Roka Mayfair – Japanese fine dining W1

Robata at Roka – fine dining for treat times

For a special occasion this evening, K and I headed to Roka for some seriously special Japanese robata (charcoal grilled) food. We chose this branch for its menu (see Roka Mayfair menu) which includes black cod, a favourite of mine.

Tuna tataki, beef gyoza, tenderstem broccoli + chicken skewers

We ordered a bottle of dry white wine by La Croix Belle wine estate @ £34.00 – appropriate for a mild Spring evening, and spicy dishes and fish.

While the premium tasting menu looked quite appealing (10 set dishes @ £88.00 each) it seemed like a lazy option. We preferred the enjoyment of reading all of the menu and ordering exactly what we wanted.

As food was arriving at the neighbouring table, it was quite a challenge not to simply copy what they had – it smelt amazing. We took their recommendation for the fried aubergine salad, and were glad we did.

For starters, we shared these plates:

Age nasu no goma-ae @ £6.60
fried aubergine, sesame miso and katsuobushi

Yakitori-negima yaki @ £5.90
chicken skewers with spring onion

– Broccoli no shinme, shoga to moromi miso @ £5.60
tenderstem broccoli, ginger and moromi miso

Beef gyoza @ £9.30
with pickled cucumber and a soy based sauce

Nigiri unagi @ £6.90
two pieces of freshwater eel sushi

Fried aubergine salad with sesame miso + katsuobushi (tuna flakes) –  @ £6.60

This fried aubergine with sesame miso was a recommendation worth sharing. Absolutely gorgeous. And the eel nigiri (pictured below) was the best I’ve had in the UK – we ordered two portions.

Two pieces of nigiri unagi – freshwater eel sushi @ £6.90

Yellowfin tuna tataki – with apple mustard dressing @ £12.60

For main course, we shared:

Kihada maguro no tataki @ £12.60
yellowfin tuna tataki with apple mustard dressing

Gyuhireniku no pirikara yakiniku @ £24.30
spicy beef fillet with chilli, ginger and spring onion

and, saving the best ’til last…

Gindara no saikyo-jaki @ £37.60
black cod marinated in yuzu miso

Spicy beef fillet – with chilli, ginger and spring onion @ £24.30

Just divine. This black cod may seem a bit pricey @ £37.60 but it absolutely blew me away. And you can’t put a price on that.

Black cod marinated in yuzu miso @ £37.60

The kitchen is open plan in the centre of the restaurant, so you can see the food being cooked on the robata grills. It’s a bit like posh BBQ-ing really.

Men at work: robata grills in the centre of the restaurant


Roka Mayfair interior

Our total bill for two came to £185.21 including service.


The verdict: Perfectly prepared and beautifully presented food that’s so incredibly tasty, it blew me away. Full marks to the kitchen. Service was at odds (either too much – we went from different servers descending on us one after the other, to non-existent). If you like Japanese food, you’ll love Roka.


Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
– Type: Japanese, Robata
– Address: 30 North Audley Street, London
– Postcode: W1K 6ZF
– Nearest station: Bond Street, Green Park
– Website + menus: Roka Mayfair website
– Roka Mayfair photos: Roka Mayfair photos on flickr
– Location: Roka Mayfair map

Roka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

LardButty Portugal – Furnas do Guincho Cascais

With views over the Atlantic Ocean and rugged coastline, the Furnas do Guincho restaurant is situated in a beautiful part of Cascais 

It was difficult to tear ourselves away from the gorgeous food at Senhora da Guia but we managed to venture out.

Well, over the road.


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Oceanside Furnas do Guincho restaurant – stunning oceanside setting


This restaurant was known to two of our party and – as we were spoilt for choice with all the fresh fish and seafood dishes – we were happy to be guided by those in the know.


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Fish stew – layers of fish, seafood, sliced potatoes and veggies (hot-pot style)


And so we followed a recommendation for fish stew, a local speciality. It reminded me of a good Lancashire hot-pot, in that all the ingredients are kind of casseroled with layers of sliced potato, baked in their own juices, and it’s a hearty dish. But this was packed with all kinds of fish and seafood, as well as peppers, tomatoes and veggies.


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Huge cooking pot – stew for six made to order


This fish stew is cooked to order and a pot for two is €42.00 – this speciality can only be ordered for two or more.

The verdict: Great restaurant in a lovely setting. Order a fish stew promptly then it can be cooking while you leisurely enjoy drinks and starters. Our meal for six came to €420 so €140.00 per couple. This included plenty of Portuguese white wine and service.


Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
– Type: Portuguese (in Portugal)
– Address: Guincho, 2750-642 Cascais, Portugal
– Website + menus: Furnas do Guincho website
– Photos on flickr: Furnas do Guincho images
– Location: Furnas do Guincho map 


Furnas do Guincho Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Crocker’s Folly – old gin palace NW8

Picture the scene: My parents are in town for the weekend. We’ve been on a guided tour of Lords Cricket Ground (excellent btw – our guide really brought it to life with his knowledge and humour) and we’d like to finish off this nice, leisurely Sunday afternoon with some food and drinks nearby (in NW8).

A quick google search on our ipad reveals there’s a new gastropub in a “former gin palace” a couple of streets away, serving Sunday roasts and cocktails in a Grade II listed building. And it’s part of the Maroush Group (prevalent around Marble Arch).


Crocker’s Folly on Aberdeen Place, NW8 – gastropub in a Grade II listed building

We’re somewhere in between a very late lunch and early dinner and the restaurant is deserted. It’s as if we’ve reserved exclusive use of this grand room with its own private waiting staff. What a treat (Mum thinks she’s become the Lady of Downton Abbey).


Fancy interior: marble bar in the restaurant – chandeliers, Romanesque columns, etc


Walking around Lord’s was thirsty work so we start with a refreshing cocktail while reading the menu. K has a Manhattan (Sazerac rye whisky, vermouth, and Angostura bitters) @ £9.50 and I have a Corps Revival No. 2 (egg white, Tanqueray gin, lemon juice and pineapple juice) @ £10.50.


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Cocktails: Corps revival (foreground) + Manhattan (rear)


Choosing from the Sunday Lunch menu, it’s £18.00 for one course, £25.00 for two courses or £30.00 for three courses.

For starters, K orders baked camembert while I choose salmon gravlax with a fennel cream (subtle aniseed flavour that cleans through the intense fish taste) served with wafer-thin, lightly toasted seeded bread.


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Starter: baked camembert


Starter: salmon gravlax with fennel cream and wafer-thin seeded toast


For the main Sunday roast, dad and I order lamb and mum and K order beef. It’s a giant plateful with just-perfect Yorkshire puddings (well-risen, crispy on the outside, soft in the middle) a good selection of veggies and gorgeous lamb and beef gravies.


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Sunday roast beef


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Beautifully served, perfect Yorkshire puddings


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Sunday roast lamb


We’re so full after the main course that none of us can manage a dessert.

But somehow it seems incomplete if we don’t at least try one.

So we share a creme brulee between us (just a ‘taster’). It’s creamier than usual (but not sickly) with a very light, burnt caramelised topping (no hammer required). A very satisfying end to a thoroughly enjoyable dining experience.


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Under attack: cream brulee


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
~ Type: Gastropub
~ Address: Aberdeen Place, London
~ Postcode: NW8 8JR
~ Nearest stations: Warwick Avenue, Maida Vale, St Johns Wood, Marylebone
~ Website + menus: Crocker’s Folly website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Crocker’s Folly food
~ Location: Crocker’s Folly map



Crocker's Folly Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Mistley Thorn Essex – best Sunday roasts

Having spent a relaxing weekend away in Suffolk, we decided to stop off somewhere for a leisurely Sunday dinner, and break up our drive back to London.

A quick google and The Guardian’s 2013 Best Sunday Lunches lists four pubs/restaurants for East England, one being The Crown & Castle in Orford, Suffolk, where we happened to go on Saturday night (it was excellent – hopefully a good indication that the others would be of a similarly high standard).

The Mistley Thorn near Manningtree in Essex is one of the listings: their “seafood specials at this old coaching house include the North Sea’s finest scallops, squid and local beer-battered haddock with chips”.

Decision made. We were going to Mistley, a small village on the coast (by the River Stour ajoining the North Sea) with much history (a Roman road to Colchester, C.17th witchfinders, a Cold War control room that became a museum before finally closing in 2002, etc).

Inside The Mistley Thorn – bar area

It was mid-afternoon, we hadn’t booked. And this place was full – an indication of its popularity. A table for two was made available and we were told there’d be a short wait (by the accommodating, friendly staff) before they could take our order.

And so we enjoyed a leisurely beer (a bottled Goose Island IPA for me, and half an Adnams Spindrift on tap for K) while admiring the simple wood panelled decor that gives the restaurant the feel of a converted seaside hut.

We homed in on the set menu – two courses for £15.95. And both started with the chef’s soup of the day (leek and potato) with croutons (packed with flavours and helped warm us up on this cold wintry day).

Leek + potato soup – soup of the day with croutons

For the main course Sunday roast, we both had roast Suffolk red poll rump of beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast rosemary potatoes and seasonal vegetables, with a red wine gravy and fresh creamed horseradish.

Red Poll cattle are native to East Anglia (a cross between Norfolk Red beef cattle and Suffolk Dun dairy cattle, developed in the 19th century) and are naturally polled (without horns).

This red poll beef was really special – a great cut of lean beef, cooked perfectly (medium), pink in the middle and moist (no chewiness or gristle). Undoubtedly the best roast beef I’ve had in a Sunday roast dinner. The Yorkshire puddings were just right too – crisp on the outside, and soft in the middle.

Roast beef + Yorkshire pudding

Specials menu – sample menu from Sunday 29 March 2015


The Mistley Thorn Rooms + Restaurant – Mistley, Essex


The verdict: Excellent food and great service in homely, comfy surroundings. Well worth a visit, even if it’s out of your way.


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
~ Type: British, Sunday roasts
~ Address: High St, Mistley, near Manningtree, Essex
~ Postcode: CO11 1HE
~ Tel: 01206 392821
~ Nearest station: Mistley
~ Website + menus: The Mistley Thorn website
~ Photos on flickr: images of The Mistley Thorn
~ Location: The Mistley Thorn map

Mistley Thorn on Urbanspoon

The Tannin Level – Harrogate

Last night was a busy one for Harrogate due to the annual Guy Fawkes bonfire and fireworks on the Stray. While some restaurants were booked up well in advance, we’d managed to reserve a table for six people at the Tannin Level – a basement wine bar and bistro that’s had a good reputation for donkeys years. Somewhere I’ve been wanting to go for ages.

Talking of donkeys (well, animals) one of our party is a vegetarian/pescatarian. And the Tannin Level’s menu caters for all tastes and dietary requirements. There’s a good variety of dishes, with plenty of seafood and vegetarian options.

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Cod, leek + chive fishcake with pea purée

For starters, I chose cod fishcake mashed up with potato, leek and chive, coated in breadcrumbs, and served on a pea purée with rocket @ £6.50 (absolutely gorgeous) while others had
Wensleydale pannacotta with caramelised pear, walnuts and cranberry dressing @ £6.95 (an original take on a cheese starter that tasted wonderfully different)
black pudding hashcake with a poached egg + Hollandaise sauce @ £7.95
tempura king prawns with a chilli dip @ £7.95
warm tomato + mozzarella tart with basil dressing @ £5.95

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Wensleydale pannacotta with caramelised pear, walnuts + cranberry dressing

More starters:
Selection of starters at the Tannin Level Harrogate
Black pudding hashcake, tempura prawns, tomato + mozzarella tart

To drink, we chose a bottle of red and white wine from the wine list to accompany our range of veggie, seafood and meaty dishes:

white: Pecorino, Italian (“sweet ripe fruit of peach and mango, rounded but with an intense clean finish; a very refreshing, crisp white”) @ £25.20

IMG_0852b_Pecorino at Tannin Level
Pecorino – Italian

red: Drink Me Tinto, Portuguese (“intense berry and dark cherry flavours, everything you expect from Niepoort, with all the character of the Douro”) @ £28.50

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Drink Me Tinto – Douro with Hallowe’en themed hand-shadow games

For main course, I had pan fried sea bass with fondant potato, buttered spinach, king prawns and salse verde (included capers, one of my old favourites) @ £15.95, while others had
slow braised lamb shank with chorizo, tomato + chickpea cassoulet @ £15.95
salmon fish fingers + chunky chips with pea purée + homemade tartar sauce (full of whole capers) @ £15.95
baked hake fillet with tarragon potatoes, green beans + Hollandaise @ £12.95
seafood pancake – hake, salmon, smoked haddock + king prawns in a smoked Applewood cheese sauce with sautéed potatoes and mixed leaves @ £15.95

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Pan fried sea bass with fondant potato, buttered spinach, king prawns + salsa verde

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Slow braised lamb shank with chorizo, tomato + chickpea cassoulet

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Salmon fish fingers + chunky chips with pea purée + tartar sauce

More mains:
Selection of main courses at the Tannin Level Harrogate
Baked hake fillet with tarragon potatoes, seafood pancake, pan fried sea bass

After two courses we were – unsurprisingly – all stuffed. Most of us ordered a liquid dessert (the likes of Remy Martin @ £3.75, Courvoisier @ £3.50, malt whisky @ £3.95 or limoncello @ £3.50) or shared a dessert.

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Lime + stem ginger cheesecake – gingernut base, stem ginger syrup, champagne sorbet @ £5.50 (as good as it looks, if not better!)

