This pleasant eatery in the heart of London is exactly what you need for a break from all the weekend shopping frenzy or a casual lunch with a friend or two. Ristorante Biagio boasts a contemporary feel set out over three floors, with wooden floorboards, bright red walls, a funky wine cabinet and intimate white booths all in the main restaurant. The top floor would make a great evening destination, while if you were simply after a quick fix, there’s a nifty café at street level.
Soon after being seated, the olives were out on the table, the place started to fill up, and the beats of Italian rock star Ligabue played while we contemplated the good looking menu. An extensive array of dishes was available, with plenty to choose from in the way of pasta, averaging at £10 a plate, and seafood or meat (main courses average at £15). They have a good selection of red and white Italian wines as well as a special range. We ordered the Pinot Grigio from the lower end of the scale at £17.50 – a lovely drop.
I went for the risotto with squid and rosemary to start, which was very enjoyable. The squid was perfectly tender, the riso al dente, and just the right hint of rosemary to complement the subtleties of flavours. My partner ordered the ‘red mullet’, but what arrived wasn’t what he was expecting. We were assured it was the correct dish of red mullet with a taboule of vegetables. Instead it was a spaghetti dish, supposedly with olives and capers. The pasta on its lonesome was great – however the overall dish was under-seasoned and slightly lacking in flavour, a far cry from my risotto.
Our main courses came before the digestion process had barely begun on our starters. I chose the rabbit with braised chicory and whole grain mustard. It was a substantial and interesting dish but not one I would associate with an Italian restaurant. Too often the usage of mustard oversteps the mark but in this instance it was a successful execution – just the right amount to accompany the delicate flavours of rabbit and chicory.
My partner ordered the platter of steamed ‘fresh’ fish and seafood served with their own sauces. Sadly, this was very disappointing. There wasn’t anything remotely fresh about it: the salmon looked like it had been sitting there, cooked, since the beginning of the shift. Any bigger and the scampi could have been used as a springboard. The notorious black waste was still intact in the prawns. Their own sauces were a single watery mixture of barely warm cooking juice.
I lucked out on the dessert front with the coconut pannacotta. It had so much gelatine inside it could have doubled as a ping pong ball, with the consistency of a very thick cheesecake. On the upside, the lemon and mascarpone tart was a satisfying finale to the meal.
Initially, the service was very meticulous; actively pouring wine into our glasses, ensuring we were looked after. However as the restaurant livened up their attentiveness slipped somewhat. It was discouraging that our waiter didn’t pick up on the fact that red mullet was available two ways, when brought up on three occasions. Upon leaving I asked if I could have a copy of the a la carte menu. It is a little alarming when the receptionist has no idea what you are talking about.
All in all, a pleasant lunchtime experience, away from the hustle and bustle below. Everyone seemed to be satisfied and a great atmosphere was felt throughout the restaurant. Verdict? Good prices for decent food at a prime location.