I've been literally yearning to visit 500, or Cinquecento, if you're feeling the Italian vibe and last week I finally managed to snag a table by booking weeks in advance for a Tuesday evening.
I'll say right away that my expectations were verging on unreasonable owing to multiple failed attempts to book a table, it's always fully booked it seems, surely a good sign? That coupled with the addition of 500 to this year's Michelin Bib Gourmand list, recognising good food at moderate prices, and the fact that it's a mere 5 minute stroll from my front door meant I was filled with anticipation and on the night was slightly over excited.
We arrived on a blustery night, were warmly welcomed and shown to our table. The room is small yet manages to feel spacious, the kitchen is tucked away at the back with the entrance protected by a double door so that the grim Holloway Road location is not noticeable.
We began with a few snacks, these are presented on a menu with the wine list. Some wonderful green olives and a small mozzarella caprese salad were delivered swiftly alongside a basket of bread, the highlight of which was the moist and salty black olive bread. Everyone gets the bread, there's plenty of it and the variety is impressive.
I wanted a pasta to start followed by a meaty main so I plumped for the ragu filled ravioli to be followed by rabbit. The ravioli is one of the finest and most accomplished pasta dishes I have tasted, perfectly cooked, a generous amount and a rich and sweet tomato sauce. I was over the moon with my starter. Thomas went for the parma ham and asparagus and was unimpressed with the quality of the ham, perhaps the wrong time of year to order an asparagus dish, it came topped with a generous scattering of shaved parmesan and a drizzle of balsamic.
All courses were very thoughtfully spaced, and despite the fact that they are cooking to order there were no lengthy waits and our drinks were regularly topped up. As our mains arrived the smell of my rabbit dish was incredible. It also looked very pretty, the legs prettily scattered with the olive and tomato accompaniment sitting atop the perfectly crisp potatoes with just the right amount of the rich sauce. I must say I find eating off the bone a fairly unhappy experience sometimes but the rabbit was very good, if a little tricky to get at. Rustically presented and again a very generous amount of everything.
Thomas was less impressed with his dish of gnocci dumplings in tomato sauce, I think it needed something else, there was a topping of parmesan and arguably this might be a better starter choice but there was little about it to elevate it above good home cooking. We also ordered a bottle of Traos Nieddu which was one of the cheaper of the wines listed which range in price from £13-£30.
I was tempted by the tiramisu from the fairly concise and classic Italian dessert menu. It was a fine example, a thick dusting of cocoa and a light booze soaked sponge with marscapone. It's hard to go far wrong with tiramisu really. Thomas was once again disappointed with his choice, the tart of the day which was lemon doused in strawberry sauce. I found the combination strange and lacking in citrus flavour.
In all my experience was drastically different to my companions but I would highly recommend you try Cinquecento, a gem in the otherwise culinary wasteland that is Archway. The pasta is to die for and for all this we paid only £64, I can't remember the last time I was so pleasantly surprised at bill time. Remarkable value, I can see myself returning often to sample more of chef Mario Magli's offerings.
783 Holloway Rd