101 Ballards Lane, N3 1XY, Tel: 020-8343 1414
3½ stars out of 5
Ambiente opened its Ballards Lane doors a few years ago, serving ‘Mediterranean fusion’ – a mixture of Spanish and Italian cuisines.
Small and minimalist, it impressed me with its modern, simple approach and I was happy not to be subjected to the kitsch that often characterises suburban Italian restaurants.
The menu is a quirky combination of Spanish ‘starter/tapas’ dishes alongside familiar pizzeria fare, with a few other main courses thrown in. We decided on tapas in the interests of variety and ordered a selection.
The Pinchito con Pollo was particularly tasty: very tender marinated, skewered pieces of chicken served with a hot tangy sauce. The meatballs had good taste and texture and sat happily in a very fresh-tasting tomato sauce full of garlicky zing.
The stuffed mushrooms did their job well enough, though the Gambas Pil Pil (king prawns cooked with freshly chopped chillies and garlic sauce) were a little disappointing. The prawns were well-cooked but the sauce seemed little more than oil (and a lot of it) with a few bits of garlic and chilli.
Service was friendly and sincere and the food arrived quickly, though I couldn’t help but find the menu somewhat confused in its direction. In reality, the small tapas section seemed a bit of an afterthought, and most people seemed to be ordering pizza and pasta – unsurprising, perhaps, with all those dishes coming in under £8 – whereas tapas is likely to set you back closer to £15 per head.
Ambiente’s relaxed atmosphere would make it a decent first-date venue, but in my case it’s the good value and fresh ingredients that will have me going back in the future.