There’s no way that Restaurant 22 (click here for its web-site) can be successful. It’s too small, only about 25 covers although there is another dining room upstairs; it’s in the wrong place, not exactly city centre; it has no parking; it’s got no special theme (or in marketing speak USP); and to cap it all the kitchen’s in the basement and all the dishes have to be brought up a flight of stairs (and that’s 2 flights to the first floor dining room!). But it is successful because it’s exceedingly good.
I went with my mate Kev last Wednesday night. I’d been a couple of times before, most recently Dec 09, and never been disappointed. I wasn’t this time but what exactly makes it a success?
It’s run by Armando Tommaso, who sounds like he should be Italian, with his wife Sharon, surely not an Essex girl, but the set menu (£28.95 for 3 courses) is as much English as anything. Armando and Sharon run the restaurant and there are 4 people in the kitchen. As a team they produce excellent food and the service is impeccable.
Kev and I went through the menu and also went for the optional fish course. I focussed on brain food (confit of salmon and tuna) Kev was more catholic in his choices (pea risotto and pork belly). We had a bottle of Aussie reisling and then indulged with a Chilean desert wine.
If I’m going to complain, I generally do, it’d be about the portions. Kev’s 3 pea risotto wasn’t 3 peas but peas at 3 different stages of life; it was a small portion nonetheless. The scallops for the fish course could also have been described as 3 because that’s what they were. And I seem to recall that what made my meringue desert a pavlova was the 3 raspberries. Not just small portions but an obsession with 3. But what the heck: the food was good and the point about small portions is that you can eat several courses and not come away bloated.
The ambience is different. It’s difficult to put a finger on it. The restaurant is cosy with not a lot of spare space and it’s set off by classical table settings: starched white linen and the rest. There’s a splendid art nouveau window on the street side but nothing so fancy at the other end where diners overlook a back yard and several lock-up garages. There’s an air of calm but if you want to chat Armando seems to be able to find the time. I liked it.
So why’s it successful? Simple, it does the simple things right: food, service and environment. And its location isn’t such bad news, you can walk there or get a bus. And thankfully Armando and Sharon seem to enjoy keeping fit running up and down the stairs.