Have you ever been reluctant to try the sister of one of your favourite restaurants? It can potentially tarnish the feelings you have of the original when you meet the family. Will the new be the focus to the detriment of the old?
The first thing to do is make sure the two are located close to each other. The second is to not copy the original but keep enough similarity that the two can be seen as complementing each other; that they have a reason to exist side by side. I believe the crew behind Tipo 00 have done this to the letter when it comes to Osteria Ilaria.
Located right next door, the new kid on the block to the gastrotemple that is Tipo, does not look to provide more space just for the same menu. It takes some of the building blocks, in a much larger setting, and adds some modern pizzazz. If you consider Tipo the modern tick to great Italian classics, Osteria goes that one step further, appealing to an even more diverse audience.
Today is a stealth mission, with limited time to dine, and no booking, we have no idea what to expect. Gladly we get a place on the bar and we are ready to eat. What we didn’t realise is that we would not just try a main, but indulge in dessert too.
After we order our main we have some time to look around. There is a lot of bar space, and many areas for sitting comfortably in groups through the large rectangular space. The waitstaff have that authenticity you see at Tipo, but they are a bit busier with all the diners.
My spaghettini, a special on today’s menu, arrives beautifully presented, with lashings of clams and squid. It is a clear demonstration that the quality of the chefs here is the equal of next door, and I do believe they work between the kitchens. An instruction on rusticity, the goat and fregola is also one of the specials today. The slow cooked goat is delicious, and the fregola is the perfect carb, capturing the sauce and providing some texture. Unbelievably I have a little bit of menu envy for Catherine’s choice in a bit of a role reversal for the two of us.
For dessert we were back in our usual position. Me ordering the chocolate, and Catherine ordering something a little less rich. The olive oil chocolate mousse reminded me a touch of our favourite Tipomisu from next door in presentation, but it was a dessert all of its own. The biscuit was crisp, offering texture and restraint to the deep chocolate richness of the mousse, crumb, and sauce. By the end it was a bit too much, so maybe one for sharing. The pistachio semifreddo on the other hand could be finished off in a matter of a couple minutes. Distinct pistachio creaminess was elevated with the use of a generous scattering of chopped pistachios, the whole dish another winner.
By now our casual lunch had escalated quickly. It is difficult to think of how to split future visits to this patch of Little Bourke Street that has two sibling restaurants side by side, absolutely smashing it. My take is that sitting on the bar at Tipo 00 as a couple is still my perfect place for a classic Italian three course; Osteria Ilaria is still great on the bar, but seems to be suited to a small group too, with lots of dishes designed to share, in a much larger (and perhaps more comfortable) setting. Either way I’m impressed by this restaurant on its own merits.