La Capanna, Cobham, Surrey KT11 3EF - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 13:42 25 October 2012 | UPDATED: 18:27 11 July 2014
Having hosted the likes of Frank Sinatra and John Lennon in the past, Cobham's La Capanna is an Italian restaurant steeped in heritage, but with thoughts firmly on the future. As they look forward to a new era, Surrey Life's Matthew Williams delves in...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine October 2012
Restaurant reviewed: La Capanna, 48 High Street, Cobham, Surrey KT11 3EF Tel: 01932 862121
What we ate...
Antipasto La Capanna, £15 x2
Spaghetti with Fresh Lobster, £20 x2
Veal Saltimbocca, £26 x2
Chocolate Fondant, £8.50
Crème brûlée, £6.50
One bottle of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, £32
REVIEW: Long a favourite with the rich and the famous (Frank Sinatra and John Lennon are even said to have dined there back in the day), La Capanna has been entertaining Surrey diners looking for something a little special since 1978.
That said, I think it’s fair to say that they had perhaps dropped out of the limelight a bit in recent times. Determined to regain their hold on the culinary crown, however, investment in the dining areas and the arrival of acclaimed chef Francesco Mazzei as an executive partner and his head chef from City restaurant L’Anima, Claudio Milani, appear to signal the start of an exciting new era. There has even been talk of ambitions for Michelin stars in the long-run.
Having met Claudio on entering the restaurant, the fire in his belly and passion for cooking are obvious, and as we would discover his skills in the kitchen are equally adept.
La Capanna’s quaint housing – a short skip from the town’s historic mill – is actually an old farmhouse (or Capanna in Italy) transported from Sussex to Cobham and reassembled behind the facade of a 16th century cottage in Cobham High Street.
Split into four sections – The Dining Room (which seats 70 and is the oldest part of the restaurant); The Minstrels Gallery (on the first floor and perfect for a secluded, romantic dinner for two); The Conservatory (the newest addition and popular for parties); and The Italian Garden (offering alfresco dining in warmer weather) – it is surely one of Surrey’s prettiest restaurants.
Visiting on a Wednesday night, we were swept to a table that allowed us a great vantage of the evening unfolding – doors out into the Italian garden were open to ease what was a stifling evening.
Breads, olives, water and wine were distributed by formally attired but relaxed-mannered staff – led on the night by the amiable assistant manager, Fernando.
We had selected a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from a regional Italian list that is well-supported by new and old world variants – prices range from the teens to the hundreds for a bottle, but there is also a selection available by glass.
A winning start
Chef Claudio brought forth the evening’s first offering himself, a seasonal speciality of the restaurant’s, Antipasto La Capanna – it proved to be an exquisite mix of fresh seafood, sun blushed tomatoes and citrus tangs.
The pasta course followed, with another spectacular offering from the sea as a centrepiece: fresh lobster. Mounted on a bed of freshly made spaghetti (all pasta is made in-house, as I suppose one would expect of a restaurant of such heritage) and soaked in a lightly spiced broth, it was a delicious dish that left Sylviane and I both expectant for the main course to come – if slightly concerned about where we were going to fit it!
Taking a break between courses and enjoying the coffee and hazelnut tones of our chosen wine, I overheard a couple talking about their first visit to the restaurant back in its very earliest days. On another table, a group of young businessmen traded stories. From all corners came satisfied comment as courses passed by. The restaurant creates a very intimate atmosphere without it ever feeling as if you’re on top of one another.
Our main course of veal saltimbocca (which apparently translates as ‘jumps in the mouth’) was an absolute dream – the beautiful cut of meat wrapped in Parma ham and sage and set on a bed of spiced pumpkin mash. Absolutely stunning.
Before dessert arrived, Claudio chose to serve up a Sgroppino al Limone (or frothy lemon sorbet) – a thoroughly refreshing way to cleanse the palate and a little guilty pleasure with its blend of vodka and prosecco.
I opted to follow it with the intriguing orange and sage crème brûlée, which proved an exciting blend of flavours, while Sylviane opted for the banoffee and chocolate fondant, which cleverly concealed its banana addition inside.
Having spent an evening at La Capanna, it’s hardly surprising that some diners (including a few famous faces) have been coming back for over 30 years. While prices aren’t cheap, the quality is exceptional and the restaurant is home to a relaxed formality that it would be very easy to get comfortably used to.
Now as they move into a new era, it certainly seems that there is plenty more to come from this Cobham kitchen.
3 other great Italian restaurants in Surrey
Al Boccon Di’Vino
14 Red Lion Street, Richmond upon Thames TW9 1RW
Tel: 0208 940 9060
Perhaps the most unusual place we have yet reviewed, Al Boccon Di’Vino is a literally menu-less restaurant in Richmond.
Shere Road, Newlands Corner, Guildford GU4 8SE
Tel: 01483 224180
Perched by the stunning Surrey beauty spot of Newlands Corner, Carlo’s Trattoria is one of those restaurants that you’ve probably seen more times than you’ve been.
10-14 Wharf Street, Godalming GU7 1NN Tel: 01483 414155
A staple in national eating out guides, La Luna, which was opened by a group of Italian friends in Godalming in 2001, hosts a hand-picked selection of some 150 Italian wines.