Published 13 June 2022
by Josh Barrie
I wouldn’t recommend Zero Quattro, an Italian trattoria in Purley, in any restaurant guide. It is an inoffensive sort of place and there is no truer description. Also, Purley is better off avoided. Really all there is now is a big Tesco and a train station.
Oh and Zero Quattro, which I mentioned earlier. It’s a restaurant where balsamic glaze is still drizzled along the side of square plates, encircling sea bass and roasted vegetables. Many of the pasta dishes are creamy. If you’d like a chicken supreme with a mushroom and Madeira sauce, simply order. ‘Traditional’ doesn’t cut it. ‘Old school’ doesn’t either and would be a highly irritating phrase to use.
You might suppose I intend to follow that last paragraph with talk of romanticism – the poignant charm of these old rustic joints, Amalfi lemons adorning the walls and seafood risotto being flung out of the kitchen as if by Stanley Tucci himself. Thankfully not: I’d bore myself to death before even my grandfather knocks life on the head.
Grandparents. I’m happy Zero Quattro exists because it is currently the only restaurant mine can get to. Their days using coupons at The Ritz and taking me to Wilton’s for birthdays are over. No more Dover sole for me. They have become too old, you see, as people tend to do, and although they can travel around a bit if driven, journeying up to town to dine out is not an option.
So thank god for these community restaurants ten minutes from home; these neighbourhood fixtures with an owner who is warm and kind and offers endless bread, takes coats in an old fashioned way, provides free limoncello, and smiles, smiles, smiles, resigned to the fact that this is Purley and the most exciting thing that could ever happen these days is a bottle of Chianti. It is a wine that works brilliantly as a precursor to another run of Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday.
Zero Quattro is not fashionable hospitality. It isn’t going to win any awards (although I think it probably should). But it’s home to service perfect for elderly types who still love nothing more than lunch out, but for whom such a pastime is a challenge – in these nondescript, suburban enclaves, such a welcome isn’t easily found. Middling to decent food is by the by. Even though I dislike limoncello, I savour it.