A Fresh Look At ASK Italian

Late last week I was invited to ASK Italian’s restaurant on Park St near Marble Arch to check out their new Spring menu, see the results of the chain’s recent refurbishment programme, and have a go at making one of their new dishes…

Our visit to this particular restaurant (which does look rather modern and inviting I have to say – ASK Italian don’t go in for the traditional ‘trattoria’ vibe that many Italian restaurants seem to favour) was hosted by Theo Randall, of Theo Randall at the InterContinental. An expert on Italian cuisine, over the last three years he has been helping the restaurant chain to develop an even more authentic Italian eating experience.

We tried our hand at making some Panzerottini – small semolina flour parcels that were discovered by Theo on a recent trip to Italy. The restaurant serves them in either fontina cheese and chilli or pancetta varieties, and they’re quickly becoming a staple of the restaurant’s menu. I was getting the hang of folding these together by about the eighth one I made – nothing compared to their head chef, who admitted to having made several thousands over the previous week!

ask italian marble arch london

As well as the Panzerottini we also got to sample the simple spaghetti dish that is often the ‘Il Primo’ course of an extensive Italian meal – their Spaghetti Al Pomodoro, which consists of Santos tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil in a rich tomato sauce with chunks of buffalo mozarella – very simple but extremely tasty. Pizza also made an appearance – stone-baked with a semolina base (which according to the chef gives them a crisper, crunchier texture), we had a few slices of their new Salsiccia (fiery Calabrian sausage meat and chargrilled peppers as two of its ingredients) which I rather enjoyed, and also the Gamberetti E Zucchini, which if you know your Italian includes prawns and courgettes, with creme fraiche to make it a little lighter.

Of course no Italian meal is complete without a rich dessert, and ASK Italian have a rather large range to choose from. We tucked into their Chocolate Amore, a very rich and flourless chocolate cake, and sampled three others (phew!) – their ricotta-based Italian cheesecake, the complex almond, plum and pistachio tart (a real winner in my opinion) and yet another chocolate creation, a chocolate and almond cake. You can get these last three together on a ‘dessert sharing board’ – very indulgent!

I have to admit that I’m not generally a fan of large restaurant chains – I think most expect to serve customers that aren’t very discerning, so they’re not very discerning themselves when it comes to menus, ingredients or indeed service. I’m glad to say that my experience at ASK Italian late last week has made me challenge that assumption – they serve very good quality Italian food in fresh, bright surroundings. Based on what I’ve discovered I have to give them a big thumbs up.

About Pete Stean

Pete Stean is a London-based writer and photographer. He can also be found on Twitter and on Google Plus.

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