surprisingly great italian near the hampton court palace. so I’ve been to zizzi’s before, about two years into my stay in london, and I did not have a great time. the food was mediocre, service was hectic, the place was cramped – this was at the earls court outlet – and I left never wanting to come back. and I didn’t, until now, and it was great.
it was a fantastically cold day at hampton court – we had arrived and exited the train station to grey skies, freezing drafts, and nothing really inspiring. I spotted zizzi’s on the side of the road and it looked like our best option at the time, so in we went for some warmth and to make up for our missed lunches, and boy did we luck out.
I think it’s fair to say they’ve undergone a rather drastic revamp in the last two years since I made my first visit, and all the outlets now have wide open spaces and rustic furniture – a huge turnabout from the cramped mehness that they used to be. the menu read brightly and cheerfully, full of promises for hearty italian food, and there was even a special seasonal menu. impressive.
this was a late-lunch-before-dinner-snack, so we didn’t get to try as much of the menu as I’d have liked, but the things we ordered I found fantastic. here’s what we had (but there are loads of tasty things on their menu online here): a garlic bread topped with cheese and onions caramelized in balsamic vinegar, a flatbread with passata and pesto, a special of insalata zucca, speck and buffala, as well as calamari. both our breads were really good and tasty – the passata and pesto one a nice change over the usual bruschetta types you get in italian restaurants, but the caramelized onions were a real treat.
the special was off a menu featured in october, and designed by two chefs (the only one whose name I recognized was gizzi erskine), and was essentially a very creamy radicchio salad wrapped with speck, and served with milky mozza and roast pumpkin on the side. I have a weakness for roasted vegetables – and especially root vegetables at that – and all the elements here worked very well together. I could have done with a less-rich salad to balance out the richness of the mozzarella, but it was good in all. the calamari was very good too, but nothing nearly as special as the garlic bread nor the mozza and roast pumpkin.
if you haven’t been to zizzi’s in a while because you hold the same prejudice I did, it might be time to head down and have a look at their offerings – they seem to be doing pretty well now, with a new concept, menu and some great flavours. really reasonably priced too, and a great addition to my growing list of high street favourites.