How can the an Italian restaurant get it so wrong?
The ambience is almost there, the location is near perfect. But the food the food the food! We booked a table at Osteria Karen inside, near the fire, which was ideal for the thunderstorm that careered in to lash at the windows all night. The perfect ambience would have been cosy and warm, dimmed lights and dark walls. But it wasn't the atmosphere that bothered me as much as the dull thud of a bad culinary creation.
I can't make these accusations without fully describing the experience. My starter was an aubergine and mozzarella stack with pomodoro sauce. Usually, the slightly charred flavour of roasted aubergine discs is offset by the silky texture of a milky mozzarella. With a sweet pomodoro (tomato) sauce, the combination is a delightful and a perfect starter. And I think this would have been bang on were it not for rather a heavy hand with the salt, which made it almost inedible.
Between courses we quenched our salt-induced thirst with a good red, and a lot of water, served in original plastic bottles. What a shame - it doesn't take much to decant water into a more attractive vessel.
Next up, my favourite Italian dish, ravioli in a sage and butter sauce. It's quite simple really. Fresh pasta satisfyingly stuffed with ricotta and spinach, coated with melted butter and sage.
At Osteria, your ravioli is replaced with a heavy white sauce boasting none of the delicacy of butter, in which swills your now tasteless pasta parcels. All flavours are overpowered and you are left instead with the feeling you just ate cauliflower cheese, but without the cauliflower.
We skipped pudding.