RiverTribe’s Tony Malcom heads to Sebastian’s near Richmond Green and finds a
family-owned restaurant which has put its own standards for exceptional value and
friendly service at the top of its menu.
An Italian, run by an Albanian for Richmond’s home crowd and an international
clientele. In these times of Brexit bol…ognese, this is a picture of a European union
working in perfect harmony.
Sebastian’s is a warm and inviting restaurant tucked away on Kings Street off The
green where Jamie’s used to be.
Where Mr Oliver failed to inspire us Richmond folk with his food offering, Jari Veliu is
looking to succeed with authentic Italian cuisine cooked in wood-fired ovens.
Occupying a four-seat booth on a Friday night with my two glamorous RiverTribe
companions, we soaked up the atmosphere and a glass or two of the house white, a
crisp, palate cleansing Sicilian Chiara Grillo, whilst the waiting staff busied
themselves around us attentively.
Zakia, Linda and myself took different options for the starter. I opted for the
carpaccio du manzo and wasn’t disappointed with my choice. A circle of wafer thin
slices of succulent beef encircled a hillock of rocket barricaded within a turret of
shaved parmesan cheese. Bellisimo. My dining partners were chowing down on
octopus and prawns respectively and this surf and turf melee rendered the three of
us speechless for several minutes as the elegantly presented trio of Tuscan style
terrific-ness was devoured with gusto.
Washing up was going to be a simple affair for the staff this evening, judging by
spotless white plates and bowls collected from our table to glowing praise.
Taking time between courses, I looked around to see Jari, the owner, commanding
his kitchen between two separate ovens, at the back and front of house, with a state
of the art headset and microphone. I later discovered Jari’s soft voice was not in the
mode of the effing and jeffing Gordon Ramsey or the explosive gallic tantrums
thrown by Marco Pierre White. He is an absolutely charming man and likes that
warmth to pervade through the restaurant he named after his first-born son. Yes, the
absence of ego was evident in his refusal to name it after himself and his reticence
to pose for any photographs without fulsome persuasion.
There are no pretentions in his restaurant either, with simple lighting, distressed
mirrors (well they were when I looked in them) and simple oil paintings above mock
stone walls. Rural Italy was evoked and the friendly chatter was broken only by staff
breaking into a happy birthday chorus for the party on the next table. This is a great
venue for parties with al fresco seating outside a conservatory annexe, which has a long
table for a good dozen or so people under it’s slatted glass roof.
We moved onto the main course. I mistakenly thought I’d ordered scallops, but was
delighted with the scaloppini di pollo in salsa di limone which was placed in front of
me instead. Scouring the menu quickly always leads to mix ups, but this was one
that took me away from my usual repertoire and introduced me to a delicious melt-in-
the-mouth chicken dish with a heavenly sauce and potatoes that elevated the simple
spud to gastronomic levels.
I have to add here that this was all without what you’d expect to be an astronomic
My two companions were cooing in a way that left me in no doubt their choices of
tagliatelle in black squid ink sauce and a chilli crab linguine were hitting their high bar
of approval. And I know from my own experiences with the pair, that it is no mean
feat to get an immaculately shellac painted double thumbs-up from them.
Disapproval – well, you really don’t want to go there.
Needless to say, dessert was deli-delicious and everything we ate was freshly
prepared that day with locally sourced ingredients above and beyond what you are
served at a chain restaurant.
A lost in translation moment made me chuckle when I said to the waiter, ‘I have to
tell you I am a tiramisu connoisseur’, to which he replied ‘no need to apologise’.
As the Sebastian’s website boasts, this is the finest Italian cuisine in Richmond. I, for
one, wholeheartedly agree and appetite whetted, I will be going back to sample other
delights on the menu. A pizza from one of those wood fired ovens?
Now that I must try.