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Novikov - Another Mayfair Italian

Another week, another Friday night, another Mayfair Italian. This week the restaurant in question was Novikov, the new complex on Berkeley Street housing a bar, an Italian restaurant, and a Pan-Asian. As tacky as the concept seems - two restaurants in one - for some reason it works. Most likely because of the location, on Berkeley Street, which means it gets all the people who can’t get reservations/space at the bar at Nobu. To cut a long story short, within a few short months Novikov has become the place to be. 


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La Petite Maison

Valentine’s day. Two words that strike fear into the heart of every male in a relationship and every relationship-less female. Even as a girl in a relationship I think it’s the most pointless of holidays. No one sums up my dislike of the holiday then my friend Tracy in a very entertaining article you should all read hereAs much as we want to, The Boyfriend and I have not been able to escape the pressure forcing us to celebrate. The furthest we have managed to is going out for dinner on the 15th rather than the 14th. Some rebellion, eh? But, at least it is easier to get a dinner reservation and romantic themed set menus aren't involved.

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Cecconi's - One For Ciccone


I love Urbanspoon. It keeps life simple. Given the number of restaurants I try, and the number of restaurants I want to try, Urbanspoon keeps things organised. However, one of the unintended consequences of my Urban Spoon Wish List is its effect on my dining patterns due to its alphabetical nature. More than 50% of my reviews to date, are about restaurants starting with the letters B and C. I am not convinced so far that this is a new trend by restauranteurs who believe that proximity to the start of the alphabet will increase business (although, clearly it does in my case!) instead when I flick on to my wish list I see the restaurant at the top of the list and think, why not? In fact, I was forced to stop myself when trying to book dinner for tonight Bar Trattoria Semplice deciding instead to book Terroirs to buck the trend.I realised this today, which meant last week I ended up at Cecconi's, with The Boyfriend, to celebrate one year of dating.

Ever since being reccomended by a friend, who has identical taste in restaurants, I knew I had to go. I think however, this may be the one eating establishment we differ on. The restaurant is owned by the Soho House Group so I think its safe to call this place an "it" restaurant. Its also evident from the clientele, its a great place to play the " lets try and spot a handbag that costs less than a grand" game. Apparently, Madonna (whose last name is actually Ciccone, incidentally)is also a fan and seen often here. That doesn't particularly sell the place to me but some people get a kick out of that sort of thing. 

Things didn't start well in my mind when they showed us a table set for four people, practically in front of the door, and then took away two sets of cutlery. Why they couldn't do that before we arrived, and leave us with the impression they had actually thought about us customers, I'm not sure. I am sure that if I was Madonna the table would have been set correctly but such is life.

I would like to comment on the decor, but as I was not only in front of the door but facing it too, I didnt get that long to take in my surroundings. The lack of lighting didnt help matters either. Its a pretty restaurant, but nothing to write home about. I did notice that unfortunately, Madge was missing from the restaurant. I did appreciate our table cloths however, (I'm hating the white table cloth backlash that seems to be all the rage in London restaurants at the moment) and appreciated them even more  after realising that tables next to the window didn't get any. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe they seat you based on whether or not they think you can manage to get the food from the plate to your mouth without involving the table cloth in an attempt to cut down dry cleaning. Who knows.

We started with a couple of small dishes or "Cicchetti", Venetian Tapas. Breaded Baby Balls of Mozzarella - £5.00 - were pretty tasty but all cheese deep fried is bound to taste fairly good. They were a bit liquid inside and a bit salty on the outside but to two incredibly hungover people, they were just what the doctor ordered. Bet Madonna doesn't order these guys.
The next cicchetti - Warm Octopus, Potatoes and Olives - £8.00 - was much better. The octopus was slightly crispy but not overcooked inside, and the potatoes were oddly sweet. I can't do this dish justice by trying to describe it fully, but if you go order it.
We then moved on to a tartare - Monkfish carpaccio with tomatoes and olives - £11.00 - which I didnt find all that appealing, especially not with a hangover, so I left it to The Boyfriend who devoured every last bit.
The Boyfriend opted for -Gnocchi with Prawns and Artichokes - £18.00 - as a main which he enjoyed. It looked fairly liquid from where I was sitting. More like a soup, a badly presented one at that, with potato dumplings but he seemed pleased with his choice. 
I ordered a special for the evening - Ravioli filled with Ricotta with Truffle - (at god knows what cost). The pasta itself was gorgeous, freshly made and cooked to a perfect Al Dente. They shaved the truffle on in front of me and were quite generous with portion sizes but the combination of the ricotta and the truffle together was just far too rich. I was defeated midway through, a new experience for The Boyfriend.

We ended the meal with raspberry sorbet as I was desperate for something to cleanse my palate. It tasted more like ice cream rather than sorbet due to its creamy consistency. I liked it but not for £7.00.

All of this was served by an Italian waiter (extra points for him being Italian) who was surprisingly efficient (even more points for him being Italian and efficient).

The bill came to £95.00, which made the meal on the expensive side considering the quality of the food and that we only had one glass of wine each. 

Cecconi's on Urbanspoon



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