Tel: +44 (0)20 7836 3969
Address: 44a Floral Street, Covent Garden, London W1T 1RL
Cuisine Type: Italian
nearest tube station Covent Garden (PICCADILLY)

The three Bertorelli restaurant / bars are part of the Chez Gérard group which also includes Livebait for fish and the eponymous establishments for French cuisine. Bertorelli offers ‘contemporary and traditional Italian food and does it pretty well, from Charlotte Street (the original site, opened by the Bertorelli family in 1913), Frith Street (the latest addition) and Floral Street, right beside the Royal Opera House. The good thing is that they manage to avoid seeming too chain-like.

The Floral Street restaurant has changed little in recent years and the mixture of chrome, mirrors and soft grey décor, while now seeming slightly dated, still pleases. Crisp white linen and good service help too, though the front desk could be a little more welcoming.

The menu is imaginative. Starters (£4.35 for soup, to £6.95 for queen scallops) range from the simple San Daniele ham to the exotic braised ox tongue served with a green pickle dressing, and interesting salads such as beetroot, watercress and sun dried tomato with dolcelatte dressing. Pasta (£6.75 – £9.75) again offers something out of the ordinary – I was tempted to try farfalle with courgette, chilli and basil, and tortelloni stuffed with ricotta and goat cheese with walnut sauce also sounded good (as long as you have a good appetite).

My main course of pan-fried calves liver with sweet onions, pancetta and parsnip mash (£11.50) was fabulous. It’s not often you are asked in a restaurant how you would like your liver cooked, but here I was and the result was spectacular – amazingly tender and succulent liver, just pink in the middle, and the parsnip mash and onions made a perfect foil. Baked cod with clams, chickpeas and tomato (£10.50) was also good. Also on offer were roast halibut (the most expensive option at £14.95) or monkfish, and on the meat side suckling pig (with lemon, herb polenta and apple chutney), lamb, veal or guinea fowl. For vegetarians there were stuffed seasonal vegetables or a Caesar salad. Side dishes (including tempting roast garlic and rosemary potatoes) are £1.95 – £2.95 but many of the main courses are enough in themselves.

Puddings are fairly standard Italian fare (tiramisu, gelati etc) but good quality. The wine list is, quite rightly, completely Italian and offers some interesting regional wines at reasonable prices for central London.

For a less formal atmosphere the downstairs bar can provide a simpler menu including pizza (from £6.95) – the prices are more or less the same as the restaurant, however.

– Helen Wright, 11/2002