The fourth member of Belgravia’s own Italian restaurant group; on our visit, steak and service were highlights of an experience that was otherwise rather lacklustre.
Within living memory, Belgravia didn’t really exist. It was known more as ‘Knightsbridge’ to the north, and ‘Victoria’ to the south, possibly with a bit of ‘Pimlico’ thrown in to the west. In between, Cubitt’s sliver of prime residential property was pretty much regarded as ‘here be dragons’ territory. There were practically no restaurants: the area hadn’t really changed at all from the era when no English gentleman – still less aristocrat – would be seen dead in such a damn foreign invention. (Unless in Paris, obviously.)
With the influx of foreign money, and, yes, the foreigners who come with it, nous avons changé tout cela. One beneficiary of the new Belgravia (often rightly credited as changing the perception of people about the area’s possibilities) is the Thomas Cubitt gastropub group. That group, though, has only one property in central Belgravia (its other properties being in Knightsbridge and Pimlico).
Which leads us neatly on to the latest outlet of the only organisation which can really claim to be Belgravia’s own restaurant group. From a single modest property in Victoria, back in the ’90s, it has now accumulated three restaurants in the heart of Belgravia – Olivetto (Elizabeth Street), OlivoMare (just off Eaton Square) and now OlivoCarne (also on Elizabeth Street). Which is to say that it is the immediate area’s only ‘multiple’ operator!
Very sensibly they have tried to ring the changes. Starting from the generalism of Olivo, they did first pizza (Olivetto), then fish, now meat. Difficult, though, in such a small compass, for one operator to provide dining experiences that aren’t just rather samey. That was our overwhelming feeling of eating at this latest outlet: smart, international, a bit anodyne. They’ve (we assume) used the same designer as the delightfully batty OlivoMare and asked him to tone it down a bit – which is a shame: you just end up with an interior that’s a bit odd, without being particularly interesting.
There wasn’t that much wrong with the food, but it all felt a bit dutiful. Bread was nice enough, but a starter of chicken liver was overwhelmed by its balsamic coating. Ravioli – the sort of thing the group often does rather well – fell some way short of expectation. Deep-fried courgettes were not bad. Surprise highlight – at least the establishment’s name is honoured – was the steak, and at bargain prices too (in Belgravia!) compared to what a lot of the new steakhouses charge. Service was also very good.
But – acid test – would we go back? This is the first of the group’s productions to which we would have honestly to reply: only if everywhere else is full.