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When people ask me what my favourite Japanese restaurant is - my reaction is always Dinings. This answer is always met with the same response - "Where? What about Zuma? Or Nobu? Or Umu?" Nope, as much as I love all three, there is something nice about the utilitarian approach of Dinings, where one gets the impression, that this place is serious about their food. There is little in the way of atmosphere, and the decor is bland, although service is perfectly acceptable. 

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Il Baretto

Il Baretto has long been my favourite italian in London. However, this isnt to say the food is mind blowingly good. In fact, its just good. The real thing is that I have yet to find a  better alternative for Italian food. Locatelli is of the same quality but more expensive and I found the atmosphere a bit stiff. Cipriani the food terrible and more expensive. The River Cafe, I had a bad experience both food and service wise which was especially disappointing after the long trek to Hammersmith. Bocca Di Lupo I liked but not enough to book six weeks in advance again.  Tinello, was easily the worst food I've had in a while and was easily " the Biggest let down of 2010."

Saying that there are a few still left on my Eat List - Cecconi's (which I've heard is much like Il Baretto), Zafferano and Apsleys (saving that for the day I win the lottery) so maybe I have misjudged London's italian restaurants. Thus far however, Il Baretto is the winner.

The food is better than most and some dishes stand out as truly outstanding - Hello, Maccheroni with Black Truffle ( I should say that so far this is easily the best Truffle pasta dish I have ever tasted.If you go to this restaurant you must order this dish.)

Sadly, I'm one of those people who rarely follows their own advice. Especially in the post-Christmas days when eating a plate of pasta that probably has the same calorific content as several sticks of butter, may just clog my arteries for good. So The Boyfriend and I went healthier than usual.

We arrived 20 minutes late, a pretty standard time for the two of us, to find our table had been given away. Luckily, this worked out okay as they had space in the gorgeous wine bar. I prefer the wine bar section personally. Its more relaxed, there is none of the "table back in two hours nonsense" and there is great people watching (count the designer handbag game) plus the music makes it a pretty up beat place.

Sadly, things started badly with Spiced Baby Octopus and New Potato Salad - £12.00. Uh oh, it was just like being back at Comptoir Gascon - far too much salt. So much salt that the Boyfriend's immediate reaction was to call over the waiter and order a bottle of water. I am not sure what in this dish makes it constitute a salad as in reality its more like a stew and not a particularly nice one. Looking around the saltiness the sauce, too much and far too watery, had a fairly unpleasant flavour.

We then moved on to Linguine with lobster, sweet chilli, garlic & white wine sauce - £19.00. Which was better but still on the bland side. It was missing something, im not sure what but definitely something. The portions were generous, especially the amount of Lobster which was encouraging. Another dish unfinished.

The Seabass baked in salt - £30.00 with Roast Potatoes - £3.50 came next and finally the cooking returned to the standard I have been used to. The Seabass was wonderfully cooked and moist with a delicate flavouring and a nice hint of rosemary. Simple, light and perfect. The Roast potatoes were incredibly moreish and it took about three minutes until they were all gone. In fact, it was probably a good thing the other dishes had been left unfinished as it meant The Boyfriend and I had the ability to devour the whole thing.

The service was good, as relaxing as the atmosphere and they didn't push us to leave, just let us continue drinking our lovely dessert wine.In total, the bill came to £180.00 which seems expensive but that factors in £90.00 for alcohol, largely thanks to The Boyfriends taste in wine.

All in all, despite the let down in food, I challenge anyone to find a better Italian in London. I feel its apparent upon eating here that Il Baretto is the sister restaurant of La Petite Maison, my all time favourite.

It has the same atmosphere of a high end yet relaxed restaurant no stiffness or pretentiousness just good simple food.Sadly, trying to get a table here is becoming increasingly more difficult which is sad as it used to be my " lets just go to.. " restaurant. Although, they do do takeaway.

Il Baretto on Urbanspoon