News Editor Rosa Smith takes a trip to Acquolina in Bocca to sample some of Egham’s best authentic Italian cuisine.
Close your eyes for a moment. Imagine you’re sat at a restaurant, somewhere in the Mediterranean…Italy. Imagine you’re in an authentic Italian restaurant, a glass of delicate red wine in one hand, a slice of that ultra-thin, mouth-watering pizza that you can only find in Italy in the other. There’s sun lighting up the restaurant, and in the background, the sound of gentle, lilting jazz. Now open your eyes. No, you are not in fact on the Amalfi coast, but in Egham. Interested? Read on.
Tucked away at the bottom of Egham High Street lies Acquolina in Bocca, a gem in the heart of the perhaps less than inspiring town of Egham. I remember visiting the venue when it was formerly ‘Hugo’s’, a slightly more pretentious version of The Golden Cafe, and never returning. So, it was with great relief that I returned to find the place transformed, now a beautifully light and airy Italian, serving food and wine equally as refreshing and delicious.
Run by Andrea Beccaceci, a chef who comes from a long family line of hoteliers and restaurant owners, and Giuseppe Mascoli, the mastermind behind Franco Manca, the credentials are somewhat surprising for what appears to be a tucked-away, small town restaurant. However, the quality of food and service in Acquolina is anything but.
The restaurant is simple yet elegantly furnished, with unique wall tiling and outdoor seating to the front and sunny courtyard at the back, complete with roof cover. The food is freshly prepared in front of your eyes in the open kitchen which sits in the heart of the restaurant. The quality of the menu is without a doubt central London standard, but at half the price and without the overbearing crowds of people.
By the time I decided to write this review I’d already visited Acquolina many times and can confidently vouch for the authenticity and freshness of the wood-fire cooked pizzas, not to mention the mouth-watering breakfasts served on weekends. Yet, on this particular occasion, I chose something different to base this review on.
I shared the charcuterie sharing platter to begin with, a well-presented selection of cold meats, sourdough bread, and fresh juicy olives. The meats were tender and flavoursome, the bread light and perfectly accompanied with olive oil. For my main course, I ordered the special of salmon fillet, accompanied with bacon lardons and asparagus. Although I thought at first that this was an interesting combination, the flavours worked harmoniously together, and the salmon was buttery and fell apart with one touch of the fork. For pudding, I couldn’t help but order the only dessert I’ve ever had there, the homemade tiramisu. I don’t know how else to describe this desert than just to state that I never used to like Tiramisu before visiting Acquolina.
Perhaps though, my favourite part of the Acquolina experience is the wine menu. It reads like a piece of creative fiction, with some of the most unique and beautiful descriptions I’ve ever seen in a restaurant. As a creative writing student, I felt put to shame. If reading a description of a wine that claims to be ‘Blunt honest and brutally frank. George Orwell speaking wine’ doesn’t make you want to try a glass, I don’t know what will.
Above all, Acquolina comes with a smile. The staff are bright, friendly and extremely accommodating – nothing is too much trouble. You will probably catch a glimpse of Andrea himself, who walks through his elegant restaurant with pride. Something else I like – service charge isn’t automatically added to the bill like so many chain restaurants these days. Instead, Acquolina has faith in their customers for acknowledging the high quality of their service, and trust me, you will want to tip.
Student-friendly prices, local, great atmosphere, friendly, and fresh, good quality food – Acquolina is Italian dining at its very best.
Rosa Smith, News Editor