Restaurant review: Lena

Italian cooking, in its purest form, is about good quality ingredients and unfussy combinations.

Lena, in the heart of Shoreditch’s Great Eastern Street, disregards the never-ending pizza list and cheap plonk that so many establishments bearing the flag of green, white and red go for in a quest to take Italian dishes back to their basics. For the most part, it does that pretty well.

The menu is uncomplicated but inspired, with a mixture of cured meats and fish starters followed by various pasta dishes, many again seafood-infused.

Much emphasis is placed on sourcing and head chef, Malta-born Pierre Caruana, allows the ingredients to speak for themselves.

We started with sliced parma ham with passionfruit essence and saut�ed forest mushrooms with quail eggs. The ham was moist, soft and set off nicely by the fruity dressing.

Lobster meat, taken mostly from the claws, in my tagliatelle main course was generous in portion and skilfully layered with lashings of rich, garlicky tomato.

For desserts, it was the tiramisu – a homemade concoction of pure espresso shot, sugared mascarpone and lady fingers.

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Far better to be adventurous than stick to the soggy, slightly stale version that many establishments serve up but, for me, the cream was too saccharine and didn’t sit well against the sharpness of the coffee.

My friend went for the torta caprese, jam-packed with almonds and rich dark chocolate.

Service at Lena had that great blend of relaxed yet attentive.

The modern white d�cor, plastic chairs and grass-green sofas may not scream Italian tradition, but Lena isn’t going for the ham and pineapple pizza-scoffing crowd.

Its interesting menu proves Italy has much more to offer in the quest for less clich�d gastronomy.

Lena, 66 Great Eastern Street, 020 7739 5714. See lenarestaurant.com

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