Rialto Lounge, Leatherhead KT22 8AN - restaurant review
PUBLISHED: 16:57 02 July 2014 | UPDATED: 17:12 02 July 2014
A recent addition to Leatherhead, Rialto Lounge is looking to bring 'sexy' Italian dining to the High Street. Matthew Williams visits to see if it lives up to the label
Restaurant reviewed: Rialto Lounge, 24 High Street, Leatherhead KT22 8AN: 01372 383290
What we ate:
Melanzane alla parmigiana, £5.50
Polpette al sugo, £5.50
Tagliolini alla carbonara, £8.50
Tagliatelle ai gamberoni, £11
Scaloppine al Marsala, £11
Trancio di salmone, £13.20
Chianti DOCG, Cantine Leonardo, £9.20
REVIEW: Not so many years ago, I remember Sir Michael Caine regaling a Leatherhead Theatre crowd with tales about his hometown – or more specifically, the guffawing reaction of friends visiting from over the Atlantic.
“Leatherhead,” they’d laugh, where’s that near? “Dorking,” he’d reply, with his American friends no longer able to contain their hysterics. Well, at least we haven’t got a Tightwad, Missouri, I thought…
An East End boy, the Hollywood icon told Surrey Life last year that he moved to his chosen property mainly for its surrounding greenery and seclusion. Whatever your thoughts on the town itself, it’s fair to say that locals bridled at the accusations of it having one of the nation’s worst High Streets back in the early naughties – and much has changed since then.
A new addition
The latest addition is in itself something of an Italian job. A cousin to Café Rialto in Dorking but with a very different remit, Rialto Lounge has taken over where Vecchia Trattoria once stood.
Having browsed the typically bipolar views found on certain internet review services, I decided it was best to head there with an open mind.
With some of my favourite restaurants over the past few years being Italians (or, more specifically, Al Boccon Di’Vino in Richmond, Carlo’s Trattoria at Newlands Corner and La Luna in Godalming) and having just returned from a visit to Rome, I was certainly excited to see what we would find.
Arriving as an Aston Martin swept by with a kid who looked barely out of school behind the wheel, we headed into Rialto Lounge on a quiet weekday evening.
Inside, we found red brick walls lined with bottles from an extensive wine list (which the manager takes great pride in) and a real sense of homeliness despite the large and open layout.
Greeted at the door by the manager who, fresh from Soho’s dining scene, described his long-term vision for the place as ‘sexy Italian dining’ we chose to settle at one of the high tables with stools.
Wanting to get a grip on as much of the menu as possible, we opted for the full four courses – there are also pizzas (available for takeaway), salads and sharing platter options (selections of cheese or meats).
With a carafe of chianti, I tucked into my baked aubergine and mozzarella (Melanzane alla parmigiana) starter, which was mouth-watering and could have easily been a main course in its own right. It’s the kind of dish I’d eat again and again, all smothered in Parmesan cheese. Sylviane opted for the meatballs (Polpette al sugo), which were obviously fresh and served in their own tomato sauce.
For our primi, Sylviane’s carbonara (Tagliolini alla carbonara) was slightly over salted for our tastes, but the pasta was delicious, while my tagliatelle with tiger prawns (Tagliatelle ai gamberoni) was equally fine – although I thought the flavours could have sung a little more than they did. Not a bad dish though at all.
Throughout, a steady stream of diners came through the door, with most seemingly satisfied: whether it was the businesswoman working away on her laptop in the corner while sipping a coffee, the couple sharing a romantic meal, the group of ladies who lunch enjoying the wine list, or the man collecting his takeaway pizza.
On to my veal (Scaloppine al Marsala), which was well cooked in a Marsala sauce. The dish was served with baked potatoes and sautéed mushrooms, which I thought could have been ‘sexed’ up a bit more if I’m honest. It’s often the little touches that excite and these were a touch plain. Sylviane’s salmon fillet (Trancio di salmone), with white wine, dill and garlic sauce, was good when hot but didn’t quite seem to hold onto its flavour as it cooled.
For dessert, we shared an excellent and very moreish tiramisu.
So, the verdict. I think Rialto has plenty of potential but trying to satisfy a previous establishment’s diners while looking to move on and entice a new crowd can sometimes be like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. ‘Sexy Italian dining’ sounds extremely exciting and I hope they find the confidence to break free of the shackles that seem to be holding them back slightly.
However, the vision is definitely there, and Rialto Lounge is certainly a welcome new dining destination in Leatherhead. With so many of the big brand mafia filling Surrey’s streets, it’s nice to see another independent giving it a go. Buona fortuna to them.
To vote for your favourite Surrey restaurants, pubs and more in the 2014 Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards, head to our dedicated website at surreylifeawards.greatbritishlife.co.uk.
3 more great Italian restaurants in Surrey
Al Boccon Di’Vino
14 Red Lion Street, Richmond TW9 1RW: 0208 940 9060
Certainly one of the most unusual restaurants I’ve been to, and definitely the most fun, Richmond’s Al Boccon Di’Vino has rewritten the rule book when it comes to dining in Surrey. There’s no menu.
Shere Road, Newlands Corner, Guildford GU4 8SE: 01483 224180
Perched by the stunning Surrey beauty spot of Newlands Corner, near Guildford, Carlo’s Trattoria is one of those restaurants that you’ve probably seen more times than you’ve been. It’s time to change that…
10-14 Wharf Street, Godalming GU7 1NN: 01483 414155
A staple in national eating out guides, La Luna was opened by a group of Italian friends in Godalming in 2001. Its expansive wine list traverses Italy – and the restaurant walls.