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Harden's survey result
“Rather straightforward Italian fare” is on the menu at this “buzzy (or noisy?) basement” venue in Marylebone. As ever, it fails to whip up huge enthusiasm, but does have a dedicated fan club: “it’s not everyone’s favourite, but I have yet to have a bad meal here”.
Il Baretto W1
A noisy but high-quality basement trattoria, on the former Marylebone site of Giusto (RIP).
It's almost better not to know that this new Italian restaurant is owned by Arjun Waney, whose Zuma-based empire also incorporates discreet Mayfair celeb-magnet La Petite Maison. The newcomer - which doesn't seem set on becoming a 'scene' at all - just doesn't 'fit' with the other properties. It's not even in the trendy bit of Marylebone, near the High Street, but marooned half way to Baker Street, on the site formerly known as Giusto (and before that La Spighetta).
There's nothing particularly fashionable about the layout or design either. There's a bar upstairs, but the dining room is in the oddly-configured basement. A low-ceilinged space, it's always been infamously noisy. If designer David D'Almada (who also did the 'Maison') had in mind softening the experience, he hasn't - on the basis of our visit - succeeded. The best advice is still: try to avoid sitting next to loud people.
The somewhat confusing menu presentation tends to disguise the fact that there is, at heart, a very standard, and quite wide-ranging Italian 'offer'. If you want a simple meal - such as the beef carpaccio and lasagne we sampled - that's absolutely fine. Spiritually - not literally, of course - there are still Chianti bottles hanging over the tables.
What distinguishes this place from your standard trat, however, is that the quality of the cooking is consistently good-enough-to-want-to-go-back-for, and service is efficient. Prices, by quality restaurant standards, are reasonable too. We had the most expensive pasta (home made tagliolini with langoustines, £11), and it was exemplary.
It almost seems churlish to say so, but puddings can come as a bit of a let-down. All a fiver, they are commendably reasonably priced. After what has come before, however, both range and realisation were just too prosaic for comfort.
43 Blandford St, London, W1U 7HF
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MON-FRI L 12:00pm - 4:00 pm, D 6:00pm - 10:30pm, SAT L 12:30pm - 4:00pm D 6:30pm - 10:30pm, SUN L 12:30pm - 4:00pm D 6:30pm - 10:00pm
Last orders: 10.15 pm, Sun 9.45 pm