Briciole, 20 Homer Street, London W1


When is a restaurant not a restaurant? When it's trying to be several other things at once. I may have bent your ears before about restaurants which are "also" breakfast cafés, tea-rooms, local-produce shops, off-licences, children's rumpus-rooms, and places where "you just drop in for a glass of wine and a few nibbles". I've heard every combination, and they seldom work: it's like training a shire horse to go out and be a thoroughbred the next day and take kids on beach rides the day after.

Briciole, an attractive new eating-house which used to be the Honey Pot pub near Edgware Road Tube, is a case in point. It flags itself as 'an Italian trattoria, café-bar and deli under one roof'. Its company logo shows cartoon Italian breads rampaging about (and making crumbs, or 'briciole') and calls itself 'ristorante gastronomia'. My first impression, on walking in, was of a bright and cheerful deli – the gastronomia – behind which was a fabulous array of wines and a chap languorously carving slices from a salumeria. My friend Jon and I perched on stools while the maître d', Umberto Tosi, a charmer with a Father Ted hairstyle, brought our drinks with murmurs of "No-rush-no-rush-your-table-is-ready-anytime" in that relaxed Italian way.

Inside, the restaurant is strenuously down-home functional, with stuck-on (rather than exposed) brickwork, scrubbed floorboards, pictures and tables that could have come from a mail-order catalogue, and drainpipe-long pepper grinders for that authentic 1950s touch. I could have done with some tablecloths amid all the wood-on-wood effect – but that would have made it too restaurant-y, when it wants to be All Things to All Eaters.

The menu is extraordinary – two pages mostly devoted to starters. The prices are astonishingly low, in the £3-£5 region – but you soon realise that Briciole, as well as being a café-deli-trattoria-bar-gastronomia, is a tapas joint. Italian tapas make an almighty fuss of ham and cheese. Our bruschetta came with burrata cheese, aubergines and olives – crunchy and milky and fine, though Jon was unimpressed: "The aubergines are a bit non-committal," he said. "A bit self-effacing." (I agreed. I cannot stand a bumptious aubergine.) From a choice of eight mouthfuls of ham, we ordered three. Prosciutto di Bassiano from Lazio was... very nice prosciutto, but I doubt if even Lazio's famous adoptive son, Paul Gascoigne, could tell it from any other kind. Finocchiona Toscana had a pleasant fennel tang. Sardinian sheep prosciutto was more mutton than lamb, a touch papery but tasty none the less.

From no less than 14 cheeses ("All these cheese hors d'oeuvre," I grumbled to our charming-but-firm waiter, "is that normal?" "No Italian," he replied firmly, "would dream of eating cheese at the end of the meal") we picked just one, a Toma from Piedmont. It was stunning, Gorgonzola-strong, rich and creamy.

It was all just fine but – for Gawd's sake, we'd spent 45 minutes ordering and eating some charcuterie, the kind of thing you absently knock back while waiting for someone to cook supper. We were a whole page into the menu, and felt as though we hadn't started.

The main event – what in any other trattoria would be the primi e secondi piatti, rather the seventh or eighth one – was pasta followed by meatballs or sausage. A final category of 'La brace/Barbecue' offered grilled meat and fish in off-puttingly curt language: 'Pork chop'; 'Tuna steak'. We both found the pasta disappointing: veal ravioli with butter and sage lacked softness, butteriness and seasoning (until the waiter smothered it in black pepper). Tagliatelli with artichokes lacked salience. "It's just pasta next door to artichokes," said Jon. "They've had no effect on the sauce."

He wasn't impressed, either, with the bluntly-titled Chicken Supreme from the 'barbecue' list. It was simply grilled, and served by itself and looked so lonesome that I felt rather sorry for it. A side-dish of verdure grigliate – aubergines, red peppers, courgettes, carrots – provided some colourful companions, but still...

The only real highlight of the meal was my polpette fritte in agrodolce, namely sweet and sour fried meatballs, done Palermo-style. The meatballs were alarmingly baby-pink inside, but incontrovertibly tasty.

A pudding sundae of affogato al caffe, or vanilla ice-cream drowned in espresso, was OK. Jon gave a final thumbs-up to the Sicilian cannoli, in which a rich, brown ice-cream wafer is filled with ricotta, chocolate, candied orange and cinnamon. We polished off an amazingly cheap £17 Sicilian nero d'avola and left, feeling oddly unsatisfied. I think it's the rhythm of dinner at Briciole that's wrong. Lots of lingering over teeny cold plates, then a long wait for the hot dishes, which are mostly amateurish in execution. It's not a backstreet-nibbles bar (like Polpo and its Venetian-bacaro offshoots) nor a full-blown restaurant experience. It's essentially a simple trattoria with lots of charm but one or two delusions of grandeur.

Briciole, 20 Homer Street London W1 (020-7723 0040)

About £110 for two, with wine

Food **
Ambience ***
Service ***

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff"

Side orders: Italian tapas


Russell Norman's Soho eaterie above the French House specialises in Venetian snacks – try the zucchini fries and salt cod with Anya potatoes.

49 Dean Street, London W1 (020-7734 1969)


This Italian wine bar serves excellent small sharing plates such as calamari fritti and spicy pork and beef meatballs.

10 Quality Street, North Berwick, Scotland (01620 892 477)


The piattini on offer here include arancini – delicious deep-fried balls of saffron risotto rice, filled with mozzarella.

115 Deansgate, Manchester (0161 831 9930)

Suggested Topics
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives his annual televised question-and-answer session
peopleBizarre TV claim
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit