In a nutshell: Angela Hartnett’s latest Italian restaurant was decent
Angela Hartnett’s latest Italian restaurant opened on 33 St James’s Street (close to Green Park stn) with 75 covers and a 12-seater dining bar. I went for lunch on their first opening day and it was already packed. Service was occasionally slow between courses but overall impressively smooth on their first day. Food was decent across the board, pasta was great, meat was cooked perfectly and I loved the truffle arancini!
Jamie’s Fifteen at Cornwall is right on the beach of Watergate Bay overlooking one of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall, also a popular surfing destination. Even in the freezing days of winter, some were surfing on the waves (it was February and 1c..!). Fifteen is renowned for its apprenticeship programme which trains disadvantaged youngsters to become chefs (there is a Fifteen in London too). The restaurant was spacious and modern with a semi-open kitchen and an antipasti bar for walk ins. Food is served from breakfast, lunch to dinner with meat and fish sourced in Cornwall and very tricky to book. We came in freezing February and were lucky to get a table for early dinner just 3 days before, which wouldn’t have been possible in summer.
When I think of cured meat, cheese and wine, lots of Spanish restaurants would pop into my head. Such as Dehesa, Pizarro, Opera Tavern and Capote y Toros. Not only do they serve great hams like Iberico bellota (one of the best hams in the world), their tapas are also some of the best in London. However, none of which are Italian restaurants. Having just watched the episode of Masterchef Australia where the crew went to Parma to cook those amazing hams, I was interested to try them in London. A tiny restaurant in Fitzrovia called In Parma happen to fit the bill, it imports PDO certified ham, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and the sparkling red wine Lambrusco.
An affordable yet delicious Italian restaurant in central London seem like a distant dream. The River Cafe has amazing food and a Michelin star but a plate of pasta will set you back £18 and the secondi are all above £35. Zafferano and Apsleys at Knightsbridge are the same, top quality food with heavy price tags. A £40 shop priced wine can easily be marked up to £160. The only reasonable Italian I’ve tried is Zucca, serving a combination of modern and traditional dishes at £35pp for 3 courses. Sadly that’s too far for those living on the west like me. Luckily, Hungry in London recommended Tinello, which offers fashionable, delicious yet affordable Italian food in the heart of Chelsea.
The Bvlgari hotel opened last week directly opposite One Hyde Park, the most expensive apartment in the world where the top penthouse was sold at £100 million. The area is known for designer labels, high heels and wealthy locals who love the area and regularly shops at the luxury department store Harrods. Adding another luxury hotel seem fitting and well located. The grand and sleek bar already sees many suits and beautiful dresses. For those looking for a place to delight clients, it could be a decent place to try. Restaurant wise, contemporary Italian dishes are served below the buzzing bar but was less popular. Of course, all this come with a heavy price tag.
All the pizza deliveries seem to share the same goal of completing a cheese domino. Basically stuff cheese anywhere you can, inside the crust, triple on the top and more as extra toppings. Like the sole aim was to achieve a big fat cheesecake. Don’t get me wrong, I love the mighty meaty pizza from Dominos, especially the cold ones next morning. Who wouldn’t love to over indulge on cheese. But a good pizza shouldn’t be something that I could only eat once every half a year but something light and thin to have everyday, especially when it was never invented to be junk food. Santa Maria and Franco Manca both fit the bill perfectly.
Cotidie means ‘everyday’ in Latin, chef Bruno Barbieri wanted his customers to feel like dining at his house. However, the result was quite the opposite, at least not at my house or anyone else’s. It’s an elegant yet relaxing place that resembled a modern hotel lobby, mixed in with clever and complex cooking for a beautiful Italian restaurant. I’d give anything for this to be my living room! The menu changes on a daily basis but signatures like lightly scrambled eggs with hazelnut, fregula with shellfish tend to stay put.
After much hassled booking, I finally made it to Bocca Di Lupo, a Soho restaurant famous for small plates of regional Italian food. Small plate dining is so popular these days, getting a table can be a real life mission impossible. After 6.30pm, don’t even bother with walk-ins, unless you are determined to wait over 30 minutes. Some restaurants have adopted a no booking policy and last time I heard, the queue at Burger & Lobster was 2 hours on weekend evenings. As I was desperate to try Bocca Di Lupo (last minute), we had to arrive at 5.15pm on the dot (when it opened).
I’m not a wine lover, often given a budget, 90% would be spent on food. Perhaps it’s a pattern stemmed from years of insufficient wine knowledge, which I’d love to change. The evening at Zafferano was the perfect time to learn as I was accompanied by a wine expert. He eagerly reached for the bible thick wine menu, read each page with a curious yet puzzling expression, the kind I usual have when a food menu is too delicious to decide. Admittedly, even a novice like myself would give credit to this extensive wine list that included nearly every region of Italy as well as other European cities.
London’s best hotels seem to attract the best of the best in fine dining too, like Marcus Wareing at Berkeley, Dinner at Mandarin Oriental and Helene Darroze at the Connaught. This perfect match of elegance in both food and ambiance has brought some ideal restaurants for those special occasions, especially the romantic ones. Apsleys at the Lanesborough hotel is a great example, a beautiful skylighted dining room with Heinz Beck’s creativity poured into a series of mindblowingly good Italian dishes. It has it all.