For a street just a couple of minutes’ walk from St Paul’s tube, Little Britain is is remarkably restful. Apparently, in Victorian times, the street was lined with booksellers and its atmosphere is still that of a quiet backwater, where this new Italian restaurant is the only obvious ‘destination’.
The newcomer’s atmosphere is similarly removed from the hurly-burly of the 21st century. Your typical City restaurant is created at considerable expense, but with little inspiration. Here the usual order is reversed, and the natural advantages of this former boozer – including high ceilings and parquet floors – have been used as a starting point for an elegant yet informal setting. The staff – who give an unusual impression of warmth and hospitality – are entirely in keeping.
The moving force behind the venture is Milanese chef Luca Mazza, whose brief English cv includes Amici in Soho (a place which impressed us, but for some reason didn’t last) and Zilli Fish (which just didn’t last). We discover, however, that Mazza formerly cooked at Venice’s Grand Hotel, where his efforts were rewarded with a Michelin star.
It would almost be better not to know the history, as the weakest point of the place on our visit was its food. That’s not to say that anything really disappointed, but a substantial lunch for one – lobster ravioli, organic salmon with bok choi and potatoes, and tiramisu – only approached anything resembling a highlight at the dessert stage. A bill approaching £50 (including just one glass of wine) therefore came as a bit of a shock. Pizzas, however, are also available – for a fun £35-a-head lunch, the place would be a much better bet.