Last Saturday proved to be a double dose of nostalgia, as we visited my university town of Guildford, home of the University of Surrey. For me, the last time I was there was ten years ago. For The European, it was her first ever trip to this little market town, and she loved it. What’s not to love? Guildford has an imposing cathedral (it was prominently featured in The Omen), a quaint town centre, one of the top ten ‘most tragic’ nightclubs in the country and a university voted one of the sexiest in the U.K. in 2003, although I cannot find any links online to corroborate that, but trust me, it happened.
I mentioned ‘double dose’ as the restaurant we visited for lunch was called Positano, a name shared with one of our most beloved restaurants in Dubai. That Positano was located on the second floor of my old workplace, the JW Marriott Marquis. It was the only place in the building which dared to serve pork.
On Sundays, Positano offered an all-you-can-eat/drink evening brunch which included unlimited stone-baked pizzas, a fresh pasta station, a plethora of antipasti including salami and prosciutto, and the obligatory dessert room. The hotel offered a generous staff discount on the brunch, so we ended up going there a lot. It was a great place to toast in the working week. Sadly, a lot of other people had the same idea, meaning that some nights the restaurant was full of employees dining half-price. The discount was soon stopped.
Guildford Positano doesn’t have such incredible P.R. as ‘sexiest Italian restaurant in town’ or ‘kick-ass Sunday brunch’, but it does hit the mark by being a properly decent neighbourhood haunt. The interior of its red-doored Elizabethan digs is tastefully decorated, with white linens and exposed brickwork touched up with a hint of Covid-19, with plexiglass screens between the tables. Most diners – including us – were seated outside on their expansive street-side terrace on Tunsgate, just off the High Street.
We were late (The European discovered a Muji offering a closing down sale) but we were swiftly and wonderfully greeted, seated in the shadiest corner of the terrace, which, given the sweltering heat that day, was perfect. I chucked down an Aperol spritz while The European nursed her Moretti. I joined her on the beers, and we ordered without too much delay.
Spoiled for choice when it comes to trattorie in London, we were apprehensive, yearning for a Gloria-esque experience, though hopefully a bit cheaper. Positano’s menu is a little less fanciful than Gloria’s, containing more of the usual staples you would expect to find in any respectable Italian restaurant.
We started by sharing a bruschetta – a simple dish but all too easy to ruin – and it was very good indeed, loaded with the sweetest, juiciest tomatoes I have had in a long time. Afterwards, I took a pizza topped with Parma ham, rocket and parmesan. It was pretty good – maybe a little on the stodgy side, but still a very good base, stone-baked to perfection.
The European ordered her favourite spaghetti con le vongole; pasta tossed with fresh clams, oil, garlic and chilli. She was panicking the whole while it was being cooked, for fear out of the clams not being fresh. Anyway, she really enjoyed it. “…but not as good as in Naples” she said, which – as feedback goes – means absolutely nothing. I tried a little of it (clams aren’t really my thing) but yes, the sauce was punchy and flavoursome, tinged with the salt of the sea coming from juicy, fresh clams. We were pretty stuffed and feeling the heat, so finished with a couple of short coffees and settled up.
Positano was indeed cheaper than Gloria. A lot cheaper. Not only was the food great, but the prices were obviously not very London-y and the people working in that restaurant are second to none. All of them were characterful, smiley superstars, really adding a sparkle to an already great place. Should you end up visiting Guildford, whether it’s to enrol your child at its incredibly sexy university or simply attempting to Christen your demon son at the cathedral, Positano comes highly recommended as a cosy place to eat some great Italian food.