Address: 8 Seymour Street, W1H 7JZ
Cuisine Type: Modern Italian
I’ve been wanting to try this restaurant for ages, and while anticipation can sometimes lead to disappointment it certainly doesn’t at Giorgio Locatelli’s Michelin-starred restaurant (what, only one star? Surely some mistake).
Situated alongside (and with a connecting door to) the ultra-smooth and elegant Churchill Hotel, at first look it’s all a bit beige and, dare I say it, bland. But you very soon realise you’re in the hands of real professionals here, and passionate ones at that.
From the two-foot long hand-make breadsticks with parmigiano and the basket of delicious specialty breads through to the wickedly moreish petit fours with coffee, they really don’t put a foot wrong.
The service is impeccable and discreet, just as it should be but often isn’t in smart restaurants. For example my host wasn’t quite sure she would like the bread and chilli dressing on her Insalata di puntarelle, acciughe, capperi e pomodoro (wild chickory with anchovies, capers and tomato, £13.50) so it was brought separately for her to try, alongside an alternative dressing, with great courtesy and no fuss. There were plenty of other mouth-watering starters too (I could have lunched off nothing else) such as pan-fried scallops with saffron vinaigrette (£16) and char-grilled quail with liver crostino and apple balsamic dressing (£13.50). I can never resist burrata when I see it though so it had to be Burrata, zucca e nocciole (Burrata cheese, pumpkin, hazelnuts and thyme (£13.50). The burrata was piled on a lovely heap of wild rocket with pumpkin cubes and the nuts adding both texture and flavour: heavenly.
Lots of enticing pasta dishes too (£12 – £20, plus £4.50 as a main course): how about Mezzelune di castagne, funghi selvatici (chestnut parcels with potato wild mushrooms and chives), gnocchi with artichokes and Murrazzano cheese, or at the top end of the price range, unsurprisingly, linguine with lobster, tomato, garlic and chilli.
The main courses are half fish, half meat (£24.50 – £32.50). A fillet of wild sea bass baked in a salt and herb crust was superb, but I was bowled over by the best guinea fowl I have ever eaten. It was roasted breast of the bird with glazed carrots and a liver crostino, and covered with black truffle lavishly shaved on at the table. Curiously, perhaps because of the time of year, the truffle had little scent (I would normally expect it to have announced its presence to the whole restaurant) or flavour, but that didn’t detract from the gloriously succulent guinea fowl – so easy to overcook – and its fabulous sauce (also made with truffle). We fancied some zucchini fritti but they were out of season, so we had to settle for carciofi fritti (£6.50) instead – not much of a hardship… other side dishes included excellent sautéd spinach and steamed winter vegetables (£4.75).
Alas, we were ladies with an eye to our figures so we resolutely declined pudding, despite the temptation of an Amalfi lemon Eton mess (I really regret not trying that now – how often do you get the chance to taste the sweet Southern Italian lemons in this country) and a saffron and chocolate fondant, or a white chocolate soup with passion fruit jelly and pistachio ice cream, just to name three from a tantalising list (£6.50 – 12.50). Oh, and a banana and chocolate rice pudding with black truffle… we’re talking serious creativity here.
It was just as well we resisted though because coffee brought serious petit fours and they had to be sampled. Crisp and chewy amaretti, melt-in-the-mouth dark chocolate truffles and possibly the pièce de resistance, a square liquorice marshmallow. Now I don’t do liquorice, but I was assured it was as sublime as it was unexpected.
There is an award-winning regional Italian wine list with prices from about £25 per bottle to an awful lot more, but there is also a good selected of wines by the glass. We had a couple of glasses of a superb Gavi di Gavi which at £9.50 certainly wasn’t cheap, but it sure was good.
A great restaurant – it was worth the wait and I would really, really like to go back.