things fun and well, practically interactive....

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45 Grafton Way London W1
Tel: 020 7387 2521
Cost: about £35-40

There are hundreds and hundreds of Italian restaurants in London, thousands if you count all the pizza places as Italian (which I don’t). Most of them have menus that are too depressingly familiar and joyless churned out to bother with – I lose the will to live just reading the words pizza margherita, spaghetti a la carbonnara, veal saltimbocca and tiramisú together on the same menu.

Some time in the past few years, regional became the new authentic. After all, most of the dire London trattoria menus are loosely based on more-or-less authentic dishes. Enter Sardo, serving up the little-known cuisine of Sardinia. This Mediterranean island to the north of Sicily shares a Moorish influence with its more southerly neighbour, but trade with Genoa also introduced flavours from the Ligurian coast.

Sardo is a bright, inviting space - whitewashed walls, wooden floors, tables and chairs with a driftwood sculpture-cum-lamp, sotto voce nautical décor very much in the Sardinian style. Touchstone Sardinian dishes make up the menu, like the starter of fregola alle vongole, Sardinia’s answer to cous-cous made as a thick soup with vongole verace, baby clams. Malloreddus, also called gnocchetti, is a traditional pasta, classically prepared here with an aromatic pork sausage tomato sauce. Spaghetti with bottarga (dried mullet roe) is another Sardinian favourite, made alla olio, the bottarga combining with the olive oil to form a cream-like emulsion. And the linguini with fresh crab has a lusty, sweet seafood flavour, brought out by bits of garlic and pepperoncini.

Succhittu di pollo combines chicken with Vermentino (Sardinian white wine) and capers, served on a bed of pureed artichoke and potato. The taste of this dish was a bit anaemic, especially in comparison with the other, more robust dishes preceding. Quails in balsamic vinegar with prunes were well prepared but were masked by the over-reduced, slightly too sweet sauce. Seabass baked in a salt crust is delicate, the salt preserving all the aroma and flavour of the fish while not making it salty.

Some specials worth looking out for include pane frattau, a ‘lasagne’ of carta di musica (poppadom-thin bread) layered with tomato sauce and pecorino cheese, topped with a poached egg; and moscardini alla Campidanese, tiny baby octopus cooked in Vermentino and sundried tomato sauce on a bed of thinly sliced potato. Desserts went untried but if you do make it that far, try the sebadas, deep-fried ravioli filled with pecorino, served with a bitter Sardinian honey. There is a good selection of reasonably priced wines including at least half a dozen from Sardinia and service is relaxed but professional.