Recent Posts
« Top 10... First Date Restaurants | Main | Two great websites... »

Babbo - London, definitely not New York


How the people behind Babbo got away with taking the name of one of the most famous Italian restaurants in NYC's name, I don't know. All I know is that ever since it opened, its been on my list, just like the one in NYC. Deep in the heart of Mayfair, the crowd is surprisingly un-scene - a mix of business people, and older couples - not a flash of a red sole in sight. As per usual, I was optimistic about Babbo, mainly because of a) the name b) this interview here, in which the chef states his favourite restaurant is La Petite Maison. As we already agree on what a good dining experience is - this was clearly going to be the place for me. Sadly, fate just didn't want me and Babbo to have that special connection. Our experience was one of the most disappointing I've had in a while.
It's the little things in restaurants that make them great. It's the pulling out of a table that makes it ever so slightly easier to fit in the six inch gap between the tightly packed tables, avoiding the awkward "ass in dining neighbour's face" moment. It's the remembering to put bread plates on the table. It's providing the appropriate cutlery.It's serving food that's warmer than the plate it's served on.  Little things, that are definitely not hard to do. At Babbo, they failed at every single hurdle.

The bread that arrived complimentary was the only excellent food we ate that night. Focaccia had a sponge like texture and was moist without dripping in olive oil but the amuse bouche that arrive shortly after was unmemorable.

My starter of scallops, with leak and potato cream was attractive, but on closer inspection I discovered that £13.90 this dish cost entitled me to only one and a half scallops. The cream, was unmemorable, but at the very least the scallops were well cooked. 

The Boyfriend's meatballs with tomato and buratta sauce, proved to be a better choice. The sauce was well seasoned, and had a nice depth of flavour, and the meat balls were still satisfyingly pink.

Whilst the crowd at Babbo may not have been overtly flashy the prices, on the other hand, certainly were. I have no problem paying considerable amounts of money for excellent food, or at least food where I can see were the cost comes from - truffle, foie gras, lobster that sort of stuff. I do have a problem paying £23.80 for six pieces of average tasting  tiny ravioli. I was so confused at the near extortionate prices of this dish, I felt compelled to research whether artichokes had suffered some global blight. Nope, a globe artichoke costs a grand total of £1.99 at Sainsbury's. The dish was pretty flavourless, and gone in ten bites, which was awkward considering it took The Boyfriend's dish about five minutes to get sorted.

The Boyfriend's dish, which I had checked out before visiting on the website was billed as tagliollini, with asparagus, prawns and white truffle oil, at £21.65. The dish on the actual menu, was identical, aside from missing the added truffle oil, but of course maintained the same price. School boy error. To add insult to injury, the dish that arrived was luke warm at best, and had a deeply unpleasant flavour, that was overtly fishy. The Boyfriend and I rarely, send food back but this was in no way worth bothering to eat, so back it went. When it returned, only a minute or so later, the dish was at least warm, but still distinctly sub-par. 

By the time for dessert arrived, neither The Boyfriend and I were inclined to try dessert, but two complimentary gasses of limoncello arrived to commiserate us. At least, the bill came without the addition of the offending dish, and came to around £70.00, for the food and two glasses of wine.

I was seriously pissed leaving Babbo on Friday. Not only was I hungry, but I had also wasted my time. Its strange because Babbo gets great reviews, but given our experience I don't think I'll be testing whether this was a one off.

Babbo on Urbanspoon


Reader Comments (2)

Babbo came highly recommended but was barely mediocre. I started with the Babbo antipasti –described as a “selection of fine Italian cured meats and cold cuts served with toasted bread”. The cured meats were layered and served on a marble cutting board - at the edge of the cutting board where two very small “crackers” (the size of American Wheat Thins -about 1” square). When I pointed out to the server that the “fine Italian cured meats and cold cuts” were not served on bread as described on the menu he first claimed the two crackers were bread and then lamely said there was already bread at the table. I asked to see the menu and pointed to the listing. The server than went to (presumably) a manager and the two rudely discussed the situation while pointing at our table. A minute later the server brought out a plate of bread similar to a plate of bread placed on the table at the start of the meal. It was not necessary and was not what was requested. When we got the bill at the end of the meal there was a £4 surcharge on our bill for bread.

Next I had the Tortelloni di ricotta e spinaci al burro e parmiggiano, described as homemade tortelloni stuffed with spinach, ricotta and parmesan cheese. For £19.20 I received three medium size tortelloni purses that were bland and tasteless. The tortelloni, although stuffed with cheese and spinach, was served on a bed of wet spinach which certainly did not enhance its flavor but made the dish overly spinach centric. After the first two courses, the rest just didn’t matter.

There are many fine places to eat in London, this is just not one of them.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeff K

Wow! That's really awful. I must have got off lightly then!

May 23, 2012 | Registered CommenterLivs To Eat

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>