Decor is pleasant with neutral tones, some funky grey tiles at the bar that add to the modern contemporary feel. The tables are close enough for that trattoria / osteria feel but not so much that it's uncomfortable.
Steve and I arrived first and were shown to a table. Water was poured and menus given out but after a while we had to flag a waiter to place a drinks order. And the same happened when our friends arrived. In fact throughout the meal, although the wait staff were friendly we did have to seek out help. More on the service later...
- Melanzane a’ Parmigiana | Baked eggplant parmigiana
- ‘O Cuoppo ‘e Terra | (Neapolitan fried street food) | Pea arancini, potato croquettes, polenta chips, beer battered zucchini and salty dough balls
- ‘A Tunnat ‘e Mar | Peppered yellow fin tuna, crispy shallots, caper vinaigrette & micro herbs
- Mussels and Clams in White Wine and Tomato
Steve had the tuna and thoroughly enjoyed the fresh flavours. I loved the cheesiness and tomato in the eggplant which was baked so that it was soft and creamy. The mussels and clams went down well and we asked for more bread to dunk in the beautiful cooking liquor. The fried street food was probably the weakest link; heavy and lacking in flavour with all the items being a bit samey and a bit dry. Some dipping sauce like some sugo would help this dish and bring some much needed freshness.
Between us we ordered:
- ‘E Mafaldine ‘a Cacciator | Our version of long curly pasta, slow cooked duck ragú, porcini mushrooms & shaved pecorino cheese
- Spaghetti al Sugo Napoletano | Spaghetti, slow cooked (4 hours) ragú of pork and beef in Napoli sauce
- ‘O Merluzzo all’ Acqua Pazz | Poached rockling in a lightly herbed broth & cherry tomatoes
Both Steve and Rachel had the spaghetti which didn't look too large a serve but apparently looks were deceiving. I had the duck ragu and found it a hearty bowlful. It's interesting that the menu at 38 Chairs does specify that the pasta they offer is not al dente but more of a soft texture and that was certainly true. I enjoyed the flavours of the duck ragu; found it light on the porcini and it was more duck and tomato but nevertheless enjoyable. I think I prefer my pasta al dente though.
TIm had the rockling and that was quite a dainty serve with only two small pieces of fish for a reasonably hefty price.
I mentioned the service earlier. It's not the most attentive in terms of availability of wait staff and the restaurant wasn't full.
There was a moment when we wanted to order dessert and had been waiting for a while. The only waiter's eye I could catch was busy making coffee at the bar but I hoped he would get someone else to come see us and he tried but that waiter ignored him! So the coffee waiter tried again and the waiter asked him, why he couldn't do it! Awkward to watch this kind of scene. When the waiter did come to take the order he was friendly so his reluctance wasn't projected onto us but still a bit strange.
It was generally a good feed with some great dishes - eggplant, tuna and tiramisu being the highlights. The forgettable elements include the street food entree and the patchy service. The soft pasta I'm ok with because the flavours work and they obviously intend it to be that way. I may not take up a chair there as a regular but given it's kind of in our 'hood, I'm open to popping in again.