Diciannove 19 at the Crown Plaza Hotel, Blackfriars – Visit No. 2

We dined at Diciannove 19 at the Crown Plaza Hotel about a year ago and loved the experience. We tried a variety of cicchetti (Italian tapas) and home made pastas and enjoyed all our dishes as everything was absolutely delicious. The service was really fabulous as well. So it was with great expectation that we decided to visit Diciannove 19 again. You can read about that previous visit here.

The menu hasn’t changed much since our last visit other than the fact that Diciannove 19 are currently offering an exclusive white truffle menu created by Executive Chef Alessandro Bay. There is a starter, pasta and main dish, all accompanied by shavings of glorious white truffles from Umbria and which can be ordered a la carte.

To get things started we began our evening with the Il Supremo for 1-2 people (£17.50), the antipasta platter. This included fried calamari, fried zucchini, prosciutto Toscano ham, Finocchiona salami, Mortadella di Bologna, sausage, Parmegiano Reggiano cheese, mozzarella cheese and pickles. This was a great cross section of Italian nibbles that did much to whet our appetite. The meats were tasty, and there was a lovely crunchiness to the calamari and zucchini.

Diciannove - Il Supremo - Fried calamari, fried zucchini, prosciutto toscano ham, finocchiona salami, mortadella di bologna sausage, parmegiano reggiano cheese, mozzarella cheese and pickles.

Diciannove – Il Supremo – Fried calamari, fried zucchini, prosciutto toscano ham, finocchiona salami, mortadella di bologna sausage, parmegiano reggiano cheese, mozzarella cheese and pickles.

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Frescobaldi Restaurant

Frescobaldi Restaurant

Frescobaldi Restaurant

Frescobaldi Restaurant London is the first standalone restaurant in the UK for the Frescobaldi family and follows on from the success of the Dei Frescobaldi restaurants and wine bars in Florence and at Rome’s Fiumicino airport. The Frescobaldis are a famous wine dynasty that dates back to 1308. During the Renaissance, the Fescobaldis traded wine for works of art with Michelangelo and were the major financiers to the kings of England including Henry VIII.

The Frescobaldi name is therefore highly prestigious in the world of wine. The family have nine wine estates in and around the hills of Florence and Siena in Italy, and so an essential part of what the restaurant will be offering in London will be the vast array of wines produced by Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi. These account for some 75% of the restaurant’s list, with the remainder comprising of a fine selection from both the Old World and the New World. Furthermore, the majority of Frescobaldi’s 150 bins will be available by the glass to allow the diner to sample many of the variety of wines on offer.

Frescobaldi London opened in early November 2014 and stands on New Burlington Place in Mayfair. It is a beautiful restaurant, with lovely floor to ceiling windows that lets in lots of natural light. On the walls are hand-painted drawings and framed pictures that pay homage to the restaurant’s Italian influences. The comfortable furnishings encourage a sense of comfort as well as instilling an immediate sense of sophistication as you walk through its doors.

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A Voce Columbus – New York City

There are two branches of A Voce Restaurant in New York. The original is on Madison Avenue, which following on from its success and a Michelin star resulted in the second one at Columbus Circle. This too has received critical recognition as well, with A Voce Columbus also garnering a Michelin Star for its fine Italian cooking.

A Voce Columbus occupies a fabulous space on the third floor of the Time Warner Center which was formerly Gray Kunz’s renowed Café Gray. It’s smart and sleek with a long elevated bar area that serves knockout cocktails and bar food. The bar area offers some great people watching, but the best aspect at the restaurant are from the tables that line the windows from where you can peer out onto the goings-on at Columbus Circle and the fringes of Central Park while you feast.

I mentioned the knockout cocktails and for our aperitif we tried the excellent Il Tarfuto cocktail ($33), Michter’s Rye Bourbon mixed with a truffle infused vermouth and topped with a drizzling of white truffle honey and a sliver of bourbon pickled black truffle. The mix takes 2 to 3 weeks to make and was a heady concoction of truffle aroma and flavour. The honey did a great job of sweetening things up, and this made for a delicious way to start the meal.

