Dieci Restaurant

Dieci Restaurant is the house restaurant of Ten Manchester Street Hotel, a stylish boutique hotel located at (yes you guessed it) No. 10 Manchester Street. The location reigns supreme as it’s within walking distance from Marylebone High Street and Oxford Street. It’s a rather small restaurant but comfortably designed with a stylish look that exudes a masculine feel with its dark lines, bold features and plush seating. The restaurant serves an all day menu from breakfast through to dinner as well as afternoon tea. There is also a set lunch menu with two courses for £19.50 and three courses for £22.50.

We visited Dieci during a recent bank holiday to try the set menu for what proved to be a rather quiet affair. There were three options per course and we both went for the most tempting starter which was the pumpkin ravioli served with black Umbrian truffle sauce. It was exquisite, with the pasta being perfectly cooked and the filling being smooth and creamy. The rich sauce, elevated by the hints of truffle, matched wonderfully with the pasta.

Dieci Restaurant - Pumpkin ravioli

Pumpkin ravioli

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Novikov

Jay Rayner slated Novikov Mayfair. His review was so harsh it hurt. Ouch! So I had reservations about going to Novikov. But curiosity got the better of me because like Rayner says in his review, Novikov is always full. So surely something about this place makes it a magnet for the crowds? Anyway, there was only one way to find out.

The restaurant is owned by Arkady Novikov, a Russian millionaire restaurateur with more than 50 restaurants throughout Russia. Novikov is his flagship London restaurant, in fact his first outside Russia. It is located on Berkeley Street in Mayfair, across the road from that pretentious celebrity haunt, Nobu Berkeley. Novikov is split between two restaurants, one serving pan-Asian food, and the other serving Italian food. There is also a lounge area in the basement for those just wanting drinks, plus a smallish bar area that graces the entrance to the venue.

We elected to have Italian and the space dedicated to it is double in size to that of the pan-Asian area. Clearly Italian was deemed to be the more popular choice. The pan-Asian restaurant is what you see through the windows from the street and it is rather slick looking. In contrast, the décor of the Italian restaurant, which is tucked away in back away from public view, was a little cheesy. That said, as the space filled up and the atmosphere got busier, we seemed to notice the cheesiness less. This just goes to show that ambience has a lot to do with the feel of a place.

We had the Cornish crab salad with “San Marzano” tomatoes (£19.50) that proved fresh and tasty but which contained a little too much residual shell. This meant you had to spend more time picking bits out of your mouth than you really ought to have had to.

Crab salad

Crab salad

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Cotidie

Cotidie on Marylebone High Street is the first London restaurant for Chef Bruno Barbieri, an Italian chef who most recently held two Michelin stars at the Villa del Quar in Verona, and before that, two stars at Il Trigabolo in Argenta. In total he has laid claim to seven Michelin stars. Furthermore, regular stints as a judge on the Italian Masterchef has ensured that he is one of the most recognisable chefs in Italy. So it came as some surprise to the Italian public that Barbiere would leave Italy and venture out to London. The opening night of Cotidie was reputedly packed with Italian journalists.

The word cotidie means ‘everyday’ in Latin. But if such a terminology suggests something casual, rest assured there is nothing casual about Cotidie. The décor is decidedly refined with soft hues and a leather-banquette look. The staff are smartly dressed and the cutlery is very expensive.

The menu reads of a man who knows his stuff, and for someone of his pedigree, the pricing was fairly reasonable. For our amuse bouche, we were presented with an aubergine roll with rocket and Parma ham which was delicious. The aubergine was soft, and the rocket was fresh with bite. There was a hint of parmesan running through the roll, and the garnish of cherry tomatoes was lovely and sweet.

Aubergine roll

Aubergine roll

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Murano by Angela Hartnett – Lunch Menu

Many people will know Murano by Angela Hartnett from when it use to be part of the Gordon Ramsay family. But in 2010 Hartnett and Ramsay decided to part ways. Other than the change in ownership, little else seems to have changed. The restaurant is still Italian and it still holds a one Michelin star. Angela Hartnett might be the front woman for Murano, but it is really Diego Cardoso who is it’s head chef. I tried the set lunch menu at Murano about three and a half years ago and thought it to be great value. The portion sizes of each of the courses were pretty generous, and before we even began our meal we were plied with a plentiful platter of hams. All this for an incredible price of £25 for three courses.

Consequently I have always wanted to visit Murano for lunch again, and that I did recently. Conceptually, little has changed about the restaurant, not even the interior, but the set lunch menu portions have shrunk somewhat. The coppa di parma and salami platter we got at the beginning of the meal was much smaller than that dished up during my previous visit and we had to share this between four. Nevertheless the platter was very tasty.

