You’re probably wondering why I use terms such as ‘reportedly’ and ‘purpose’ for a place which is very much situated in the present. Well, you know how almost all of London’s restaurants are seen as a star by their owners or described so gallantly in paid reviews but the truth is not as wonderful? Here’s another one of them.
I don’t mean to say that Cucina Asellina is a fatal disappointment – not at all, nothing excessive. But it seems the restaurant has failed to escape hotel restaurants’ doom – an Italian restaurant must appear as familiar even if you’re visiting it for the first time; it is essential to create a home vibe, to make the clientele feel as if all other customers are their college friends ready to share all with them; but that’s never what hotel restaurants are about, is it? It’s the same with Cucina Asellina – black metal frames, high tables, concrete floor, everything is a tone of the grey scale and all shapes are too trivially plain. As much as I would like to appreciate this rural while at the same time futuristic style, I cannot say that it makes you feel welcome inside a group of friends.
Aside from the chill (in the word’s not best sense) atmosphere, the sense of closeness to be suggested by the proximity of tables is not very successful. We appreciate the effort but even in Italy or Spain sitting on the same table with a dozen strangers would be kind of confusing, if of course this was not your intentional choice; as nor the restaurant nor London are packed and lacking that much space I think that troubling you consciousness with the task of keeping track of which conversation exactly is the one you’re a part of is rather unnecessary. But the color touch of copper lamps, white oak paneling and soft lightning of the place are steps towards the right goal and who know, with a few redecorational decisions this venue may turn back on track and actually succeed in inviting.
An effort has been clearly made when hiring staff too. On entering Cucina Asellina you are met by a 24k smile and a pair of big, very big eyes. Your tip at the end of the lunch/diner you’re about to have is indirectly acclaimed at your arrival and after all, this is what the guys work for – nothing surprising. Your waiter will continue serving with the same smile you saw on the door, presenting you every meal or drink with an optimistic enthusiasm competing with his colleagues for the promotion around the corner.
After being seated at your table, hoping that the few ones next to you are still empty, take a look at the menu. It is plain and elegant, promising to suffice you with the desired meal for you and your partners/business colleague/group of friends. You will probably be distracted by all the wine bottles you see around you and let’s admit it – with this sight it is very likely to just go ahead and start with one of the bottles, but we should stick to the food menu first and when we’ve said enough about it we’ll move on to the drinks. Yes, I know, it’s a long menu…but after all this is really an advantage – I guess everyone, even the most picky eater, can find something to suit them. Most dishes, as expected, are traditional Italian food. The pasta Cucina Asellina cooks is really worth the try: be sure they’ve spent just the right time boiling and are poured with the just the right amount of sauce, yes, these meals really do deserve to be mentioned. Try for example the Square Spaghetti or the Prawn Tagliolini.
Moving to the pizzas Cucina Asellina offers – they are not something you wouldn’t eat at lunch yet nothing remarkable. Or we’ve all just gotten tired of eating the world’s most common meal. Now with reference to those other meals the kitchen creates…Fish courses are definitely not recommended in this restaurant; or at least their very absent-minded chefs. I don’t know what the main idea was when it came to cooking different fish, but none of the meals we’ve tasted there did not manage to present us with decently prepared some – lobsters, halibut, sea bass, anything, even tuna…they were so confusingly meshed with whatever you could find in the kitchen that I could hardly tell if the fish was undercook or overcooked? It was definitely one of those though, probably the second – I guess the chef needed a bit more time to be sure …And moreover, you’d expect from an Italian restaurant to provide astonishing fettuccine, however, this is not the case with Cucina Asellina at least for me. As a whole I advise you to go for the most traditional meals possible – pasta and maybe some pizzas.
Moving to the bar – the restaurant offers a classic menu with cocktails which are not bad actually. You can find the most known Negroni, Spritz, Bellini, Sangia La Bianca and Rossini and try the not so popular but well-made Signora Asellina, Pompei, Inverno and some more. Their price is also moderate. The bar offers a sufficient range of pure spirits for the connoisseurs and a wine list which we already mentioned. In such a place it is best to try the wines, plus if endeavoring on a trip with an unknown meal you wouldn’t know what to expect – if you are disappointed with too weird of a taste or an intrusive ingredient, mixing it with a specific ingredient in your cocktail might turn out to be a very unpleasant match so be careful.
Take a look at Cucina Asellina’s menu yourself: Menu
The hotel’s restaurant has an advantage – it offers reservations for private events. If you are trying to book just a table some say that depending on the application you’re using there might be a problem; I personally haven’t encountered one but who knows. Regarding the private events though, the restaurant keeps a very strict politic and would rapidly answer your questions and provide you with the needed information. Of course you’d be obligated to spend a minimum but with a private reservation we cannot have it any other way.
So to sum up, Cucina Asellina at the ME London Hotel might have some steps to take in order to improve half of its menu and a bit of its atmosphere but with the advantages of attentive service, nice wines and very importantly – comparatively low prices – I think Cucina Asellina could offer a casual lunch or dinner over drinks and if it gets too crowded, you could easily climb up a few floors and continue with the breath-taking views of ME’s Radio Rooftop Bar.