What is possibly London’s most beautiful restaurant, an extraordinary neo-Byzantine dining room on Piccadilly Circus (formerly the Criterion), has been resurrected by the Gatto family – owners of Milan’s famous Savini restaurant. It will be officially relaunched as Savini at Criterion on Friday 18 March.
The original Criterion – where mediocre food always played second fiddle to dazzling decor – closed last year after its parent company Vox went into administration.
Unfortunately the official opening of Savini at Criterion has been marred by an ongoing problem that will fail to surprise those native to the UK. It seems that after four months the restaurant is still without a working telephone line – thanks to a catalogue of errors and delays on the part of BT. After thousands of phone calls to the telecoms giant, innumerable appointments, no shows and demands for payment – Savini at Criterion is still using a mobile number to take bookings.
Understandably the company’s chief exec, Sebastian Gatto, is rather aggrieved, calling the whole fiasco “ridiculous”. We feel your pain.
Dating back to 1867, Savini in Milan has hosted famous diners over the decades, including Verdi, Puccini, Callas and Sinatra. When the Gatto family, who own five other restaurants in the city, decided to expand their brand globally, the lavish Grade II-listed Criterion must have seemed like the perfect location.
Designed by Royal Albert Hall architect Thomas Verity, this neo-Byzantine dining room and bar, with its gold ceiling and marble columns, will now serve a menu of authentic, seasonal Italian dishes. By day Savini at Criterion is a grand café, offering breakfasts from 8 am, lunch and afternoon tea.
Like its Milan sibling, the London offshoot will specialise in food made by hand, including bread, pasta, pastry and biscuits. On the menu: Veal ossobucco with saffron risotto; pappardelle with wild boar ragout & juniper sauce and, of course, Savini’s legendary tiramisu.
The iconic long bar – where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle staged the first meeting between Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson – will serve a selection of libations, including the Savini Champagne Cocktail (a sparkling blend of lychee, succo di lime, menta, zucchero and champagne).