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Saturday
May212011

Massimo

 

There were several factors that put a lot of pressure on my visit to Massimo. First and foremost, this opening was the one that I had most been looking forward to out of all the other restaurant openings this year. Whilst Dinner and Pollen Street Social (PSS) were what most people were excited about, this one was my baby. Why? Because, I love Italian food and there's a startling lack of decent Italian places that I have found, especially given my issues with Il Baretto. Secondly, because the chef is from Zuma and I love Zuma. This in itself would have been enough pressure to potentially ruin my weekend if it was a bad experience. In addition to this, a combination of factors meant I had not been out to a restaurant in two weeks. The fact that the last time I ate out was at Pollen Street Social,  which set such a high bar didn't help either. And finally, in the same time span, I had been reading Heat by Bill Buford, (I highly recommend you do, too), which has not only increased my knowledge about Italian food, but also has basically had me drooling, so much so that the pages are all a bit crinkly.


Basically, if it was a let down, I was probably going to give up hope on London and move somewhere, where decent Italian restaurants do not require a six week wait for a table.


The place itself is gorgeous. I knew it would be, because for the past three months all I have been doing is googling it. Like Amaranto, this is part of a newly refurbed hotel - the Corinthia. However, whilst the Four Seasons spent a mere £140 million on renovations, the Corinthia spent £300 million. No expense would be spared I assumed. Visually, it didn't let me down. It is not a pretty restaurant - that would be like saying Giselle is a pretty person. This is stunning. It is show-stopping. It has got columns as long as Giselle's legs. It is probably the only restaurant that could compete with Giselle on looks. It is grand and old worldly. It reminded me of a Jules Verne novel, maybe it was the chandelier that looked like globes, I half expected Phileas Fogg and the gentleman of the Reform Club to wander through the door. Top hats and tails and ball gowns would not look out of place. In fact they should be compulsory. It would be so much more fun.


However, when we arrived at our table it was set for four, despite us being two. I always find this a bit of an "F*** you", at the risk of sounding dramatic. If I bother to book the least the restaurant can do is be bothered to set the correct number of places at the table. Anyway, we got swiftly on to the food. 


The bread was dangerously good, which was a problem because so were our starters. 


My Octopus with Avocado and Spicy Aoli (£14.00) was great. The octopus smoky and charred but still tender and not chewy, suprising as so many restaurants get this wrong. Like Zafferano, the quality of the ingredients were fabulous. My octopus was a very happy, free range, fed only on organic food, octopus. You could just tell. The only downside was the amount of aoli, which was only enough for about three bites, a problem because the aoli added an interesting and needed element to the potential monotony of the other two ingredients.


The Boyfriend's starter was even better. Lobster cloaked in fresh tomatoes, with a hint of basil perfectly complementing the sweetness of the lobster. On the basis of this dish The Boyfriend declared it to be his new "Il Baretto". The potato chips that decorated the dish, tasted not only incredible whilst eating, but also left a pleasant buttery taste in the mouth.
The pasta dishes were a bit disappointing. My Linguine "Carmelo Style" with clams, prawns, squid, mussels and fresh tomatoes (£15.00) was disappointingly average. It tasted a lot like the sea - not in a very good way, and was heavily salted. In my opinion, it was on par with a similar dish in Strada.
The Boyfriend's Crab and Asparagus Risotto was quite strange (£18.00). The Boyfriend declared it a "diet version of a risotto" and a bit like hospital food. The rice did not cling together in a way most risottos do and most of the liquid  drained away to the edges of the plate. It was just un-creamy and more like a plain rice dish than a risotto. The flavour itself was good, just strangely fashioned. Both our dishes went unfinished.
Our turbot (£30.00) was an improvement. The fish was silky smooth and perfectly cooked. Accompanied by small potatoes and cooked in a liquid of some sort. It was moreish and despite The Boyfriend and I both being full, we managed to finish the dish.
For desert we split a berry salad with a muscat reduction (£8.00), which they thoughtfully served in two dishes. The muscat reduction was one of the best things I've eaten, or should I say slurped, all year.
Our waitress was charming. Think Sara from this season's MasterChef, serving you food, although we had some communication difficulties and ended up with bottled water instead of tap but it was only a minor issue. Throughout our meal, the Chef made appearances in the dining room chatting to customers and even clearing our plates after asking how everything was. It made the place a lot more likeable. 
The bill came to £85.00 a head, including a £40.00 bottle of wine. Which is steep to say the least, and puts it on par with our dinner at PSS. So, it was a tiny bit of a let down, maybe it was teething problems or maybe poor ordering in the pasta section on our part, but not enough to make me want to move. We will probably be back, in a while, once the bank account has recovered and the teething issues have gone, but of course by that point it will be another one of those restaurants that require a six week wait. *sigh*
Massimo on Urbanspoon

 

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