Some restaurant locations have a spirit all of their own, apparently independent of their owner. And most restaurant-owners have a style that shines through in all of their various locations. The latest incarnation of Cecconi’s, in Mayfair – now owned by the Soho House man, Nick Jones – is therefore something of a double-whammy: both the location and the owner having historically tended to put style before substance.
Cecconi’s occupies a great corner site, between Old Bond Street and Savile Row. It’s been given a chic, new, it-could-be-Venice brasserie-look – including a central bar and eye-catching green leather upholstered chairs – that works very well, and the welcome is charming and professional. There is a long menu of straightforward Italian brasserie fare, which looks promising. Prices are high, but not scary. There is a hefty wine tome, with the good Italian selection you’d expect.
Now come the trade-offs. Service started well, then faded away. The food, sampled by a party of three, was almost uniformly uninspired, and in some cases, inept. Much of the mixed antipasti looked as if it had come from M&S. A risotto – which should surely be a ‘signature’ dish here – was dry and boring. A fish dish was such as might be cobbled together for a quick home supper’ complete with undercooked boiled spuds.
Still, it was to be expected. In fact, on this site and with this owner, great cooking would have been a surprise. Long before the current régime, I complained about the cooking at the ‘old’ Cecconi’s to a young Italian signora. She was baffled. “But, who cares”, she said, “ze people are beautiful”. If she visited today, she’d probably have the same reaction. Come to think of it, she’d probably like Nick Jones’s other places too.