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The latest addition to the fashionable Arjun Waney stable, this Mayfair Mediterranean offers upmarket comfort fare of a high standard; the tightly-packed basement is more atmospheric than the somewhat stately ground floor dining room.
Arjun Waney may not be a name quite as known to the fashionable crowds as Richard Caring has become in recent times, but he has just as good a claim to be regarded as one of the in-crowd's restaurateurs of choice. Not many restaurants achieve the seeming oxymoron of perennial fashionability, but Waney's first establishment, Zuma, may now claim to have bettered even Nobu, its inspiration, on that front.
His latest project is on a site that's always been a bit of an anomaly. It is located just a block from the grandeur of Bond Street, and stands alone in a street otherwise composed of art galleries, but its predecessors have generally failed to reflect the obviously upmarket local tendency. The newcomer is still surprisingly modest in feel, and lacks both the obvious pizzazz of Zuma and the Riviera-chic of La Petite Maison (another Waney Mayfair property).
This reticence may in part be due to the fact that more of the 'action' takes place in the hidden-away and tightly-packed basement than on the ground floor. The former was certainly the more obviously hopping destination on our pre-Christmas visit (although the maÃ®tre d' did tell us that some people in fact prefer the better-spaced ground floor tables).
The menu is effectively a Mediterranean/sharing riff on posh comfort fare - a development of the sort of essentially Italian cooking that, if not particularly in vogue of late, has never really gone out of fashion in the past half-century. Here it is done very well. There may not be a huge degree of innovation in dishes such as tagliolini al pesto, venison bresaola, or deep-fried courgettes, but everything was done at least as well as you might hope (including a particularly delicious light cheesecake), and there's a very decent wine list to go with it. Staff were all charm (though it would have to be said that my guest was known to the management).
Nothing startling, then, but this latest Waney property looks set to prove no less durable than his other ventures.
13-14 Cork St, London, W1S 3NS
Last orders: 11 pm, Sun 10.30 pm