Near Brompton Cross, a relaunch of Papillon as a good all-round-Italian; in fact little, except the cuisine, seems really to have changed from the former régime.
Don’t they have enough Italian restaurants round Brompton Cross? Undaunted, the owners of Papillon – a rather useful French restaurant, we always thought – have recently re-named it, and re-launched it as an Italian. So, we wondered, why might you choose it in preference to, say, Daphne’s or Kicca – just two of the many establishments it has as near-neighbours.
The initial impression on entering is that little has changed from the Papillon times, (Indeed, the light fittings go back even further, to the days when these atmospheric corner premises were kitted out as an offshoot of Mao Tai.) The staff are still remarkably numerous for the scale of the establishment, and friendly and efficient too.
The menu, however, presented as a large single sheet (with an extensive, mainly Italian wine list on the verso), is rather confusing. You could pick your way through it to order a conventional three or four course Italian meal, but – with much of the space given over to petits-plats (so to speak) – you get the impression that that’s not really the intended path.
Our not-especially-hungry party of four copped out of the choice dilemma by ordering a ‘a selection of four antipasti’. It transpired that one was in fact supposed to choose which antipasti, but as this was precisely what we were trying to avoid, we left it to the manager. We ordered a couple of pasta dishes, and some pork belly too. Supplemented by some very decent breads, this turned out to be quite enough for four light appetites.
Quality was almost invariably very good, with the pasta turning out to be quite a highlight. San Daniele ham (sliced in the dining room) was also particularly impressive, as was a dish that, if it wasn’t that trusty old warhorse melanzane alla parmigiana, tasted very like it. The crispy pork belly – totally unlike your typical gastropub version – was very good too.
We should perhaps have stopped at that point: puddings gave the impression of being an afterthought. Overall, however, if no bargain, this corner site remains – for our money – one of the most all-round-likeable establishments in this pricey part of town.