Bar Carolina is all sleek lines and warm smiles. You enter through a beautifully light and bright conservatory with terrazzo floors and handmade turquoise lead-light panes, and the staff are quick to greet and seat and make you feel welcome. The bar and kitchen run down one side of the narrow space and the tables down the right. If you keep walking, you'll be amongst the pots of kumquats out the back.
A little spritz on a Monday night? Why not. Especially when it's the Bar Carolina version with Capo Capo (a rhubarb and bitter orange aperitivo), homemade raspberry syrup, prosecco and a dash of soda. Then just when you're trying to casually, yet elegantly sip through the double straw —while realising you could probably just have used one of the straws and avoided a large amount of inelegance — the waiter will give you the lowdown on the stuzzichini (starters). It might be the Italian accent, but they sound like poetry.
It would be rude not to order the vitello tonnato, given that it's the waiter's favourite dish. Warm mouthfuls of slow-cooked veal are scattered on the plate with tasty tuna sashimi, providing, as our waiter has said, a lovely mix of temperatures and flavours. This is both surf and turf and its complete antithesis. The meat and fish are tender and flavoursome, the tiny pickled mushrooms provide little pinpoints of nutty deliciousness and the anchovy mayonnaise is delicate. And yes, you should also have the zucchini flowers stuffed with soft cod mousse and the crisp pumpkin crochette.
Meat and fish are cooked in the Spanish Josper oven and the pasta is (obviously) house-made. The rabbit ragu is delightful — not only for its alliteration — and the beetroot ravioli with goat's cheese is light, yet flavoursome.
To end the meal, you have to order the tiramisu — because, a) it's a dome of white chocolate enshrouded in nitrogen smoke and b) you'll be overcome with jealousy when you see one pass by your table. When you crack through the chocolate shell to the coffee jelly, savoiardi and mascarpone, we promise — you won't regret it.