How far is it to Italy? Depends which bit you imply after all, however for these residing within the south-east of England what looks like a tiny enclave of the land of pasta and gelato has simply opened a brief drive away down the M20, in Kent.
At Amano, within the affluent small city of West Malling (it rhymes, I study, with galling and appalling) the menu is genuine Italian – not anglicised high-street trattoria fare. Seven of the eight cooks are Italian, as are many of the bar workers; and the pasta is made recent day by day in a specifically dug cellar workshop.
The restaurant’s pasta is made recent on daily basis Photograph: PR
Owners Nick Levantis and Darryl Healy usually are not Italian however they’re passionate in regards to the nation and its meals. So after they had been seeking to increase from the Swan, the gastro pub up the road they have run since 2011, to supply a neighbourhood restaurant with rooms, there was just one course to go. A mano means by hand, and to make sure that artisanal high quality, the pair recruited head chef Fabio Moschini – a Roman married to a Venetian – over a 12 months earlier than Amano opened in July. Moschini labored on creating the menu and sourcing high quality elements: risotto rice, pasta flour, cured meats and a full tonne of single-estate extra-virgin olive oil from Umbria.
We arrive at round 5.30pm and already a cheerful buzz is coming from the eating room. At this early hour, in actual, versus Kentish, Italy, aperitivo time wouldn’t even have begun and it could be near-impossible to discover a restaurant open. However, Amano has gone towards sort in providing its full menu – antipasti, primi, mains and desserts – all day from midday.
We perch on the bar and admire the best way a tiny, rundown, however Grade II-listed pub, the Lobster Pot, has been reworked. There is now seating for 80, which stretches into a brand new minimalist “orangery” – pale partitions and ground, vegetation, dark-wood panelling and in refined olive and duck-egg blue.
Upstairs wait Isabella, Francesca, Carla and Sophia – basic names for en suite rooms squeezed into the first-floor area, all in restful greys and white, with the requisite high quality linen, large beds, Bluetooth radios and posh tea and low issues. Ours, Carla, has darkish tongue-and-groove panelling to the ceiling, a wise, spacious bathe, a cute little couch on the finish of the mattress – and an excessive surfeit of scatter cushions. (I stagger throughout the room looking for someplace to stow one monster the scale and weight of a punchbag.) An iron and ironing board guarantee friends can fare bella figura at dinner.
The hubbub of contented prospects is even louder after we return downstairs. People who haven’t managed to snag a Saturday evening reserving nonetheless appear to pop in for a cocktail or glass of prosecco. Poor them: they’re lacking a deal with. Zingy antipasti of grilled squid with aioli, and stracciatella (form of unformed mozzarella) with heritage tomatoes are a perfect curtain raiser to husband’s risi e bisi, the place recent peas pop with flavour towards creamy however al dente rice, and my tagliolini with lemon, the place the chewy pasta, made with a mixture of historic grains, is the star.
Moschini says: “When people eat my pasta, I want them to taste the pasta and not just the sauce.” Ingredients are “on the throne” once more in easy mains of sea bream and rolled pork. One unusual aberration is a torta della nonna that not solely lacks lemony flavour however as a substitute of the basic pine nuts is topped with the identical thickish flabby pastry as its sides and backside.
Stay through the week and also you breakfast two minutes away on the Swan however at weekends Amano serves a brunch that locations it very a lot within the home counties somewhat than the hills of Rome: smoothies, granola, and a really millennial mashed avocado (on focaccia), somewhat than a powerful caffè and a sticky pastry. Seems even Italophiles can solely bear a lot authenticity.
• Accommodation was supplied by Amano, 47 Swan Street, West Malling, Kent (doubles from £110 B&B, three-course dinner from £27pp, pizzas from £9.50)
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Andrew and Julia Smith, jewelry and antiques sellers, West Malling
Franks Restaurant and Mussel Bar, in a 15th-century constructing, not far away, has been run by three generations of the identical household. It’s glorious however decidedly old-school, with dishes similar to lobster thermidor (£35) and prawn cocktail. Down the street, the Farm House is a revamped gastro pub, a part of a small chain, with a French chef and a pleasant backyard.
West Malling High Street is 90% unbiased merchants. Monks & Co is an old school gents’ outfitters that really sells fairly new-fashioned threads. For girls, Eves, within the city for 23 years, is an Aladdin’s cave of lovely attire. The Smith & Webb cookshop additionally has good finds.
The National Trust-owned Ightham Mote, 20 minutes’ drive away, is a medieval manor home relationship from 1320. It is surrounded by a sq. moat, with a walled backyard. Even older Aylesford Abbey, on the sting of the village of the identical identify, is free to go to, with beautiful grounds and a up to date pottery. For a extra lively outing, there’s paddleboarding and different watersports at Leybourne Lakes.
In West Malling, don’t miss the Malling Abbey Cascade, a waterfall on Swan Street painted by JMW Turner in 1791-2. And the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour was filmed right here in 1967: the Rain Grill kebab home, which seems within the movie (it was a newsagent then), has a blue plaque.
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