What’s in a name? Within this particular name, the Nico punningly concerned (Ladenis) is – as readers aged over 40 will recognise – the first really talented London chef to realise the PR potential of throwing customers out of his restaurants. (We particularly cherish our recollection of visits chez Nico, who invariably rumbled us, and gave us the thrill of finding what it feels like to be chucked out. One particularly abusive fax is a prized memento of our association.)
Neither Nico nor his family is associated with this recently re-opened restaurant (or, so far as we are aware, any restaurant in the capital). That the new owners have kept his name is a mite perplexing. This particular venture never achieved such a reputation as clearly to justify retaining its branding, and the relaunched restaurant is primarily Italian, whereas Mr L is famously wedded to the cuisine of Gaul.
Perhaps the most important difference between the old and new régimes is that the old Incognico was best known for its solid-value lunch and pre-theatre menus. The new régime here offers only an Ã la carte. Prices seem par for the course at dinner, but high at lunch (or pre-theatre). This seems to us a bizarre missed opportunity, and perhaps explains why we found just two other tables occupied one Tuesday lunchtime. On the other hand, the low attendance may have been a symptom of the total lack of inspiration, both in the menu and its execution. Service, similarly, goes through the motions but never really engages.
This place’s offences, however, are no worse than many, and it has a super-handy location in the heart of Theatreland (just off Cambridge Circus). Other redeeming features include handsomely panelled premises, and a superior wine selection.