Babbo W1
REVIEWS, November 12, 2009
Overall Value
out of 5
  • Food
  • Service
  • Ambience
Babbo, 39 Albermarle St, London, W1S 4JQ

A smart and pleasant – if not hugely atmospheric – Italian, offering a good all-round formula, at prices which fully reflect its Mayfair location; the establishment seems most evidently suitable as a lunchtime destination.

We’ve lost count of the number of times we tried – unsuccessfully – to to get into Babbo. Not this new London Babbo, of course, but Mario Batali’s Greenwich Village sensation, which has long one of the most difficult restaurants in the Big Apple at which to score a table.

We can only speculate as to why the Mayfair newcomer has chosen a name with so much resonance (and possibly the legal complications which come with it?). It’s not as if the styles of the two establishments are in any way similar. Batali’s joint – as much as we have been able to judge, nose pressed against window – is very much in buzzy Downtown style, whereas the Mayfair newcomer would feel right at home on the Upper East Side. Comfortable but not particularly grand, with something of the feel of a rather superior café, it’s quite tightly-packed for a place at this sort of level.

Given the modest level of grandeur (and the dreadful Muzak early on, which thankfully died away), the menu prices can come as a bit of a shock. Starters are pretty much all north of a tenner, and main courses effortlessly tend to three times that. Not that this seems to put off the visiting and native crowd which already had the place impressively full on our midweek lunchtime visit.

We would have to say, the crowd seemed to be on to something. Even if not particularly lunch-priced, the food does seem very lunch-suitable. Our meal included some notably light gnocchi, followed by a rather modest portion of nicely-timed monkfish. There was still space for an excellent lemon tart, topped with soft meringue, whose superlative quality suggested that puddings are worth leaving space for. Top espresso too. But this not, let’s be clear, a destination for the price-sensitive.

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