On my way into Stratford, I had booked myself a table for two at Mida’s Mediterranean, a favourite of mine. Sadly, Mida’s chef wasn’t feeling too well and had to go home. For some reason unknown to me, Mida didn’t call me on the phone number I supplied (at his request) to update me. Words alone cannot describe my ire at this disgraceful treatment of a previously lauding client.
Matthew and I were left to fend for ourselves to find a table on a Saturday night in Stratford. This is a task not too dissimilar to cycling in Birmingham. It takes forever and one tends to get hit by cars. Wandering the streets listening to various Shakespeare impersonators satirising the great man, we happened upon our Nirvana. Sorrento reserved a table for us an hour hence. This hour was gladly, perhaps too gladly, spent in the neighbouring Wetherspoons where we drank until we sank.
My first impression of Sorrento was that I did not belong there. The clear and unmistakeable class which renders this establishment desirable is designed to keep out impoverished students. Thankfully I did not go to Sorrento on my own dime, so I could forego the usual heel turn and sprint to the nearest kebab house.
I ordered the fritto misto for a starter. From my experience in Loffredo, Rome, I expected this to be vegetarian mixed fried goodies. However, you can imagine my surprise when I was greeted by a plate full of fish. Those of you who have been within a one mile radius of me will be aware of my strong objection to fish as a comestible. However, I will say this particular dish was made with extreme care. The balance of flavours was subtle and consistent. Whether it was squid, langoustine or what I suppose is small squid, I did not feel the need to reel back. Nor, interestingly, did I feel the need to artificially enhance the dish with condiments. This is a sentiment which I have not felt since dining at Azur in Dubrovnik.
Matthew, in his infinite wisdom, opted for the day’s special. Slices of cold veal with an astonishing tuna mayonnaise. This was in turn topped with a little caper. Now, when I make mayonnaise it is smooth as anything. Minds out of the gutter please, my grandmother reads these. I was really shocked that this mayonnaise, clearly homemade (Heinz does not make tuna mayonnaise) was so smooth. This is surely a lesson to us all.
My main was the chicken cacciatore. Firstly, have you ever seen a basil leaf that big? I certainly haven’t. This Italian ‘hunter’s chicken’ is comprised of onions, herbs, usually tomatoes, often bell peppers, and sometimes wine. Sorrento really did justice to the dish. This pollo cacciatore was rich and layered. In fact I would go so far as to say it transported me back to my youth, watching my grandmother cooking, about to bring the pot from the stove to the table, where we all were seated waiting. The tomato sauce is beyond my descriptive prowess.
As you may have divined from the cover photo, Matthew had the sirloin steak. This came served simply with a salad. I appreciate Sorrento’s effort to garnish the dish with a slice of lemon but this is truly unnecessary. No addition is needed on this masterfully cooked, beautifully tender steak. Flavoursome, plentiful , well peppered – just an amalgam of wonder.
This was probably the best steak I’ve had. Matthew
The same goes for the dauphinoise potatoes I had for my side. Cooked perfectly in as little oil as possible. The cream meshed between its layers was fine, almost indistinguishable in texture from the potatoes themselves, which is truly a phenomenon.
I think it was at this point that I sank back in my chair and had a moment to reflect. Sorrento does dining as it should be done. When I open my own restaurant, I want to run it like Sorrento. The staff were attentive, if not selectively brusque, the food was astounding to say the least, the decoration was marvellous. The only improvement I would have made is not seating me at the toilet table. But then, someone has to do it.
On leaving, Imogen the owner, asked me how I found the meal. Honestly I could not readily formulate a sentence worthy of what we had just experienced. I managed to tell her that being half Italian, I was really impressed by the respect the chefs had for the food. She asked, at her peril, which half of me was Italian. I recognised she meant which part of Italy my family came from, but never one to shy from a comedic opportunity, I replied “the bottom half”.
I could hear her howling from the end of the street.