In a way, when we sit on the Como Garden’s Kensington terrace, it’s like we’re sitting inside, gazing at an Mediterranean courtyard. The design of the restaurant is in the style of the lush, botanical landscape surrounding the famous Northern Italian lake, the area is awash in foliage and centered with an olive tree that is growing between tables. However, while the décor is inspired by Lombardy and the food is rooted in American traditions and offers a variety of regional favorites. Spanish owners and twins Alberto and Arian Zandi appropriately manage the nearby sister company Zuaya The restaurant originates from a distinct culinary tradition, but as owners Zandi brothers, they share one important characteristic that gives the restaurant a striking resemblance to a family and that is a tapas menu that is meant for sharing. We start by splitting a raviolo, a soft pasta pillow that may just be more inviting than any other cushion in the world. Punchy gorgonzola sauce meets its match in a sweet pear filling, creating a moment of inner-mouth alchemy that’s even more enjoyable when experienced alongside a companion, both of us able to celebrate the same fleeting ecstasy and then jointly grieve its passing. The arancini strips us of our mourning clothes immediately, the cheesy interior and crisp deep-fried shell met with a subtly sweet honey drizzle.
It wouldn’t be fair to sample Italian cheeses without checking out the recommended aubergine parmigiana. It’s hard to know where one element ends and the next begins in this pot of molten joy, and though the stringy mozzarella attempts to cling onto the dish with admirable tenacity, there’s no way a single morsel is getting left behind. These bites are paired well with refreshing cocktails, a fresh Como Fizz – gin, basil, lemon, sugar, cucumber – and a simple yet slick Godfather – whisky and amaretto.
Freshly made pasta deserves only the best companion, and at Como Garden it finds them in both Tagliatelle al Beef Ragu and Pappardelle ai Funghi. The former is slow-cooked until ripe with rich tomato, while the latter maintains the texture of the wild mushrooms, which are swimming in a creamy sauce. These aren’t conversation starters but conversation enders, serving up five minutes of pure silence.
Como Garden serves up perfectly portioned, happy plates that don’t aim to revolutionise Italian food but to remind us exactly why it works. Cheese and pasta; coffee and chocolate: these double acts are as solid as Morecombe and Wise or French and Saunders, and like the best comedy show, they’ll leave you with a smile on your face and a feeling that even in trying times, it’s sharing simple pleasures with friends that keep us going.