Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Aperitivo at Il Tempo

The origins of aperitivo are hotly debated; the vermouth influenced aperitifs themselves seem to have started with Turin’s Cinzano empire, but the culture and practice of today seems to be a Milanese adaptation. Either way, who cares, it’s from up that way.

We Brits can certainly learn a lot from the characteristics of Italian eating and drinking which aperitivo espouses:

That is is better to drink in moderation (prices are often doubled) and always with food, to not only slow your drinking speed down but also to reduce the effects of the booze itself.  And that you should socialise and network with friends and colleagues after work, but also return home at a decent time to your family (sober-ish) for dinner. 

Then again, at age 25  (let alone 30) we aspire to have moved out, so La Dolce Vita isn't quite as enviable. Supposedly some old-school mammas in Italy complain it spoils their kids’ appetites, but among the many possible booze-related grumbles, it’s not so terrible. Skip the starters and have a quick nip yourself Mamma...

And so, onwards to Il Tempo, a bar on Chandos Place, very discreet to the point of almost missing it despite having walked past one hundred times. There are scattered aperitivo options in London, but despite some optimistic predictions the craze hasn’t quite skyrocketed as thought. It certainly is more spoken of, but there is some way to go yet.

Aperitivo is not great here.  Firstly, there was no red vermouth which meant no negronis or americanos; a heinous crime worthy of Mussolini-style hanging in Milan I’d wager. And secondly, the selection of food on offer was pitiful. Beyond some postage stamp-sized morsels of peppers with a bland breadcrumb topping, dry crackers and the odd olive, there was nothing. I didn’t have the heart to photograph it as they’d have known quite obviously it was for scorn and shame value.

There were upsides to this mature and cosy place. Our Campari spritzes were huge, and the wine list looked impressive. We ordered a mixed platter from the menu which was fantastic; beautifully fragrant finocchiona, silky San Daniele and even better spicy and regular pecorinos, and huge parmesan chunks. For £22 this was a great sharing dish. 

Notably, most punters had ordered food off the menu and ignored the aperitivo, and we exchanged some wistful, embarrassed looks about the sad selection on the bar. They curiously have a gnocchi selection too – our wild boar ragu was barely discernable and the two flecks of mince topping were not worth the £8 at all. Avoid.

short changed on the cinghiale

So the hunt for London’s aperitivo continues. Do not expect anything close to Milan’s best at Il Tempo – that generosity of spirit has not crossed the Alps just yet. The drinks are elevated to £10 but without any of the treats this surcharge should accompany.

The bar itself is reasonable, the staff chirpy and it’s worth a drink and snack if you can’t get into Terroirs perhaps, but I would draw the line there. My Milan write-up not so long back suggests where to find the best aperitivo and exactly how it should be… come on London!

Il Tempo on Urbanspoon


  1. Know what you mean when it comes to a small buffet table. What a bummer. While apertif isn't about gorging, it still helps if there's at least a decent spread. Looking forward to you finding a good one in London!

  2. Not just small, but terrible! I know it's not supposed to be full-on meal, but it should be decent at least.