|Last Orders||11 pm|
"It was clear from the moment we entered the nicely understated dining room, welcomed with a big smile and unquestioningly moved to a table we fancied more than the one we were originally shown to, that this was a restaurant where the customer is king, something that was echoed throughout our meal. We hadn't realised that a tasting menu, albeit a shorter one than current in most other top-class restaurants, was available, and when we heard what was on this menu, which differed substantially from the set à la carte to take immediate advantage of the day's deliveries, we went for it like a shot. We chose the classic Billecart-Salmon rosé to begin, and, as my wife is foregoing red wine at the moment, discussed the best wines by the glass to match the various courses with the excellent and very knowledgeable sommelier, Marco, and, perhaps not surprisingly given the type of cooking, all three were Italian. The rosé went down very well with perfect bruschetta smothered with garlicky tomato and well oiled focaccia, and set us up for the generous antipasto of absolutely beautiful pan-fried scallops, capers, two kinds of zucchini, courgette, basil and full-bodied aubergine, with which we enjoyed a lovely Pinot Bianco from the Alto Adige. The lobster taglierini that followed was extra-special: fabulous lobster, cooked to perfection and matched by fresh chilli, striking Italian tomatoes and a tomato and basil sauce. Our broad smiles of satisfaction became even broader when the main course appeared: the massive, tender, Longhorn fillet really tasted of beef as it should be and came with an outstanding salsa verde, girolles and spinach. We drank a top Chianti Classico that was ideal with the beef, and it was all very Italian, unbelievable value, and stored at the top of the memory bank. Next up was cheese - not a supplement as in so many restaurants - a plate of four Italian cheeses, Robiola, Pecorino, Taleggio, and Gorgonzola dolce, all lovely, with a long flat sliver of good bread, and an amazingly adaptable Ronchedone, recommended by Marco, which was fine with all the cheeses. You could say that our dessert was the icing on the cake if it were not so inappropriate for the simple but brilliant Amalfi lemon tart with its perfect croquant pastry and the tart lemon superbly balanced by the mascarpone cream accompaniment. The whole meal was an absolute delight and really made up for the trying day we had had with delays on the train and with the hotel room. Theo Randall respects the traditions of Italian cooking, and he is a master of his craft, with a thorough understanding of ingredients and how to use them together in harmony, cooks properly and comprehensively, and serves at the right temperature, but does not hesitate to use new techniques if they contribute to achieving a better result. Like other top chefs, he is thoroughly charming and his relaxed yet expert approach is reflected in his excellent staff, and this brings with it a deep feeling of satisfaction in his guests. Even if he doesn't profess to a desire for (Michelin) star status, he certainly deserves it. This is the kind of venue that we find truly rewarding and to which we shall definitely return."
"WOW! Somewhere that can cater for toddlers and foodies with service that meant a relaxed and delicious lunch. Extra Bruchetta and Focacia for mini-diner was a kind touch - we all enjoyed some too. Child's Sea-bass would have fed an adult. Slight niggle that some dishes are over-salted to our taste."
"The staff went out of their way to make a birthday occasion extra special."
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