Dinner at Kiss Kiss, Elstree
PUBLISHED: 09:59 03 October 2016 | UPDATED: 10:00 03 October 2016
If you're in the mood for an Italian experience, Kiss Kiss could be right up your strada, says food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne
Sometimes the best test of a restaurant is how it does the simple things. Customers do not always want the trendy creation by the latest wonder chef most are interested in cooking that shows there is more than one way to present, say, your average chicken or duck dish.
Such thoughts on the subject were inspired by a visit to Kiss Kiss, a new-ish Italian restaurant in what used to be the Plough pub in Elstree’s busy High Street. A friend recommended it, and the customary visits to Google and TripAdvisor produced a range of reviews, some of them good, some average, but all pointing to a popular arrival in a sparse landscape.
Kiss Kiss is all about authenticity. Its website talks of food being not only faithful to the original Italian recipes but ‘cooked by passionate Italian chefs’. The ‘kiss kiss’ bit comes in when the site goes on to urge customers to ‘continue your romantic affair with Italian food’. Phew. I don’t have an affair with Italian food but I do like it, mostly because it’s satisfying and partly because its wide variety produces menus of epic proportions that are great fun to read. So it is with Kiss Kiss, whose menu runs effortlessly through the usual sections of per iniziare (nibbles), starters, salads, pasta and risotto, mains, sides and desserts, each containing a multitude of choice but all comfortably familiar.
That the formula works was demonstrated on the night of my visit, a Sunday, when I expected the restaurant to be on the quiet side and found it instead, in the recent words of a well-known political figure struggling to find a seat, ram-packed. We escaped much of the throng by having a table on the enclosed terrace at the back, where the general merriment was still evident but not quite so intrusive.
The menu was as expected full of old friends with the promised authentic touches. The buffalo Mozzarella on the insalata tricolore (£6.90) was from Campania and the tomatoes were Datterini. With the dish rounded-off with basil and avocado, it was a refreshing treat on a warm evening. Again, my companion’s pan-fried scallops with balsamic vinegar (£8.50) might sound ordinary but they came complete with their orange corals, a sure sign of freshness, and were good enough to be pronounced the best she has had, and she has had many. Other starter options that caught our eye included pan-fried tiger prawns in a white wine sauce (£7.50) and bresaola della Valtellina (£6.50), again with a Denominazione Origine Protetta label, and served with an oil and lemon dressing.
The mains brought an unexpected treat in the form of deep-fried courgettes as an optional side dish, pricey at £3.80 but served in ultra-thin strips and, as we were told afterwards, a house speciality. Recommended as much for the novelty as for the flavour - but that was good too - we had them with my other half’s choice of veal braised in red wine sauce (£14.50), a special of the day and described by her as ‘like butter’. I borrowed some to go with my roasted duck breast (£18.50), served with sautéed cabbage and fondant potatoes. I wasn’t asked how I wanted it cooked but it came exactly as I would have wanted anyway.
In typical Italian fashion, in case none of the above took your fancy, there were nine other mains on offer, including Dover sole (£23.50) grilled or meuniere with capers and lemon; grilled calf’s liver (£16.50) with onions and crushed potatoes; and the very non-Italian Welsh lamb cutlets (£18.50) with tomato salsa and sautéed potatoes.
A dessert of summer fruits in cherry consommé (£5.50) would have been an easy choice but it was unavailable, so we settled for the old standby of a shared crème brulée topped with caramel (£5.50) to refresh the palate, or so we told ourselves. It was a close-run thing – we were intrigued by the Kiss Kiss pizza to share (£7.50) with Nutella, Italian chocolate and berries, and there was also apple crumble (with custard!) and, naturally, tiramisu (both £5.50), but tradition held firm.
With two acceptable glasses of wine, a Pinot Grigio (£7.50) and a particularly earthy and chewy Primitivo (£7.90), our visit to Kiss Kiss worked out well. If it’s busy when you go, be prepared for a bit of noise thanks to low ceilings and wood floors and the occasional non-availability of some dishes, but it’s undeniably fun and the food is well worth the trip.
Very Italian, in fact.
The cost of this meal for two was £80.45 including two glasses of wine and a 10 per cent service charge.
This is an independent review featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.
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Kiss Kiss, High Street, Elstree WD6 3EU. 020 8953 1819