A child’s love for their mother’s cooking is comparable to the mother’s unconditional love of her child – objectively, the food could taste like brussel sprout flavoured custard, but the child will love their mother’s cooking forever. Fortunately, the owner of Lena has a mother who’s not too bad in the kitchen, as she is the inspiration behind the restaurant.
Lena has opened as an ‘authentic’ Italian bar and restaurant which reflects Italy’s traditions of conviviality and inclusion as well as providing proper Italian food. The restaurant is an eclectic mix of Shoreditch cool (white leather and green seating), rustic Italy (old school tiles and exposed brickwork) and a dash of ballroom glitz provided by the chandeliers; sounds strange but it works. The lower ground floor houses the bar where banquette seating, mirrored walls and a deep aubergine palate provide a cool area to enjoy some of the great Italian inspired cocktails and Italian wines. They also have a lively jazz band on the weekends.
The Sicily-inspired menu has a good selection of antipasti, pasta, risotto and main meals, and being a relaxed Saturday night, Miss Pancake and I decided to slowly work our way through as much of the menu as possible. We even ordered a cheeky and delicious assortment of cold meats whilst we were still deciding what to eat for our meal proper! For starters, my Pumpkin ravioli was made from some of the freshest pasta I’ve tasted, although the Spaghetti with sausage was heavy and lacked any distinguishable flavour. Mains were similarly hit and miss. Roast veal t-bone was too chewy to do the animal’s suffering justice, but actually tasted pretty good, whilst my flavoursome Rack of lamb was accompanied by a far too cheesy pecorino mash. Fortunately, desserts more than made up for any previous shortcomings; the tiramisu was a suitably boozy mound of the lightest cream, coffee and sponge whilst our espresso came with a plate of biscuits which were full of a mother’s love.
I’ve got to say, the staff were charming in a way only Italians could be. Also, whilst it’s not cheap, portion sizes were massive and would have made any Italian mother proud; we could have missed a couple of dishes and still been full. We also enjoyed a lovely drink in the bar afterwards and left thinking we would probably give it another go as there was plenty of potential.
Food – 3/5
Venue – 4/5
Value – 3/5
Cuisine type – Italian
Dinner for 2 (ex. drinks) – £65
Wine – £5
Cocktails – £7
66 Great Eastern Street
London, EC2A 3JT
020 7739 5714