A few years ago I became ridiculously obsessed with discount vouchers and coupons. It may have been the struggle of student life that ignited this passion for researching UK weekend breaks and restaurant deals but it literally became a hobby. Given that I was uni student with limited funds, my list of “places of go” was longer than “places I’ve been” but I was able to experience a few fun things with the help of apps such as Groupon, Living Social and Bookatable. Admittedly the deals are not always worth it – especially the restaurant ones but it does give you good exposure to some places that you may never known had existed.
Point in case Locanda 311, an Italian restaurant in North West London serving traditional south region cuisine. My brother had found what we thought was a great deal on Groupon for a seafood platter with Lobster for 2 with liquor for £36.00. Love a bit of seafood. Love a bit of lobster. Why not? Seafood can be a bit pricey in London and America had spoiled me so we bought the voucher without a second thought.
Locanda has a very homely vibe and although the lack of attention to detail in the decor was a bit underwhelming for me, it did in fact add to the authenticity of the ambience. I imagined myself taking a tourist walk in a small Italian village and stumbling upon Locanda whose dishes were inspired by grandma’s recipes. Our waiter was lovely – very attentive and friendly with a strong Italian accent. I always love having an Italian waiter in an Italian restaurant, I think they make the menu sound so much more appealing. We sat outside in the Al Fresco dining area, mainly for the good lighting and scenic pictures, which I can imagine would look even more beautiful in the summer time.
In addition to the seafood platter we ordered some calamari for starters with some apéritifs. (Bellini for him, Rossini for me). The calamari was as I expected, fried in a light crisp batter not breadcrumbs (thank God!) served with a sweet cocktail sauce. I’m not too sure how I felt about the bed of lettuce it was served on which was slightly brown and wilted but I guess that’s neither here nor there.
The seafood platter was a tiny bit smaller than I had anticipated but I’ve been in America for over a year – that can really change a person’s perception of portion sizes. I had saved myself for this meal and I was completely famished so I also ordered a bread basket and a portion of fries for us to share. The bread was served with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil (of course, very Italian!) The dip was AMAZING! Normally I find the balsamic vinegar to be too tart and little harsh on my tongue but this was sweet, yet salty and just perfect with the sourdough slices. The fries were good; they didn’t taste homemade but I’m not sure how wrong you can really go with fries.
The platter had a whole lobster cut in half, mussels, (I think) clams, calamari and a few shrimps served in a traditional herby garlic butter type sauce. It was good, but not the best. I found myself adding a little extra seasoning and 99.9% of the time when I am dining out I don’t pay any attention to the salt and pepper shakers. Lobster is something I hate to love because there is just never enough of it and my brother and I both agreed that that ratio of mussels to everything else was a little bit imbalanced. That being said we had a good time dipping, picking, breaking and cracking and I was definitely satisfied by the end of the meal.
Unfortunately we were both too full to go for a dessert but we did get a shot of limoncello as part of the deal….I don’t really care for limoncello but it made for a good toast.
My expectations were very high as they have ratings of 4.5 out of 5 on Tripadvisor, 5 stars on Facebook and 4 stars on Google but unfortunately, I think the restaurant just wasn’t for me. The service was perfect but the seafood platter didn’t blow me away and I’ve definitely had better. The brown lettuce bed was a little off putting (especially since the calamari costs £10) and personally, the restaurant could do with a few touch ups here and there. That being said, I would try it one more time without a voucher deal as I’m convinced that our experience would be better.
Our total bill came to £47. (Excluding the £36 my brother had already paid for the voucher) for 2 drinks, calamari, fries and bread. Personally it wasn’t the greatest value for money, but like I said, sometimes these vouchers aren’t the greatest thing. The seafood platter normally costs £59.95 so I guess we saved £24 plus the cost of two limoncello shots.
Would I return? Maybe, but not in a hurry. It’s a little bit far from my house and there are some amazing Italian restaurants closer to me that I have enjoyed more. I wouldn’t recommend the voucher (I don’t think it’s still available) but I would suggest checking it out if you’re ever in West Hampstead looking for an authentic Italian experience in a relaxed, homely environment.
311 West End Ln, London NW6 1RD