La Dolce Vita

With the launch of our food & drink awards this month, Caroline Harrap visits a previous winner.

Having driven through the pretty village of Walton-on-the-Hill on many occasions, I had long intended to pay a visit to the enticing Italian eatery, Spaghetti Tree, opposite the duck pond. Well, this month I finally managed it, and I’m delighted to say that the dolce vita dishes of which I’d dreamed were well worth the wait.

A family-run business for more than 30 years, it all began at Spaghetti Tree’s ‘big sister’ restaurant in Sutton. So successful was the venture there that the owners’ daughter, Maria, decided to launch her own spin-off, but with a more contemporary edge (including a swanky little cocktail bar), and this formula has proved to be equally popular – both venues winning separate categories at the T&L Food & Drink Awards.

Arriving early on a Friday evening, we were greeted by Maria herself who kindly took the time to talk us though the extensive menu. Hailing from Sicily, she suggested that I try two dishes from her home country, which sounded like an excellent idea to me.

With drinks despatched, along with tasty artisan breads and olive oil for dunking, we took in our surroundings – which felt fresh and modern. Next to us was a microphone and from the same corner emanated flashing disco lights – ready for the ensuing Friday-night entertainment, we were informed.

Soon enough, the starters arrived and Maria’s recommendation, baked aubergines layered with goat’s cheese and tomato sauce, was an absolute treat – the ingredients complementing each other perfectly. Across the table, my friend Sarah declared her baked oysters to be lovely too.

The main courses turned out to be equally mouth-watering. My Penne Messinese (tomato, garlic, spinach, peas, broccoli and chilli) brought back memories of a holiday in Tuscany, the flavours positively singing, while Sarah seemed equally enamoured with her veal topped with prosciutto. We shared a plate of Zucchini Fritti, a tasty little treat on the side.

Almost beaten by this point, I bailed on dessert but Sarah went for the Mascarpone, Raspberry & White Chocolate Bombe – a ball of sweet, sugary creaminess.

In summary then, this was authentic Italian food right in the heart of Surrey – and excellent value, too, we felt. Our only quibble really was the aforementioned entertainment – a Michael Bublé type – who whilst certainly very good was also a little on the loud side for our liking. Overall, though, you have a real little winner here – and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them in the awards shortlist again this year.

Spaghetti Tree, 1 Walton Street, Walton-on-the-Hill.

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