Eliche with beetroot and mushrooms
Nudged into action by a growing trend for sustainable dining, Londonist has embarked on an eco eating crawlâ€¦
An Italian vegetarian restaurant that’s near neighbours with Smithfields Market, that cast iron-and-brick cathedral to the meat gods? Nice. Amico Bio boasts about its eco credentials, with a tag line of “Green Thinking, Better Living”. The promise is to serve meat free and organic dishes that will tempt carnivores and veggies alike, with a wine list offering only vegan and vegetarian wines.
The restaurant is found on one of those lovely streets in this part of town that feel like Ye Olde London. A dwarfish wheelbarrow filled with vegetables sits by the front door. Sadly terrible music slightly soils the quiet atmosphere of a small space that has the feel of a townhouse dining room – dark wooden floors and furniture, a narrow fireplace with black and white photographs on the mantelpiece, picture windows out onto an inky dark street.
The menu is set out as a traditional Italian menu would be, with antipasti, pasta and secondi listed. Quite often a secondi section would have little or nothing for the non meat eater, but on this one, of course, everything is a vegetarian option. Off-putting for the veggies though is the surely unnecessarily carnivorous language used to describe some of the dishes, things like steak, scallops, sausage, kebab.
We begin with some simple starters – bruschetta, giant olives and buffalo mozzarella, of which the pea green olives are a highlight amongst the so-so. We then choose our mains. Eliche is an oversized fusilli pasta shape and ours is served bright purple, with a beetroot and mushroom sauce. We can’t quite believe that the pasta isn’t fresh but dried. A pumpkin risotto needs much black pepper to perk it up. Desert features rum soaked brioche and cherries, a chocolate and dried fruit tart and some gelato. Ice cream is a real test, the Italians being the experts of the ice cream world. Ours is delicious but a mean portion is served already melting.
We spent a leisurely Friday evening here, service was friendly and unrushed, and the final bill for a three course meal very reasonable (main courses are only Â£8, starters around Â£3). However it’s possible to eat very well without eating meat in London’s many brilliant non-vegetarian Italian restaurants. Amico Bio may claim to be our city’s first ever organic vegetarian Italian eatery, but it’s serving food that just isnâ€™t outstanding enough.
Amico Bio, 44 Cloth Fair, EC1A 7JQ; www.amicobio.co.ukÂ (they also have a second site atÂ 43 New Oxford Street,Â WC1A 1BH)