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Chocolate brulée with a homemade chocolate chip cookie @ £5.50

The verdict: Lovely cosy restaurant (while quite large, there are several alcoves and arches which give a feeling of privacy), good service and excellent food and wines. Scoring 4.5 out of 5 in the LardButty index, it’s definitely a hit.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
~ Type: British, International
~ Address: 5 Raglan Street, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 1LE
~ Website: Tannin Level website
~ Photos: Tannin Level images
~ Location: Tannin Level map

More Harrogate dining:
~ Black Sheep Brewery – tours + visitor centre, Masham
~ Carriages – Knaresborough
~ Drum + Monkey – seafood in Harrogate
~ Major Tom’s
~ Storm at The Dower House – Knaresborough
~ Sukhothai – Harrogate, top Thai in Yorkshire

Tannin Level on Urbanspoon

Major Tom’s Social – Harrogate

“A youth club for grown ups” is how Major Tom’s Social describes itself. It’s apt.

Situated on the first floor over Space Harrogate (vintage shop on The Ginnel) Major Tom’s Social is a big room with comfy old sofas around the perimeter, decorated with memorabilia like vinyl records and posters of classic films.

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Major Tom’s Social – a youth club for grown ups

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Above Space Harrogate down The Ginnel

With its quirky interiors, offering something a bit different from other bars in central Harrogate, it feels inviting from the moment you walk in.

Perhaps more importantly, there’s an excellent choice of drinks (including craft beers on tap) and proper Italian stone-baked pizzas on offer, all served by friendly, helpful bar staff.

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Real ales on draft – including some Atom (from Hull) + Northern Alchemy (from Newcastle) beers on this day

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Service with a smile

We try a couple of beers: Northern Alchemy’s oatmeal pale (mango, lime + cracked black pepper) and Atom’s IPA (both gorgeously bright and easy drinking) before moving onto prosecco with pizzas.

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Pizza menu

Pizzas start from £5.00 – very reasonably priced and not to be missed. I had a free range egg, spinach and goats cheese pizza @ £6.00. Both the thin stone-baked base and fresh toppings were superb.

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Egg, spinach + goats cheese

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Roast squash, goats cheese + toasted pine nuts

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Chorizo, chilli + chargrilled peppers

The verdict: nice style, great atmos and service, fab beers and pizza. Go if you can.

Major Tom’s Social Club

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
~ Type: pub, British
~ Address: The Ginnel, Harrogate
~ Postcode: HG1 2RB
~ Tel: 01423 566984
~ Website: Space Harrogate website
~ Photos on flickr: photos of Major Tom’s Social
~ facebook page: Major Tom’s Social on fb
~ Location: Major Tom’s Social map

Nearby dining + drinking:
~ Black Sheep Brewery – tours + visitor centre, Masham
~ Carriages – Knaresborough
~ Drum + Monkey – seafood in Harrogate
~ Storm at The Dower House – Knaresborough
~ Sukhothai – Harrogate, top Thai in Yorkshire

Major Tom's Social on Urbanspoon

La Pizzeria Italiana – Catford

Star pizza, star restaurant

There’s no nice way of putting this: La Pizzeria Italiana looks rough from outside. And that’s because it’s at the base of Eros House, a drab concrete tower in Catford.

But stick with me here, it’ll be worth your while…

Award winning architecture_ErosHouseCatford
Eros House – RIBA’s London architecture medal, 1962

This grade II listed building was awarded a ‘London architecture medal’ by RIBA in 1962, and given a ‘civic trust award’ in 1964 (an acknowledgement of the new, brutalist, concrete-slab architecture of the time?). The concrete is textured to look like wood and – being almost as iconic as the Catford cat – you might even grow to love it in time.

All I’m saying is don’t let first appearances fool you.

Come this way – just grin and bear it a moment more…

The approach to La Pizzeria Italiana may not be appealing. But peer in through the doorway and it’s a different matter: it’s a small restaurant (about 50 covers) with frescoes of an Italian landscape and Venetian waterways. A mobile of teacups and white feather boas hangs centre-stage from a fabric ceiling; all really inviting and just that little bit different.

Tea cups, feather boas, soft lighting + Italian hospitality

Warmly acknowledged the moment we stepped inside, our waitress was really hospitable and helpful. The patron (from Bologna) came over several times to make sure we were comfortable, and to let us know we could go ‘off menu’ (“Don’t be shy!” were his exact words) – all dishes are freshly cooked to order and can easily be adapted to individual preference.

