8 Seymour Street
London, W1H 7JZ
Tel. 020 7935 9088
Food type: Italian
Nearest tube: Marble Arch
Website: Locanda Locatelli
Giorgio Locatelli has been around the block for what seems like ages. He trained under Anton Edelmann at the Savoy before stints in Paris, including (then 3 Michelin starred) La Tour D’Argent. Locatelli then returned to England to help open Zafferano which won a Michelin star in 1999 which he held on to until he left to open up his own solo venture. His eponymous restaurant, Locanda Locatelli, has held on to its Michelin star for more than 13 years. Despite being a bit of a celeb haunt, the restaurant goes about its business quietly with very little fanfare on social media. The restaurant underwent a refurb back in 2014-15 due to a kitchen fire.
We visited for a Saturday night dinner and the dining room was pretty much packed. There is no tasting menu available. Only a traditional Italian a la carte listing antipasti, pasta, fish, meat and desserts. Items are individually priced, with starters £11.50 – £19.50, pasta £9.50 – £21.50, fish £25.50 – £29.50, meat £28 – £35.50 and desserts £7.50 – £11.50. There are also pesky side dishes at £4.50 – £5.50 signifying that the dishes do not come complete. We decided to order an antipasti, meat and dessert each and split a pasta course.
There are no amuse bouches to start the meal although we are brought a couple of parmesan grossing and an impressive bread basket. The bread is made in house and were pleasant. We did wonder though we such a huge amount of bread what would does the restaurant do with all the left over bread which had not been consumed by the customers.
I started my meal with grilled squid with rocket and a dressing of garlic and chilli. The squid had been timed perfectly and was melt in your mouth tender with the bitterness of the rocket tempered by the acidity from the dressing. Very pleasant, but also very simplistic and something that could easily be produced at home.
Next, we shared a sicilian red prawn risotto. Risotto is all about the stock the rice has been cooked in and here the risotto rice had been cooked with a stock made from the shells of the red prawn and as such had absorbed all the rich, bisque flavour from it. It had a good bite to it although probably slightly softer than would considered proper al dente in Italy. This is perhaps a reflection of the clientele who normally dine here – English diners in general prefer a softer texture to their risotto rice although I could very well be a generalisation her. Nevertheless, it was a fantastic plate of risotto.
For mains, I tired one of their daily specials – roasted fillet of rose veal with butter spinach and girolles, finished with a veal jus. The veal was capably cooked – pink and tender. But this was also a plate of food I struggled to get excited over. Perhaps something I would cook on a weekend. The veal demi glace will require some time and effort, but the other components would be replicable at home by a fairly competent cook.
We both opted for the dead boring and obvious choice of tiramisu for our desserts. I still remember Locatelli’s version when he made it back at Zafferano and no surprises that we loved the version here. The sponges were generously soaked in an espresso with deep, intense coffee flavour which was then tempered by the rich, creamy mascarpone layer. Tiramisu stands for ‘pick me up’ and perhaps it could be in reference to the huge hit of coffee you get here which helps wake you up from a drunken stupor at the end of a meal. Maybe.
The food at Locanda Locatelli is exactly what I remembered from eating at Zafferano all those years back. The ingredient sourcing is very good and the cooking here is simple to allow the ingredients to shine, although the cost of importation means that the meal will cost a pretty time. This is of course not a problem for the clientele in this area and clearly a formula that works given the longevity of the restaurant. The strengths of his kitchen are the salads and their pastas, and in the future I will stick to ordering a salad and 2 pasta dishes, skipping the meat/ fish course. Oh and of course, the sublime tiramisu.