Last night we dined at Rucoletta, near St Paul’s, using a Groupon voucher which allowed myself and a dining companion a three course meal each. And on Trip Advisor it currently has a rating of 158th out of 17,643 restaurants in London – amazing! What an offer.
The set menu wasn’t too shabby to pick from though you have to like tomatoes going into this. If you don’t then you are a bit doomed, however a menu preview was provided on the Groupon deal so you should half know what to expect before going.
Toli and I were running a little bit late due to some tube overcrowding (Christmas sales are bananas) but our fellas had arrived on time and grabbed the table for us. We popped in 10 minutes late and they were chatting away happy as anything. We sat down next to them and after a while wondered where the waitresses were – nobody had come to ask if we were ok or if we would like drinks, and by this point the boys had been sitting at the table for 20 minutes.
We had chosen from the set menu and beckoned a waitress over to order. I was after the melted smoked mozzarella and the seabass as my first 2 courses, with a lemonade. Toli went for the beef and veal starter, also with seabass. The first waitress we called nodded as we asked if we could order and stood by our table listening. I thought it odd she didn’t have a notepad but also remembered some waiting staff have great memories and don’t need to write everything down. However, after taking the first order she replaced herself with another waitress, and didn’t bother to relay the order she had already taken – slightly frustrating as effectively she had stood and pretended to take the first order. Oh well. The new waitress took our orders down successfully and the food was on the way – good stuff!
Or was it? 10 minutes after ordering we were told the seabass is off the menu. Boo. The other options didn’t really seduce me very much as I had my stomach set on the fish by this point, so I went for an arrabiata instead. In the meantime we had some “bread and olives” – just bread arrived, no olives – and not much oil and vinegar to dip the bread in. I reckon we got 5 bits of tomato bread and olive bread (in total) between 4 of us for £2.95.
The food was served within a reasonable time and quality wise the starter was pretty nice, very saucy and a good amount of cheese. I reckon I would have gone with less sauce myself but then I am a cheese lover. The meat loaf starter was really nice and we would definitely recommend going for that one. Main-wise, the pasta dish was good but I couldn’t finish as I felt really bloated. It was another very tomato-focussed dish with thin curled pasta, cooked aldente (nice). There were chunks of smoked meat throughout the dish and I thought there was a good pasta to meat ratio. One thing noted was there was no option given for parmesan and as one diner in our party isn’t a cheese fan (however disgraceful this may be) he would have preferred no cheese.
We tried to ask a waitress for a glass of the house red wine and she, again, seemed to take the order but then sent someone else over to the table so we had to repeat it again to someone separate. Frustrating. It arrived swiftly though which was a plus.
Mains finished, we ordered desserts of which the choice was tiramisu or 3 balls of ice cream (options: chocolate, vanilla and pistachio). We went for two servings of tiramisu and 6 balls of vanilla ice cream between the four of us. Ordered, lovely! 2 minutes later we have a waitress return to tell us there is no vanilla ice cream. Sigh. So we go for the other flavours despite actually having had a discussion earlier at the table about how nobody particularly wanted anything but vanilla. But minds were changed due to lack of availability – also bear in mind that our booking was for 6.30pm so the evening was relatively young to be running out of a staple such as vanilla ice cream.
Taste wise, the pistachio ice cream was very nice and not overly flavoured which was good. The chocolate ice cream was pretty standard. Our tiramisu was quite bitter where parts of the sponge fingers were heavily soaked in coffee. However, there were parts which hadn’t been soaked at all. We ate about half of the whole dessert then left the sponge as by this point I was quite full (still bloated) and it didn’t drive me nuts.
This probably seems like a far more negative review than it actually is, the food was pretty average but having two out of three courses that we wanted not be available made things a little more difficult. As I mentioned, this was not a late dinner so you would expect a restaurant to be stocked up ready for a night of serving customers (Rucoletta is open until 10pm Mon-Weds and 10.30pm Thurs-Fri).
The service was strange but not rude, just a little lacking. I think perhaps there may be a language barrier there, but I would prefer it if staff simply stated they would get a colleague than pretending to listen. The waiting staff were attentive to the table next to ours as the gentleman could speak Italian, but we would have given Italian a crack if we knew this was the key to having more organised service!
I have a feeling that our expectations were too high from seeing the Trip Advisor rating but I am thinking that most of the reviews are from customers who had the voucher and were just pleased with the location (right next to St Paul’s) and value. I was really looking forward to this meal but it just lacking so I would probably go to Prezzo/Strada instead.