Ham and salami platter

Ham and salami platter

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Obika South Kensington

Obikà is a concept mozzarella bar and restaurant that champions a variety of mozzarella di bufala hand picked from Italian producers accredited with a Protected Designation of Origin status. Obikà offers three different varieties of mozzarella, all of which are imported from Italy three times a week – classica, affumicata (naturally smoked) and burrata (deliciously creamy). Beyond the mozzarella, the menu at Obikà also includes cured meats, antipasti, pastas, pizzas and main courses.

Obikà has a number of restaurants in various locations around the world with two restaurants in the UK. One is located in Canary Wharf, and the second is the recently opened branch in South Kensington which I visited on its preview launch evening last week.

I wasn’t entirely enamoured by the design of the Obikà website, but don’t let this fool you as it did me for I soon realised that it did not entirely recreate the elegant and contemporary appeal of the restaurant. The décor was created by Italian architects Labics and fashioned on a style inspired by the sushi bars in Japan. The result is something funky and sleek with floor-to-ceiling windows that created a good sense of light and space.

The preview evening allowed us to try a range of dishes from the à la carte menu in the guise of a tasting menu, albeit with smaller portions. The prices indicated below are those listed on the à la carte menu. First up was a taste teaser of a shot of chilled organic tomato soup (£9.50). With a hint of aromatic basil running through it, this soup was decidedly delicious and fresh.

Tomato soup

Tomato soup

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Mele e Pere

Mele e Pere, the recently opened Italian trattoria on Brewer Street, means “apples and pears”, which goes a long way in explaining the fanciful collection of glass apples and pears in the restaurant’s eye-catching front window. But the window is slightly deceptive as to reach the restaurant one must head downstairs to the basement. Despite this, Mele e Pere has made good use of the basement space as the dining room feels reasonably spacious. It is quirkily decorated, and the lovely contrasting tiles and wooden floors have given the trattoria a relaxed modern feel.

I booked Mele e Pere on a TopTable offer of three courses and a glass of wine dinner special for only £17.50. I usually have some reservations about most TopTable dining offers, after all you get what you pay for. But the man fronting Mele e Pere is Andrea Mantovani, who was previously the head chef at Arbutus, the one-Michelin starred restaurant on Frith Street. His pedigree helped to deal away any hesitation I might have had.

A generous starter of green bean salad with a cottage cheese dressing was delightful. The dressing was rich and creamy and oozed with garlic-y goodness. The beans were well cooked with a bite to them, and the use of crunchy croutons and nutty parmesan shavings added flavour and lots of lovely textural contrasts.

Green bean salad

Green bean salad

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Bocca di Lupo – Visit # 2

I was lukewarm on Bocca di Lupo when I first ate at this glamorous looking Italian (to read about my previous visit click here). The food was good but it wasn’t as good as the hype. Despite this, the restaurant’s reputation remains strong, and the fact that it continues to be a destination spot for many Londoners and celebs such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz does not escape me.

So it was time for a revisit. The restaurant is far more gorgeous than I remembered from last time. The décor is stylish yet warm, and even though we were perched at the end of the bar, there was no escaping the fantastic chandelier than hangs over the main dining room.

We started with crescentine (fried flatbread from Bologna) with fennel salami and squacquerone cheese (small – £7) which was scrumptious. The crescentine was crispy on the outside and fluffy and light on the inside. The delicious texture of the bread worked well with the creaminess of the cheese and the meatiness of the thinly sliced salami.

Crescentine with fennel salami

Crescentine with fennel salami

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Tinello

Italian restaurant Tinello has a prestigious backer in the name of Giorgio Locatelli, the one Michelin starred chef of Locanda Locatelli fame. Locatelli part owns Tinello, and it was with his blessing that brothers Federico and Max Sali, the previous head chef and sommelier of Locanda Locatelli, moved on to set up Tinello.

Tinello opened last September on Pimlico Road, on the site where L’Incontro use to be. For a restaurant located in one of London’s priciest residential areas, the restaurant is surprisingly low-key. The décor on the ground floor is clean cut and draws on the use of dark wood, red brick work and low copper lighting. The basement dining room is basic and lacks for atmosphere, so if at all possible, book for the ground floor.

Another aspect of Tinello’s low-key approach is its prices. The menu consists of a selection of antipastas, pastas, secondi piatti and desserts. But what appealed the most was the reasonably priced ‘small eats’ which ranged in price from £2 to £4.50. Given how cheap they were, we decided to try four plates between the two of us rather than have a starter each.

‘Burrata’ cheese and tomato bread (£3.20) was a combination of cheesy goodness and bread doused with a warming, rich tomato flavour. This was a lovely dish.

“Burrata” cheese & tomato bread

“Burrata” cheese & tomato bread

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