Posted on Wednesday, 20th November 2013
Diciannove at the Crowne Plaza Hotel is an Italian restaurant, and a reincarnation of Refrettorio, a Giorgio Locatelli outlet that was well known for its accomplished cooking. Giorgio’s influence is still visible in Diciannove as Head Chef Alessandro Bay spent over 10 years under Michelin-starred Giorgio Locatelli, working his way up from chef de partie to sous chef and finally as head chef. As such, pasta is king at Diciannove, all of which are homemade daily. Diciannove translates to 19 in Italian and represents the address of the hotel, number 19 New Bridge St.
The restaurant has undergone a complete refurbishment since it’s rebranding from Refrettorio to Diciannove. The space was tastefully done and comfortable. There was ample booth seating, but these tables were perhaps too big, so the smaller tables perched in the centre of the restaurant are probably a better choice for the ease of conversation. At the front of the Diciannove is a little deli offering a number of Italian goodies for sale.
To begin with we opted for the cicchetti (Italian tapas) from the bar menu instead of the starters from the a la carte menu. All of them proved to be really tasty and incredibly great value. The burrata crostini (£3.85) for instance came with a richly creamy burrata that paired well with some softly grilled aubergines, tomato, basil and chilli. Thinly sliced beef fillet carpaccio (£4.50) with Parmigiano reggiano, olive oil and wild rocket was deliciously tender and soft and further enhanced by the nuttiness of the cheese.
Calamari fritti (£5.85) came with a garlic aioli and a sweet and sour sauce. The coating was crispy and the calamari was fresh and well seasoned. A spider crab salad (£4.25) was the least successful of the cicchetti dishes that we tried. The salad came with cured cucumber, mint and basil, but the flavours of the herbs were difficult to detect, and it needed more of the herbs and a touch more acidity to lift the crab.
The Diciannove bread selection (£4.00) consisted of a variety of breads such as white, focaccia and corn bread. The breads were a bit dry, but we found the corn bread to be rather tasty.
There was some skilful cooking on show in a starter of luganica ravioli (£9.50 for a starter size) for it was simply beautiful. The freshly made pasta was divinely thin and well cooked, and encased a hearty filling of roasted luganica sausage that was meaty and robust. Pine nuts, sage and a butter sauce completed this incredible plate of pasta that left you wanting more.
A main size portion of lobster spaghettini (£13.75) with pigato, thyme was also incredibly satisfying. There was a spritely nature to the pasta with its use of fresh tomato and juicy bite-size pieces of sweet lobster that scored high marks with its taste of homely rustic cooking.
A fillet of beef (£24.50) was cooked more on the medium side rather than medium rare. But it was still tender and tasty, if a little grainy in texture. An accompanying soft polenta was gorgeous and sang of a fluffy lightness. Seasonal mushrooms were also tasty but very salty.
Desserts were fabulous. A zabaione (£6.50) served with lemon curd and seasonal berries was mesmerising with the sweetness of the airy custard and zingy lemony overtones of the curd. The berries balanced the dessert nicely, and if I could change one thing, it would be to throw in some tiny pieces of crunchy biscuit to give it more of a textural contrast.
The Diciannove’s version of tiramisu (£7) made more use of mascarpone and fewer sponge layers. Although this heightened the creaminess of the tiramisu, it never lost its way and instead gave this delicious dessert an added luscious decadence.
The Diciannove pastas were a knockout, and I think it will be a long time before I forget the luganica ravioli for it was a thing of beauty. Truth be told, there was little about the cooking that I didn’t like; the cicchettis were tasty and incredible value for money, and the desserts were scrumptious too. The service was also steady and assured. There’s nothing flashy about the restaurant, but with pasta this good and well priced, you don’t really need much else.
Food rating: 4/5
Service rating: 4/5
Prices: About £23 to £46 for three courses, excludes drinks and service.