Sunday, 10 March 2013

[Out of Oxford] Sartori, Covent Garden

Even provincial food bloggers get to go to the big city sometimes. When I set myself the task of finding a decent, reasonably priced restaurant in Covent Garden that wasn't a tourist trap, universally favourable reviews directed me towards Sartori, and fortunately they were not wrong. In fact, I went back with more people two weeks later.
(photo from
Each time the atmosphere was about as frenetic as you'd expect it to be in a Neapolitan-run restaurant in one of central London's busiest districts on a Saturday night, but the staff know what they're doing: service was professional but obliging rather than brusque, and pauses between courses allowed us time for digestion and to browse the menu. This was fortunate, as there are not only several pages' worth of antipasti, pastas, pizzas (which can also be ordered by the metre), panuozzi (a kind of pizza 'sandwich' that is apparently a south Italian speciality), meat and fish dishes, but also an additional, more expensive evening menu and a £9.95 pre-theatre deal. It's not an easy choice: the oven in the basement suggests that this might be more of a pizza joint, but the pasta dishes are just as accomplished.
 (we were in the basement and the lighting wasn't very good)
We went for simple starters on the first visit: a bruschetta (£4.65) was excellent, as was garlic pizza bread (£4.95), essentially a basic pizza without cheese. The second time we ordered plates of antipasto misto (£7.95) between us. These came heaped together and it was hard to separate the anchovies from the broccoli and sausage and the mushrooms from the sundried tomatoes, but it was a tasty, varied and not too filling start to the meal, and was accompanied by fresh ciabatta (very unlike the stale slices that are sometimes served).
On the first occasion, I ignored the lure of the pizza oven and went for maltagliati (thin squares of pasta) with king prawns and courgettes in a butter and sage sauce (£11.95). The delicate pasta was richly coated in buttery sauce, but the courgettes cooked al dente balanced this out and the sweet prawns were the finishing touch to a simple but very satisfying dish. Linguine with tomatoes and lasagne (part of the set menu) were even simpler, but were praised for their fine seasoning and authentic flavour. Portions were ample but not excessive; the presentation was not fussy, but neat enough to suggest that the kitchen cares about such things.
I wasn't going to miss out on pizza twice, though, and the next time had a Rucola (£10.95) with rocket and Parma harm. This was outstanding: a puffy, chewy (i.e. Neapolitan-style) base with patches of smokiness from the oven, topped not with red mush and melted cheese but recognisably puréed tomatoes and nuggets of mozzarella, along with plenty of ham. Delicious and satisfying, and not ridiculously oversized. The Administrator had a 'Spaccanapoli' panuozzo (£9.95; see above), filled with sweet peppers, pecorino and mortadella. He was not quite as impressed as the pizza-eaters were: the dough was crispy but lacked flavour, and the filling needed more meat although it was evenly distributed. We agreed that panuozzi probably work better as a snack. Still, elsewhere on the table, linguine with king prawns and mussels (£12.65) was receiving high praise: it had a 'very intense and complex flavour that just kept coming', I was told, and the texture of pasta and seafood alike was perfect.
The puddings we had on my first visit (all £5.35) were pretty good, especially the tiramisu; pineapple 'ravioli' filled with lemon sorbet also went down well, and a chocolate fondant was fine, if nothing out of the ordinary. If you have a starter and main course, though, you probably won't need them. This is an excellent, authentic and honestly priced establishment (unlike many of its neighbours). We spied at least one customer who is clearly a regular, and if I often found myself in Covent Garden I probably would be too.


15-18 Great Newport Street
London WC2H 7JE 

020 7836 6308


Sartori on Urbanspoon 

Square Meal


  1. This looks like a great find. The antipastos especially appeal to me :) I'll add it to my 'must try' list for when I'm back in the UK.

  2. To reiterate, the linguine was really very very good.