Halal Italian restaurants haven’t been the easiest to come by in London. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’d know that I sort of have a soft spot for Italian food. I especially love pasta, like proper freshly handmade pasta, and love exploring different pasta sauces & flavour combos as I do in my pasta recipe collection. So when I heard about La Fenice with its halal Italian food menu, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit.
La Fenice: Halal Italian Fine-Dining in London
The name “La Fenice” translates as “the phoenix” and it represents the restaurant’s vision of reinventing fine authentic Italian cuisine. Housed in a historic building in Euston, the restaurant oozed elegance and its stylish interiors are there to impress. It has a lovely ambience and an intimate feel that makes it the perfect date night dinner spot. I personally particularly enjoyed the natural light filtering in from the ceiling windows, giving the space an airy feel against the plush decor.
The biggest sell of the restaurant though, ought to be its halal food offerings. Not just a selective few dishes, but all meats served are halal at La Fenice. Alcohol is served at the restaurant but none of the dishes has alcohol in their cooking process and no pork is on the menu as well.
The Food: What We Ordered
Date of dining: July 2022
Fried Tortellini (£8.50)
As we looked at the menu, we were immediately intrigued by the fried tortellini for starters. The ricotta-stuffed tortellini was deep-fried till crispy and served with an arrabbiata sauce on the side. The exterior of the tortellini wasn’t as crispy as we had expected but the ricotta filling was nice and made up for it. We felt the arrabbiata sauce could give a more robust kick to it but it was still generally nice. Overall, we enjoyed this as a starter but there is certainly room for improvement to make it a more stunning dish.
Crispy Squid (£9)
Essentially calamari rings, the crispy squid was a decent munch to start. The breaded coating was nice and crispy with a lovely golden touch of colour. The squid rings itself was cooked right and not rubbery in texture. It comes with tartar sauce on the side and ticked the boxes for a good old classic plate of calamari, though nothing particularly special. If you like calamari, you can’t go wrong with it but don’t expect to be blown away by it.
Garlic Bread & Iconic Arrosticini of Lamb (£13)
This one felt more of a fusion starter dish, featuring garlic bread topped with roasted lamb kofta and served with a lemon sauce. Arrosticini is a speciality dish in the Abruzzo region of Italy that is essentially herb-seasoned lamb skewers. Meanwhile, what was served in front of us resembled lamb kofta kebabs, hence the fusion note.
There’s definitely more than just classic Italian herbs in the seasoning of the meat, featuring subtle notes of cumin and other warm spices, i.e. basically your typical kofta. With that already feeling somewhat out of place and an odd pairing in this Italian fine-dining setting, the dish failed to impress with its dry texture and flat flavours as the spices failed to make the dish pop. The meat was overcooked too and it was a missed opportunity to allow the succulent juices to soak into the garlic flatbread. The concept was there but it needed refining to turn it into something more memorable.
Cacio E Pepe (£14)
Out of the three pasta dishes we ordered, the Cacio E Pepe was probably the best one but it’s still not quite to the standard, especially for the price tag it came with. The pasta itself was alright but missing a distinct al dente bite. It was generally creamy to taste and slightly heavier on the pepper to give it a “spicy” touch. However, I feel the sauce could be loosened up a bit more and it wasn’t as silky as I would’ve liked. Bottom line is that it’s not bad but it doesn’t compare to the likes of Padella, Bancone, Flour & Grape, etc. despite being at a higher price than all of these other restaurants. Cacio E Pepe is literally only a three-ingredient dish (pecorino romano cheese, black pepper & pasta) so I definitely expected something stellar when the dish is steeply priced at £14 a plate.
Beef Ragu Tagliatelle (£14)
The first thing that stood out to us about this Beef Ragu Tagliatelle is that the presentation was rather underwhelming. In our opinion, the pasta could certainly use a bit of garnish and it was certainly missing a touch of cheese on top. At first, we thought they would be bringing the cheese to the table separately but that wasn’t the case.
Unfortunately, furthering to its plain presentation, the flavours lacked dimension too. The supposed slow-cooked ragu was missing flavour depth and umami to make the dish shine. Not to toot my own horn but I prefer my homemade slow-cooked bolognese tagliatelle more and it’s a better bang for the buck than what you get at La Fenice’s.
Seafood Linguine (£16)
The seafood pasta didn’t fare any better either. Again, there’s a lack of flavour depth in the sauce and the pasta was not al dente enough. The prawns were rather overcooked either, resulting in shrinking sizes and a rubbery texture. I couldn’t exactly pinpoint what it was but the dish was just missing an edge and failed to impress. It reminded me of cheap seafood pasta dishes when on holiday in non-Italian countries and just didn’t have this refined upscale impression it wanted to make.
Chicken in the Nest (£18)
Chicken in the Nest is essentially mustard roast chicken over a bed of roast leek, i.e the nest. The presentation was simple but elegant, served with a jug of gravy on the side that occupies the big empty space on the plate. Flavour-wise, the chicken got a herby touch and was tender to taste. The black garlic lend a subtle umami touch but wasn’t as bold in flavour as expected. Whilst it’s nice, we felt that at £18, there should be some sort of sides included. That massive empty space on the plate could be filled with some potatoes or grilled vegetables. The dish, as it currently stands, isn’t quite filling enough.
Pistachio Tiramisu (£8)
Non-alcoholic tiramisu and pistachio together in one dessert? Count me in! You bet I had my eyes set on this Pistachio Tiramisu the moment I opened the menu when we first arrived at the restaurant. According to the menu description, it’s a classic tiramisu but made with pistachio cream for a twist. Now, I’m not sure about the Pistachio Cream per se as the cream itself tasted just like a regular mascarpone cream. But there were indeed hints of pistachio that came from the generous amount of chopped pistachios on top. Regardless, we absolutely loved this dessert. It was of just the right sweetness and perfectly moist in texture. We enjoyed every single bite of it and wiped that bowl clean.
Creme Brulee (£9)
As for the creme brulee, it came with the perfectly torched crackling top and beneath that crispy top was a rich vanilla custard. We felt that it was just slightly over burnt and left a mildly bitter aftertaste. The custard, overall, was a little too rich for my personal liking either so I can’t say I have thoroughly enjoyed this one too much but it’s not bad. Though I must say the portion was bigger than I anticipated, so that’s always a positive.
Nutella Profiteroles (£7)
The choux pastry itself in this profiterole dessert was lovely, featuring a light crisp on the outside and was nicely airy on the inside. It was generously stuffed with Nutella cream and was quite rich to taste, especially together with the chocolate ganache. There is a bit of raspberry jam at the bottom of the profiteroles to cut through the richness but it’s still quite decadent to taste. We felt that this dish is best for sharing – there were four of us and it was just the right amount with having one each. It could feel quite heavy otherwise, in our opinion.
Restaurant Review Summary
In summary, we think La Fenice’s halal Italian food offering is a fantastic addition to the London market. However, there’s certainly more work to do and room for improvement. There’s certainly potential, in fact, plenty of potential with this halal Italian fine-dining concept. The current downfall is that the prices do not reflect the quality of food you are getting. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s too expensive but it is overpriced for what it is. I’d happily pay this price if the food can be improved & refined to true fine-dining quality. But for now, it has missed the mark.
Nonetheless, I do want to praise the staff for their friendly and attentive service, which made the evening an enjoyable one.
Summary & Halal Status
Halal Italian restaurant with a fine-dining concept. All meats served are halal at La Fenice.
Nearest station: Euston