When it comes to a Friday night, there can be no disputing the brilliance of our nation’s capital. London is arguably one of the greatest cities in the world, playing host to a spectrum of opportunity, entertainment and alluring activity. As Londoners, we can be guilty of overlooking the many wonders on offer. From the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus, to the cobbled streets of East London, there are so many hidden gems that are taken for granted.
As a long week in the office drew to a close, nothing helped to annihilate the winter blues more than a night on the town. I was presented with the ideal opportunity to view London through the eyes of a tourist, as a friend of mine, new to the city, longed to experience a classic night out. After indulging in a much needed post-work cocktail in Covent Garden, there was only one destination which seemed appropriate: Cucina Asellina.
Situated within the ME London Hotel, 5 minutes from the bustling West End, Cucina Asellina offers an authentic Italian dining experience, with a Manhattan twist. As you venture in from the bitter-cold streets, eagerly seeking out your next vodka-lined beverage, the restaurant host ensures you that this is the only place to be.
If it is just drinks that you desire, the stool-lined bar boasts a glass-encased wine display showcasing the varied choice of Italian poisons on offer, with an extended wine list available from your server. The cocktail menu is not to be snubbed either, with a succulent concoction of Manhattan classics to keep you glued to your stall for the foreseeable future.
As we were led to our table, we couldn’t help but appreciate the DJ booth situated in the corner. The soulful, jazzy tunes removed all thought of the working week, leaving us feeling light and elevated. While the majority of the customers were there for the food, the music was subtle and pleasant. However, as the bar became filled to the nines and the Signora Asellina – my personal favourite Belvedere-based cocktail, mixed with limoncello, raspberry & lemon – cocktails were flowing freely, the volume began to creep upwards with popular classics blasting ever louder throughout the urbane atmosphere.
The newly rejuvenated menu was presented in a tapas style, offering a combination of rustic, Italian options. While we perused the menu, we began in traditional fashion with the refreshingly chilled green olives served on ice, alongside a selection of the flatbreads served from a wood-fire oven. Our fabulous server, Roberta, suggested that we order at least 3 dishes each to capture the full flare of Cucina Asellina.
To start, we shared the Frittura Mista, (a varied combination of calamari, soft shell crab, prawns & whitebait), and the Burrata, (creamy mozzarella stuffed with rosemary, focaccia and served with grilled vegetables, and olives and basil dressing). While the Frittura Mista presented the perfect culmination of fried and fresh seafood, the Burrata – classified as one of the Le Specialita Della Casa – offered an explosion of succulent flavours which should not be avoided.
After much deliberation, greatly aided by an Italiano each – aperol, pineapple, Bacardi superior, cardamom syrup, saffron and raspberry – we decided upon our main course. We chose the Grilled Tuna, served with a mixture of shellfish and a particularly flavoursome Fregola Ragu. If you like seafood, this dish is most definitely for you. Our fish was complimented by the Umbrian Sausages and Polenta Concia, Polenta Chips, Baked Cauliflower, and Broccoli seasoned with garlic and chilli. Be warned, all of the dishes will arrive when ready so you will need to have your forks poised and your stomachs prepared, as there is a constant stream of food sent your way.
As the copper lights cast a warm glow upon the restaurant and the dishes were promptly cleared away, we were faced with the ever-challenging decision: do we dare to order a dessert? Despite our overwhelmed appetites, we braved the final course, indulging in the authentic Tiramisu which offered the perfect blend of rich dark chocolate and coffee, for those who cannot choose between the two, and the Gelati Cones. The pistachio flavour in particular was divine.
Feeling significantly more content with life, we rounded off our meals with a rich Espresso and planned our next move. Luckily, we didn’t have far to go. We were taken up to the tenth floor to the infamous Radio Bar for cocktails, as we overlooked the glorious London skyline.
With breath-taking views of the City, Tower Bridge, the Shard, London Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, Somerset House, Southbank, London Eye, Houses of Parliament, and the theatre district of Covent Garden, it was the ideal way for me to showcase London to my newbie friend. With sun-soaked views by day, and a well-heated and lavish lounge by night, this outdoor-indoor rooftop bar is London’s most exclusive playground. The DJ crafted the perfect combination of tunes, and the drinks were free-flowing with all concerns left behind in the lift.
For an additional taste of luxury, you can unwind within in the VIP section among private cabanas filled with plush couches and spectacular views.
Whether you are looking for a special place to spend with your loved one this Valentine’s Day, or a sensational night out with the girls, Cucina Asellina delivers on their promise: “…happiness dwells here.”
Cucina Asellina have just introduced a new menu, which you just have to try!
ME London Hotel, 336-337 The Strand London, WC2R 1HA, United Kingdom
To make a reservation, call +44 (0) 20 7395 3445
Price Range: £30 per person