Review: new Italian restaurant Amano, West Malling

Tasty antipasto starts your authentic Italian feast (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Tasty antipasto starts your authentic Italian feast (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

A new Italian restaurant run by owners of sister restaurant The Swan has opened in West Malling

The attractive dining area has a Mediterannean vibe (photo: Manu Palomeque)

The attractive dining area has a Mediterannean vibe (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

There’s a new restaurant in town in West Malling and from the look of the busy dining room on a wet weekday visit, ‘an Italian’ is just what it’s been craving.

And Amano, which comes from the Italian ‘by hand’, is just about as authentic as it gets. Ninety per cent of the staff are Italian and head chef Fabio Moschini leads a team cooking the dishes of his childhood and, I am sure, theirs too.

Launched in July by locals Nick Levantis and Darryl Healy of sister restaurant The Swan in West Malling and Swan at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, Amano is housed in a refurbished Grade II listed former pub (The Lobster Pot) and has the added advantage of four boutique rooms.

I didn’t get to experience an overnight as apparently none were available on my visit, so I can’t report back, but I am sure extra accommodation in this bustling, vibrant town is most welcome.

Dessert at Amano (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Dessert at Amano (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

Entrance is into a cosy front bar, where I am greeted warmly and presented with an enticing list of cocktails including house specialities Amalfi Rosa and Tutti Frutti. I am drawn, however, to the sharper Hugo Spritz (a refreshing Prosecco, elderflower liquer, mint and lemon mix).

And I have to laugh when My Gorgeous Mate busts in minutes after me and calls for “a Hugo, please” – a local, she’s been here several times already and clearly knows her way around the menu.

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We move into the restaurant, where blackened timber cladding and clay wall finishes add an artisanal air throughout, while real asparagus ferns, creepers and vines, plus marble tabletops create a classic Mediterranean feel in a contemporary setting.

We are seated in the internal courtyard or Orangery area where a clear glass roof and sloping glass let the natural light shine through. A long, thin space, we did find it got quite noisy as the night progressed, with tables a tad close for private conversation.

Fabio Moschini (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Fabio Moschini (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

In true Italian welcoming style, we saw several families with young children tucking into the authentic-looking pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven. There were also couples old and young, larger groups, apparently from a wide catchment area, as well as locals.

Head chef Fabio Moschini has created a tempting menu of Italian specialities, combining local Kent produce with delicacies imported from his home country.

Originally from Rome, he cooks the recipes learnt from his grandmother and lets the natural flavours shine through.

Mainly sourcing directly from the suppliers, Parma ham is from Castelli Salumi, an independent company who raise all their own pigs and cure the meat themselves, while extra virgin olive oil is from a business in Cerrosughero Canino that’s been in the same family since 1840.

Vialone Nano rice for the risotto dishes is grown in Veneto from the family De Tacchi (in business since since 1570), while durum grain flour, made from traditional stone grinding, is from the Poggi farm and used to make the fresh pasta.

It was time to put all this authenticity to the test and, in true Italian style, we sampled four courses: antipasti, primi, secondi and dolci. Aware of the journey ahead, we share the house antipasto and thoroughly enjoy the simple plate of meats, vegetables and fresh seafood including grilled squid, whole prawns with aioli and lemon, prosciutto and spicy salami.

From the freshly made pasta dishes to follow, I opt for tagliolini (ribbon pasta) with lemon and pecorino, which surprised and delighted me with its intense cheesey flavour and density of flavour; I was expecting something much lighter.

MGM chose a dish she has so far had on each visit to Amano and her pappardelle with wild mushrooms and the warmth of chilli and garlic didn’t disappoint.

Taking time to digest while sipping a glass of Gavi di Gavi, La Contessa, Piedmonte, we chatted to our waiter Joe, one of the few English members of staff at Amano and a friendly, helfpful guide through our menu choices.

We certainly enjoed the Pinot Noir, Caranto, Veneto with our main (secondi) courses – mine the catch of the day, a wonderfully fresh sea bass served with the simplest accompaniments – cherry tomatoes, parsley, garlic and white wine – that allowed all the flavours of the fish to shine.

Across the table the classic Saltimbocca alla romana (veal cooked with slices of dry-cured ham and sage in a Marsal sauce) was met with great approval and we shared a gorgeous side dish of crispy fried zucchini.

Flagging a little, we eventually managed our dessert course – an indulgent chocolate and hazelnut semifreddo and frangelico with fresh raspberries for me while. MGM enjoyed pine nut, lemon, custard tart, the way Nonna used to make it. A presto, Amano.

The essentials

What: Italian restaurant with rooms

Where: Amano, 47 Swan Street, West Malling ME19 6JU, 01732 600128

When: Lunch Wed-Sun, 12noon to 5pm, dinner Wed-Sun, 5pm-10pm

How much: Pizzas £9.50-£14.50, saltimbocca £16, catch of the day £15, desserts £6-6.50

Rooms: £130-200 a night

Meet the chef, Fabio Moschini

Tell us a bit about you

I have worked in hospitality for about 15 years. My career was originally in business management, but I always dreamt of becoming a chef. I joined a culinary school in Rome, studying at night and my first job in a kitchen was a restaurant in Italy where I was nominated to the Slow Food Alliance. I moved to the UK in 2013 and joined the team at Amano in July 2016. The chance to bring my grandmother’s authentic Italian recipes to West Malling and create my own menu was too good to pass up!

And your principal local suppliers?

We work with a local butcher in Tonbridge, Linton’s fishmonger for seafood and Harris for vegetables. We aim to merge Kent produce with some Italian suppliers. We get our all-important flour and rice from old family businesses in Italy, as well as cured meat from fourth-generation family business Castelli Salumi.

Your top cookery tip for readers?

The most important thing is to love what you’re doing, cook with your heart and taste a dish at each stage of the cooking process.

Who has influenced you most?

That’s easy! My dear nonna taught me everything I know. I was cooking in the kitchen with her from the age of five. She was the best teacher!

Your must-have kitchen gadget?

Most chefs will say their knives, and I’m no different. But will also add my rolling pin, essential for pasta-making.

Your breakfast this morning?

Italians don’t do breakfasts in the same way as Brits! At 6am I had two biscuits my wife made along with a cup of coffee and a glass of water.

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