Gloria, Hallelujah. Praise be and all that. There’s a new kid in town, where you can worship the God of Good Times. Because that’s what Gloria is: a place to have fun. The wait for a table can be brutal (up to two hours, they’ll text you), but from the moment you step in, you’ll forgive them. The room is like the inside of your Italian nonna’s parlour, if she also had the kind of hoarding problem that would get her on to a late-night Channel 4 documentary. Every inch is covered with a knick or a knack: your head needs to spin 360 degrees to take it all in. There are doily-covered side tables and frilly-edged, salmon-hued lampshades. There are tiny frames of religious scenes and carvings of the Virgin Mary hung on the walls. There’s a row of chintzy plates lining the upper perimeter of the room and hanging baskets thick with foliage. Underneath all this Amalfi Coast kitsch, the room’s fundamentals are good: it’s really a brasserie-style trattoria, with half-height café-style curtains plus booths and banquette seats that carve the space up and give it intimacy.
The staff, in red-and-white striped shirts, like walking candy canes, add to the sense of adult theme park. The waiter leading us to our table did a little jig along the way. He seemed to just feel like it. Our waitress had too many tables in her section, but never lost her cool, beaming constantly while asking how we’d like our dishes to be paced (big tick) while cheerfully mocking our momentary attempt to skip puds. The music was as eclectic as listening to a Gallic radio station (Gloria’s owners are French), veering from warbling Italian love songs to French hip hop to ‘Baggy Trousers’ by Madness.
But what of the food? Again, it’s fun. Get the carbonara for two: it arrives on a trolley in a parmesan wheel, where it’s twirled and whirled around, picking up more bits of cheese along the way, then finally lifted high and plopped on to each plate. Rich and moreish, its creamy, peppery, cheese-flecked sauce also came studded with morsels of guanciale (cured pork). True, it was a tad salty, but the spaghetti had been carefully cooked, and really, who can argue with a plate of pasta rich in just-chipped parmesan?
If you’re starving (that pasta is huge), you could also order some nibbles. A trio of snooker ball-sized crocchè – an Italian spin on jamon croquetas – arrived under a snowdrift of grated pecorino. Their coats went crunch while their centres camed filled with silky béchamel, more guanciale, and the earthy oomph of truffle.
But not everything worked. A tomato-and-courgette flower ‘baby pizza’, adorably renamed the ‘HRH Archi-pizzetta’ since Gloria’s launch, had a good salt-water flavour and nicely blistered edges, but a soggy base. Our osso bucco ravioli was somewhat ordinary, and there was some wildly overcooked asparagus. But dessert – a bastardised profiterole – was a triumph. A chewy-yet-crusty choux bun ice-cream sarnie, scattered with morsels of candied pecans then drowned in hot poured-at-the-table chocolate sauce, sums this place up: Gloria is made for big kids. Just wait till you see the loos.