Restaurants; Where shall we meet ... in Bloomsbury?

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Things go better with zabaglione. This labour- intensive concoction of egg and marsala, whipped to a bubbly froth that's rich on the tongue and light on the stomach, melts your heart like - as Donny Osmond once said - April Snow. I could eat zabaglione every day and not get bored.

Something which, sadly, is unlikely to happen, as the number of restaurants that serve it seems to be pitifully few. It's a tricky customer to get right; it separates at the drop of a hat, and has reduced many a better chef than myself to tears of rage. But oh, when it's right, it's righter than just about anything, floating in its little glass bowl with a handful of biscotti on the side for dunking.

I harp on this because I had my first zabaglione in years at Maggiore, an Italian restaurant that has just reopened after a refit in Covent Garden. And a charming restaurant it is. The time is certainly ripe for the current renaissance in Italian food. A lot of people are eating the kind of diets these days that simply can't stomach too much richness, and the Italian combination of vegetables, carbohydrates and not too many fussy combinations of flavour suits the modern palate far better than French cuisine.

Maggiore specialise in antipasti; they have a daily menu of seasonal dishes from which one can pick a combination - our stuffed peppers, asparagus, artichokes, salmon and prawns did just the job of picking us up. Our main dishes were prime examples of the perfection-in-simplicity rule: a spatchcocked poussin, flavoured with herbs and lemon and garnished with roasted baby tomatoes, is one of those things that sets small children on the road to foodiness; lemon veal (don't start) was delicate, juicy, and perfect with iron-rich spinach.

Everyone has a favourite local Italian, because one of the things the Italians do best is make you feel cosy and homely. This is not entirely a difficult task in a neighbourhood restaurant, but a clever thing to pull off in the centre of town. Maggiore, with its soothing decor, unfussy tables and warm, friendly staff, manages it very well. We went feeling jaded, with a strong urge to be at home in front of the TV, and left three hours later with a profound sense of all being right with the world.

Maggiore, 17-21 Tavistock St, London WC2 (0171-379 9696)


Little Italy

21 Frith St, W1 (0171-734 4737)

Jolly, bustling place whose atmosphere makes it a good place for a bowl of spag.

Como Lario

22 Holbein Place, SW1 (0171-730 2954)

Walls covered in celeb photos, but rather sweetly so. Excellent antipasti, so-so mains, superb tiramisu.


129 Queenstown Rd, SW8 (0171-498 1692)

Half the price of such places across the river. Best spag vongole in London if it's on the menu; half-price menu on Sundays.

La Capannina

24 Romilly St, W1 (0171-437 2473)

40-year-old sweetie, complete with period decor; lovely staff make up for lack of originality foodwise.

Trattoria Zucchini

43 Theobalds Rd, WC1 (0171-636 5618)

Family restaurant complete with booths. Large portions and waitresses you expect to tuck your napkin under your chin.