HFL's newest feature is here! Have a restaurant that you're dying to know more about? Well I gladly volunteer to do the recon.
Ever get asked by a friend, "been to this restaurant before?" or "if you ever go here, can you tell me how it is?" Well my "cousin" Elysse sent me a note on Instagram asking just that. She requested that I visit a restaurant called Circolo Popolare. My initial reaction was yes of course but instead of just sharing my findings with just her, I thought I could turn this into a reoccurring feature on HFL. Fast forward to last weekend when my parents, Kalo and I sat down to enjoy the most spectacular Sicilian meal. (Elysse this one is for you boo)
Our experience at Circolo Popolare was entirely memorable starting from the moment we walked in the door. The dangling foliage, twinkling lights and endless rows of bottles immediately transported us to a magical Italian trattoria. The actual restaurant is deceivingly gigantic and as you walk through you'll notice that no two chairs or painted plates are the same, plus every wall is completely covered with photo frames from floor to ceiling. Talk about charming. Shout out to the Big Mamma Group, you're definitely doing something right especially here in London. Overall, the vibe is comforting, indulgent, dreamy and delicious. What more could you want in a restaurant?
We started with a round of refreshing bellinis and spritzes, all of which came in funky glasses with impressive garnishes. You all have to check out their beverage menu and take your gaze down to the third row. "Look Me in the Eyes" just kills me every time. Beware of table envy when you see all the different cocktails being delivered to the groups around you. You may end up ordering more than originally planned but hey I say live your best la dolce vita.
Now for some antipasti, we ordered the bruschetta and a couple of Circolo's empanadas. These plates are rather small so be sure to ask your waiter if what you've selected is enough to share. Here's a revelation ... bruschetta on top a slice of warm, fresh, pillowy bread as opposed to toasty crostini. That's right, no more ripping the roof of your mouth to shreds. It was absolutely mind blowing and how I'll be eating my bruschetta from now on. The empanadas are a must-order as well. Close your eyes and imagine juicy, spicy pork wrapped in a buttery pastry then dunked in a cool dipping sauce. It's a winning combination and a great bite to start your dinner off right.
Ahhh the mains. What can I say about the mains? They were simply amazing. Kalo and I shared the rich ragu which expertly coated long blankets of pasta. Yes you read that correctly. Not noodles, not tagliatelle, not fettuccine but beautiful blankets. It's a pasta lovers dream. My parents went the pizza route which was just as fabulous, especially the carpaccio pizza. I was astonished at how crust could be doughy, bubbly, charred and crispy all at the same time. Not to mention the thinly sliced beef that melts in your mouth and the parmesan flakes that add just the perfect amount of tang and nuttiness. Bellissimo!
My Mom and I have a rule that we can't go out to dinner without getting dessert because well why the hell not. Elysse had originally wanted me to try the "Dessert Island," a whipped meringue drizzled with caramel and a creme anglaise, but I'm sorry couldn't pass up on chocolate. So we ordered churros dipped in chocolate sauce and some creamy cookie dough gelato. 4 spoons please. The churros were perfectly fried, no oil bombs here, and the gelato was cool and sweet. Pay special attention as you walk by the bar, you'll see a massive oval bowl of tiramisu and mile high lemon meringue pie just teasing all who pass. So when, not if we go back to Circolo Poplare, I know exactly what I'll be getting.
Last but certainly not least there are a couple tips that you need to be aware of in order to have the best experience possible. Circolo doesn't take reservations and you all know how I feel about non-reservation taking restaurants. Not a fan however the key is to get there by 17:15-17:30 and NO LATER THAN. Folks start lining up outside because the kitchen opens exactly at 18:00. When we finished our meal around 20:30 the line was down the block and it was starting to rain. You've been warned. On a brighter note, before leaving, each table is given complimentary limoncello so don't worry about ordering your own, that is unless you want more ;)
Okay HFL family, now I'm counting on you all to send in your suggestions via Instagram or the comments section below. If you see a restaurant you're curious about and are wanting the inside scoop then I'm your girl. Be it in London, Chicago, anywhere. This will be fun!