Muddy eats: Cucina Italiana, Oxted
Muddy is lucky. Very lucky indeed. In our trips out to the finest eateries in this fair county, it would be easy to overlook those that had seemingly been around for years.
And you could be forgiven for thinking that Cucina Italiana in Oxted was so familiar to have always been there. It’s actually been open only a few years, moving in after a Chinese restaurant moved out. And in that time it’s developed one hell’va loyal following.
So what is it about this restaurant that Trip Advisors rave about? And does it live up to the hype… which ranges from ‘amazing’ and ‘fantastic’ to ‘it’s best Italian in the UK’. That’s high praise indeed.
Well let me to tell you this. I’ve been once, and I’m going back. They can count me in their band of merry diners. But it’s not just the food that makes Cucina special – it’s the whole package.
I went with Mr Muddy and the mini Muddies on a Friday night after an early showing of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them at the Everyman cinema. (And if you haven’t seen it yet, oh, but you must.) But forget the beasts (and that delicious Mr Redmayne) for now, for we have matters of food to discuss.
It’s quite a large restaurant, and fairly open plan, yet it still somehow manages to be intimate, warm and welcoming. The restaurant is in a cute half-timbered building, set back from the road, and it’s light up like a Christmas ginger bread house.
Cucina serves traditional and authentic Italian food. There’s a small cocktail menu, and a decent wine menu. Unsurprisingly for a Friday night in December, the restaurant was heaving – a mix of couples, families, mixed groups, and, right behind us, a large table of about 16 men. The open plan makes for a pretty noisy environment, but I quite liked that. It meant I could glug down my wine and chatter on loudly to the family.
We started with Trio di Pane (that’s rustic Italian breads to me and you) and the Antipasto Misto. It came out pretty quickly, delivered by a charming Italian waiter, and was promptly demolished by my hungry lot – who clearly hadn’t been sated by the sweet and salty popcorn they’d had earlier.
Moving right along, we mostly went down the pasta route with a classic Spaghetti Pomodoro, a Gnocchi al Salmone, a Spaghetti Alle Vongole, and for me a seafood stew. And the verdict? “Mmmm, yep, mmmmm, oh yeah, good, mmmm, slurp, mmmm.” I’ll take that as good.
Dessert was tricky as we had the usual ‘I want everything’ conundrum. But eventually we decided on cheese cake (x2), chocolate fudge brownie and a lemon tart. There was no sharing, and nothing left on the plates.
Obviously the food gets a massive tick, but the restaurant’s charm lies in its staff and it’s vibrant mood. The service was warm and friendly, nothing was too much for them and they clearly know their stuff. I think Cucina may become a Muddy family favourite.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: anyone who likes good Italian food, girly lunches and dinners, families, groups of friends.
Not for: It was heaving and rowdy on the Friday night I went, so it’s probably not best suited to those looking for a quiet intimate dinner.
£££: Mid range for high quality. Starters start at £3.75 for Italian breads and go up to £11.95 for a sharing antipasto misto; mains £7.75 for a basic pizza , pasta hovers around the £10 mark and fish dishes around the £13. There’s a Sunday menu offering two courses for £11.50; a lunch menu offering a selection of dishes for £9.95 including a glass of wine, beer or soft drink; and a kids’ menu.