A Voce - Il Tarfuto cocktail

Il Tarfuto cocktail

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Hotel Sorella and Radio Milano

Houston, Texas is a sprawling city that is home to plentiful eating and the famous NASA Space Centre. During the first two days of my visit to Houston I stayed at the luxurious Hotel Sorella, located in the vibrant CityCentre development which is home to a number of sophisticated retailers, plentiful dining options, commercial office buildings and luxury homes. The hotel is sleek and stylish and designed with custom made details such as a unique European Murano glass chandelier and graphite colored ceramic floors.

Hotel Sorella - Lobby

Hotel Sorella – Lobby

The rooms are comfortably appointed with those on the upper floors offering sweeping views across Houston. There is a well-equipped spa and fitness centre and a variety of meeting room options for the business traveller, including a 4,000-square-foot ballroom.

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Cucina Asellina

Cucina Asellina

Cucina Asellina

Cucina Asellina is a modern Italian restaurant located in the five-star luxury Me Hotel on Aldwych. The décor is stylish with a contemporary feel, and as you first enter the restaurant you are greeted with a slinky looking bar. The cocktails were good and we could have happily drunk our way through a few of the tempting listings on the bar menu. The dining area itself is spaciously laid out and the perfectly pitched lighting serves the restaurant well, setting the tone for a sophisticated night out. Cucina Asellina is a stylish operation and is also well located for all of the theatre attractions of the West End.

As standard with most Italian restaurants, Cucina Asellina offers a variety of antipastas, pastas, pizzas and secondis. The menu makes for an attractive read and could easily tempt the diner into over ordering. And over order we did. An antipasta dish of frittura mista with calamari, whitebait and prawns (£12.50) – a personal favourite – was really tasty and came with a moreish and very crunchy batter. A courgette flower with mozzarella and anchovies (£6.75) was also appetising with its melted gooey filling, although the courgette itself was a little undercooked. Seared swordfish with shaved fennel, olive, Sicilian citrus and orange dressing (£11) was wonderful with the fresh fish pairing well alongside the citrus elements that provided a balanced and contrasting acidity.

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Bibo

Bibo is the latest venture by Rebecca Mascarenhas, a restaurateur known for the Michelin Starred Kitchen W8 and the acclaimed Sonny’s Kitchen in Barnes, both of which are collaborations with Philip Howard of The Square. With Bibo, Rebecca has gone Italian. Head chef Chris Beverley, previously at Theo Randall at the InterContinental, has created a modern Italian menu that focuses on seasonality, freshness and simplicity. The wine list is Italian as well and includes a list of approximately 60 bins covering regional Italy.

Located in Putney, Bibo goes about bringing a sense of warmth to its interior. The long painted brickwork dining room and bar has been fitted with a mixture of artworks, bespoke light fittings and comforting oak wood furniture. Bibo is informal and relaxed with an inviting neighbourhood feel to it, made all the enjoyable with its welcoming and friendly service.

We started with an antipasta of prosciutto di San Daniele (£8.50) which was wonderful with a robust yet sweet flavour. It came with some juicy and ripe Sicilian melon that paired perfectly with the prosciutto.

Bibo - Prosciutto & melon

Prosciutto & melon

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Cafe Murano

Cafe Murano is the latest venture by Michelin starred chef Angela Hartnett. Located on 33 St James Street, it occupies a site that has played host to a number of restaurants including the original Pétrus by Marcus Wareing, Fleur, Fiore, and most recently Brasserie St Jacques. Far from being a café, Cafe Murano is a contemporary and stylish restaurant serving modern accomplished Italian food.

Cafe Murano’s menu by Head Chef Sam Williams starts with cicheti (tapas) and then moves onto antipastas, primi plates of pastas and secondi mains. The restaurant seats about 80 and includes a long bar area where guests can also tap into a small bar menu. As Cafe Murano is located right on the fringe of the West End, there’s also a set lunch and theatre menu of 2 courses for £18 and 3 courses for £22.

It’s an elegantly decorated restaurant, and given that it’s located on a prime piece of real estate, Cafe Murano has done a great job of balancing smartness with a sense of relaxed refinement. There isn’t an ounce of stuffiness in the restaurant. Take our waiter – he might have been wearing a smart shirt, but he also donned a pair of jeans.

We started with a generous portion of king prawns with garlic and parsley (£15), six pieces of tasty prawns that were really nicely cooked. Sautéed in butter and olive oil with a well-judged amount of garlic and parsley, this proved to be a lovely dish.

Cafe Murano - King prawns

King prawns

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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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