Unfortunately it’s becoming commonplace in London to have a table turnaround time, and more and more customers are being turfed out of their favourite restaurants before they even have time to even look at the dessert wine list. Not in Little Sardegna. Here, you’ll be whisked off to Sardinia for the evening, where meals can last hours, love is always in the air and food finishes with a long, lingering nightcap.
When you step into Little Sardegna you’re instantly transported to Italy. I squeeze past two burly Hermanos delivering some Sardinian wine to get into the restaurant, just to find Marcello Gusai - the owner - hand gesturing and chatting loudly in Italian on the phone. He immediately ends the call and comes to greet me and we take a seat at a lovely little window table decorated with a red gingham table cloth.
It’s not just the staff that make the place feel so authentic. Plastered walls, oil paintings and Sardinian decorations give the restaurant a real rustic charm, and the long benches and wooden chairs look like they could have come direct from the Sistine Chapel.
In true Italian fashion, Marcello is the owner, manager and chef. He is passionate about enjoying food and tells me his mother took great pleasure in feeding him and his seven brothers and sisters. At home, cooking and eating is a social event that can last hours - and he ensures his customers are never rushed out of his restaurant. It’s no surprise then that Little Sardegna has been a much-loved part of Highbury for the past eight years.
The menu is Italian but there’s an emphasis on the dishes and produce of Sardinia. So if you’re after spaghetti bolognaise or a lasagne you’ll be disappointed. I went for the salmon ravioli (£8.50) and the pasta was homemade and wonderfully light. It came with plump, juicy prawns, soft courgettes and sweet cherry tomatoes and the sauce was flavoursome and tangy. The fish tasted as though it had just been caught it was so fresh and the food really does transport you to sunnier shores.
Marcello uses secret and rustic recipes passed down from his mother, using only the freshest, best quality ingredients - which is evident on every mouthful. The smoked swordfish carpaccio in olive oil, lemon and mint is a popular starter choice, as is the cheese board which is packed with flavoursome Sardinian cheese and traditional, freshly baked Sardinian bread. and He tells me he often visits Sardinia to get inspiration for new, creative dishes and he and his brother also have a vineyard there where they make their own wine.
Little Sardegna is actually a restaurant and wine bar combined, so diners are more than welcome to go in for a glass of red and an antipasto platter. There’s an extensive list of Sardinian wines on offer and the menu offers a lovely description of each to help you make your choice. Of course the friendly staff are always on hand to help, too.
20% off total bill first visit, 10% off total bill thereafter for Portico Places card holders