Physically little changed from its days as Mosaico, the third successive Italian restaurant to occupy this Mayfair basement site remains a pricey place for what it is, and still seems mainly to attract a clubby band of regulars.
Our visits to new incarnations of this Mayfair basement restaurant – recently re-branded as an offshoot of an outfit in Pieve d’Alpago, established in 1923 – always seem to have an air of Groundhog Day about them.
The site first figured on London’s restaurant map as the home of one of the first transatlantic imports of any note – Bice, from Milan via New York – in 1994. Despite a number of changes of name and/or chef over the intervening years, the restaurant has always seemed to us to remain essentially unchanged.
The décor, pleasant but a bit anonymous, has never been fundamentally transformed. And, so far back as we can recall, the maÃ®tre d’ – who always seems to be understudying for some Robert de Niro role or other – has been a constant. Another factor which never seems to change is the customer base – one almost suspects that the people who like this place barely notice its supposed changes of persona.
This is, then, really a club. For whom? Well, for the sort of people you would expect to want to join a club in this part of Mayfair. Thus, this is the sort of establishment where a florid chap in an expensive suit can loudly demand ‘a bottle of your cheapest red’, and not the least embarrassment will result. Indeed, everyone, including the staff, will duly fall about laughing.
Another factor which doesn’t ever really seem to change is the quality of the Italian cooking. We’ve always found it fine but pricey for what it is, and the latest incarnation – though the chef is part of the Italian establishment’s founding family – seems no different.
They make a big thing about their pasta carbonara here – served, deconstructed, with a raw egg – but it did nothing for us, and a pigeon main course likewise. Only at the end of the show – a truly quivering panna cotta with pineapple – could we honestly say we discerned any particular culinary reason for ‘non-members’ to seek this place out.