Newest Review: ... game after-all. Losing the Ask Italian outlet in Victoria London barely will make a ripple considering Ask Italian has over 130 restaurant... more
Sigh of the Thymes
Member Name: 1st2thebar
Date: 12/09/12, updated on 12/09/12 (41 review reads)
Advantages: Great lunch and mighty fine ambiance
Disadvantages: Sixteen days left of trading
160/162 Victoria Street
Mon - Thu: 11:30 to 23:00
Fri - Sat: 11:30 to 12:00
Sun: 11:30 to 22:00
- - -
As the austere period bites into chains of eateries profit margins, well, when I say bites, feast is a better synonym in today's climate; a taste of reality stimulates my tear-duct a watery response. Regrettably, Ask Italian Victoria is closing on September 28th 2012. The Italian Victoria is in her final weeks; obviously due to customers not entering her to justify an existence or of value. Nevertheless, it is refreshing she isn't doing a culinary closing down sale, or opening after 12 pm on a Saturday to get as much trade in as possible, like a last gasp effort to show her competitive spirit and mustard in times of hardship - unlike the retail trade, whereby the consumer vulture feasts on the carcass of the dead stock and staff are left mentally and physically exhausted only to be rewarded via the career prospects of a dole queue. I have admiration for the culinary dignity of their demise. They have grace in recognising a death-knell and as professionals, they choreograph their exit with a pleasant gallantry wave to stomach heavy regulars; and Ask Italian Victoria is no different. However, I do feel a deeper sense of moroseness when a restaurant closes, especially when you've parked your derriere on a sturdy block chair which could eventually be chopped up to make 'Jenga blocks'. Oh well, life is only a game after-all.
Losing the Ask Italian outlet in Victoria London barely will make a ripple considering Ask Italian has over 130 restaurants across Britain - But it does 'ask' questions if the branded food-chain has had it's day? As far as I'm concerned most people enjoy Italian food, the culinary delights isn't determined by seasonal trends that are clear-cut, 'winter' or 'summer' food. And Ask tends to customise their menus according to the temperature outside similarly to the world of fashion - with autumn on the cusp - a harvest menu is vibrantly colourful which is what you expect from the Italians. Rather tempting for a meat-ball fiend, who has 'Subway'd' his way through a minefield of them. Instead I had a taste for something lighter, not necessarily armed with a farinaceous insulation, due to having already got one from two winters' ago; I opted for the sunny Risotto for lunch.
Unlike the panel caves of 'Zizi's' - Ask Italian in Victoria is spacious, bright, clean, and airy. Too the extent an olive tree wouldn't look out of its natural habitat. The glazed front decorated by an orange type of spaghetti text compliments the sweet-shop corporate identity of the signage. The swirl finishes continues on inside, traits of a semi-Rococo inspiration interior locked into the post-modern dining experience. Large panelled mirrored walls on white made the confident more confident and the coy cower into their dining positions. If there was a statement of any sort it was 'Horta's' stairwell; an architecture historian dream or despair - leading up into a nearly empty room of carefully arranged chairs and tables, accessorised with tubular oil decanters.
I'm a funghi
On my own at my throne, I was used as a prop to entice those who luncheon - like an animated manikin at a table not that the hungry paid any interest, immune to the pizza scent wafting into Victoria Street. The waiter plonked down the tap water dressed with a neat lemon slice and proceeded to skittle off to preen his attire for impending customers. Several minutes later he emerged armed up to his elbow with a risotto and side order of crusty garlic bread medallions - Identical breaded twins in fact, cut to a precision I could only marvel. The thyme didn't need any introductions its aromatic flavour snaked up from the risotto as if it had seen too many 1980's 'Hey Bisto!' adverts - then came the wild mushrooms and sweet butternut squash, once the fontal cheese and crème fraiche got disturbed, the combination was a treat, autumn food in late summer. By the sound of my cutlery and plate clattering, there was no real need to ask whether I was enjoying my lunch - it was blatantly obvious I was - although, it did give the waiter something to do. And being in an establishment called 'Ask' - I guess it comes naturally to ask. The staff worked on auto-pilot, they asked the right question, and they plonked you in the right seat, and managed to give you the right food. Not a lot to ask - apart from a smile from time to thyme.
The garlic bread was lightly oiled and sufficiently garlic tasting, and the risotto tasted better than it appeared. Not that you can blame the 'Ask' chef for its appearance, I wasn't expecting a gravity defying cube of rice, cemented together by fontal cheese, crème fraiche, with wild mushrooms plastered on the exterior, and garnishes of thyme sitting on the top, decorated as a maze. I abhor tweezers when it comes to food décor; it's not as if you eat it in its presentational state and it plops out of your derriere as a risotto cube is it? Art should always have a longevity period of at least several days, not several minutes. Remarkably enough I was adequately full after it, I thanked my lucky stars again that I didn't opt for the meatier option - partly because my gastric juices are not use to the culinary decadence of anything too grandiose or rich in quantity before the hours of seven pm. Having learnt by past experiences of heavier luncheons the terms 'useless' and 'lethargic' is a fair assessment of my afternoon state. A crisp twenty pound note covered my fees and that included a small tip. Location wise, the Italian is very well situated for businesses and commuters for the trains and tube. A great resting place to replenish the liquids and re-fuel - the menu is fine and the ambiance seemed perfect for an early afternoon. In all honesty I enjoyed the conservatory styled airiness the most and I assume that alone eats up the profits. Sixteen days of trading and counting - one good thing, food is a business that'll never die - We all got to eat.
Summary: Ask an Italian Victoria - she won't be around for much longer