Eat Here: ‘O Ver Restaurant, St. JamesBy Angelica Malin
Generally speaking, I avoid restaurants around central London. Touristy, expensive and over-crowded, they make me want to chase Beta Blockers down with a stiff drink. But ‘O Ver Restaurant, tucked away in a quiet side cul-de-sac in St. James’, moments from Piccadilly Circus, gives central London a good name. It’s secluded, private and the food is exemplary. Here’s what you need to know:
The name ‘O ver comes from the Neapolitan dialect to mean: “truth”. The restaurant is inspired by Neapolitan street food, true to the style of Italy. Authentic, delicious and healthy is the vibe of the menu; and the restaurant uses the unique ingredient of pure sea water, which is extracted from the purest areas of the Mediterranean, in many of the dishes. This, apparently, makes the food lighter (due to a lower sodium content) and more digestible. You’ll find the pure sea water in their pizzas, made using ingredients from small Italian producers, breads and more. The decor is chic, yet understated; expect leather banquette seating, tables lit by candlelight and a large open kitchen for watching the magic happen.
I am very non-committal when it comes to food; I’m greedy and want to try everything. The menu at ‘O Ver is, thus, my dream. Compromised of Italian antipasti, small plates, starter-style pasta, pizzas and mini pizzas, with loads of veggie options, it’s the kind of menu that everyone can enjoy. We started with some winners; the Melanzane Parmigiana (£12), aubergines baked with San Marzano DOP tomato sauce, smoked mozzarella, Parmesan cheese and basil, was flawless. Rich, tomatoey goodness, lots of melted cheese, you really can’t go wrong. We also sampled the Tavolara Salad (£12) with green & red salad leaves, walnuts, fresh black fig, Sardinian pecorino cheese, with a honey orange dressing. For the price, the salad is a really generous portion and the flavour combination of salty pecorino, sweet fresh fig and crunchy walnuts is perfect.
They’ve also got lots of great small veggie options, if you’d like to have a tapas-style meal. From the veggies, we chose the Friarielli (£7.50) – wild tender bitter broccoli from Vesuvio, sautéed with chilli and garlic and Peperoni in Padelle (£7) – pan-roasted red & yellow peppers, sautéed with capers, garlic and black Gaeta’s olives. Both were amazing; super fresh, full of flavour, totally delectable. After such a strong start, I feared the mains wouldn’t be as good, but we were not disappointed. My guest and I devoured plates of Fettuccina Al 2 Pomodori (£16.50) – handmade fettuccine with Piennolo organic tomatoes from Vesuvio and Sicilian Datterino tomatoes, organic cold pressed extra virgin olive oil from Sicily and fresh basil. When pasta is this simple and delicious, there’s really nothing better in the world. The handmade pasta was perfectly cooked, the tomatoes bursting with flavours and it all came together so beautiful, with a gentle smattering of fresh black pepper and parmesan cheese. Simple, honest, perfection.
We didn’t eat dessert, as we went a little hard on the bread basket (homemade focaccia by the way, so good), but have it on good authority that they make a mean Tiramisu, and the ice cream is all homemade also.
We drunk passion fruit Bellinis all night, which I think was an accident because they had run out of peach juice, but they were so delicious. They also have a solid Italian wine list, all the classic cocktails and something called a White Negroni which sounds divine.
‘O Ver is really very good. Much better than I was expecting. The food is fresh, healthy, delicious. The vibe is cool, laid-back. The staff are super warm and friendly. It’s just everything you want out of a restaurant really – no frills, decent food, fun cocktails – and I would go back in a heartbeat. Take my word for it: ‘O Ver is going to be your new favourite Italian spot in central London.