Steph Siegle takes time to linger over a meal in true Italian style at Putney’s Isola del Sole
On a quiet road off Putney High Street, Isola del Sole is an Italian restaurant that eschews trattoria style and instead offers customers a contemporary dining experience among soft lighting and sleek, modern décor. Its 36 covers make for an intimate setting but its convivial atmosphere means you can experience a friendly ambience dining as a group or enjoy the privacy of a romantic date.
When it opened 16 years ago the restaurant began by offering traditional Sardinian cuisine, although it has now evolved into presenting an array of Italian dishes, ranging from ossobucco (veal served with risotto Milanese) to orecchiette con broccoli e acciughe (homemade orecchiette pasta with broccoli and anchovies). However, it’s reassuring to see that there are still strong influences of Sardinian flavours in the dishes, such as Pecorino cheese, Sardinian couscous and bottarga, a dry mullet roe.
The restaurant is extremely proud of the freshness of its ingredients; owner Massimo tells us how all the pasta is made at the restaurant daily and that they only have a small freezer for ice cream – so the fish you’ll order is the freshest possible and didn’t spend even a day in the freezer.
As we tucked into an excellent plate of mixed carpaccio – beef, tuna and avocado served with parsnip chips plus antipasti Sardo – coppa, a traditional Sardinian sausage and Pecorino cheese with carasau bread (a Sardinian flatbread), our waiter suggested a Sardinian wine would go well. There are plenty to choose from, although wines from Piedmont, Tuscany and Marche also feature. The Cannonau Riserva Chuerra Jerzu 2014 was rich and full-bodied, an ideal accompaniment to the starter. It went equally well with our mains of tagliatelle al cervo (venison ragout) and the subtle spice of the chilli in the linguine al granchio with bottarga – fresh crab, chilli and garlic all blended beautifully within that faultless fresh pasta. Make sure you leave room for pudding because there are iconic Italian desserts on the menu such as creamy panna cotta, served with in-season rhubarb, and a velvety tiramisu. As well as knowing the flavours that work well together, the chefs have a real flair for presentation; although we loved our choices we still had serious food envy watching other diners’ dishes brought to their tables.
Expect to be served as you would in Italy – a decent amount of time is left between each course, allowing you time to savour the last course, look forward to the next, chat with your dinner companions and – crucially – not feel rushed. We were there for a very pleasant two and a half hours. Italians are true advocates of spending quality time with family and friends over a hearty meal, and that’s the way a meal at Isola del Sole can be enjoyed.
Isola del Sole, 16 Lacy Rd, Putney, SW15 1NL