Admiring the sea view, Venetian waterways, inside La Pizzeria Italiana

It was a hot evening at the end of the working week and some cold bubbles were in order. A bottle of prosecco arrived, served in a solid rubber bag filled with iced water – a practical alternative to a space-consuming wine bucket.

Despite being hidden from the street, this intimate restaurant was busy, doing a good turnover of tables. And it attracted all types of clientele: we noted a group of senior citizens, a young couple, a party of three lads (in their twenties), a couple of families with very young children, and a couple of middle aged couples (we were one of them and in case you’re wondering, anyone over 35 qualifies as middle aged).

If their target market is anyone who enjoys fine quality pizza and food in a comfortable, relaxed environment then they look to be on target. That market is diverse, and all looked to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. You’d be hard pressed not to feel comfortable here.

Clockwise: Hand grenade style Prosecco bottle, Insalata Tricolore, Caprina pizza, antipasto

La Pizzeria Italiana was first recommended to me in August 2013 by CaT here on LardButty, and I’m seriously gutted that it took me nearly a year to visit. Still, I’ve been twice in my first week so I think that says something (aside from I’m greedy).

We are committed to working our way through the menu, and have found that the pizzas are outstanding (*proper* Italian, thin crust pizzas) and everything’s freshly prepared. Given the excellent food quality, it’s also reasonably priced.

So far, LardButty can recommend:

~ Insalata Tricolore – tomatoes, mozzarella, basil + avocado starter salad @ £5.50
~ Antipasto Miso All’ Italiana – Italian cured meats + roast vegetables @ £7.50
~ Caprina pizza – Mozzarella, goats cheese, olives, red onions, basil + fresh chopped tomatoes @ £9.50 with extra mushrooms @ £1.00
~ Lasagna Al Forno – fresh pasta layers, Bolognese, Béchamel and parmesan @ £8.95

~ Tomatoey meatballs – starter @ £4.95
~ Parmagiana – baked aubergine starter @ £4.95

Meatball starter @ £4.95

Parmagiana – baked aubergine starter @ £4.95

~ Quattro Stagioni – four seasons pizza with Mozzarella, tomato, ham, pepperoni, mushrooms + spinach @ £9.00

Four seasons pizza @ £9.00

~ and last but by no means least: the star special pizza @ £11.50

Star pizza – choose 5 ingredients/toppings for each ‘corner’

This star shaped pizza had real novelty value, while also bearing a different tasty treat in every corner. My five toppings were anchovy, mushroom, chilli, dolcelatte, and olives, with loads of fresh salad.

The verdict: Don’t rush me, I haven’t worked my way through *all* the menu yet (It’s amazing. Is La Pizzeria Italiana still one of Catford’s best kept secrets? shhhhhh….)

Still working through the menu:

Whitebait starter @ £5.95

Calamari starter with tartar sauce @ £6.95 (squid so fresh it melts in your mouth)

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Fish stew starter @ £4.95

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Avocado and walnut salad starter @ £4.95

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Avocado al forno starter @ £4.95 – baked avocado

Calzone Napoletano – Mozzarella, tomato, tuna, capers, anchovies, olives + ricotta @ £8.95 (superb)

Napoletana with extra mushrooms @ £8.50 + £1.00

Quattro Formaggi with extra pepperoni @ £8.50 + £1.00

Special: fresh monkfish in tomato + sweet pepper sauce with mussels + clams @ £15.95 (as served)

Special: fresh monkfish in tomato sauce – simply stunning, generous portion with lots of meaty fresh monkfish

Special: fresh seabass in tomato sauce made with fresh ginger and chilli, served with potatoes and spinach @ £13.50

Salad special: warm chicken, dolcelatte, and grapes @ £6.95

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Salad special: warm chicken, dolcelatte, and grapes @ £6.95

Zabaglione @ £4.95 (divine – lovely and strong on the Marsala wine ingredient!)

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
~ Type: Italian
~ Address: 3 Eros House, Brownhill Road, Catford
~ Postcode: SE6 2EF
~ Tel: 020 8461 4606
~ Nearest station: Catford Bridge, Catford, Ladywell
~ Website + menus: La Pizzeria Italiana website
~ Photos on flickr: images of La Pizzeria Italiana food
~ facebook page: La Pizzeria Italiana on fb
~ Location: La Pizzeria Italiana map

More Catford dining:
~ Catford Chippy
~ FS2 – Turkish deliveries
~ Mekan – Mediterranean cuisine
~ Pide – Turkish pizza
~ Sapporo Ichiban
~ Turkish Kitchen


La Pizzeria Italiana on Urbanspoon