Diciannove at the Crowne Plaza Hotel

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.

Diciannove burrata crostini

Burrata crostini

Diciannove beef fillet

Beef fillet

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Ronda Locatelli by Giorgio Locatelli, Atlantis The Palm, Dubai

The Atlantis Resort on the famous man-made Palm Jumeirah island in Dubai evokes all of the sense of fantasy and adventure that has ever been written about the mystical island. The resort is truly extraordinary to look, and I must confess to being one of the ogling tourists who kept snapping away at it as I approached the hotel on the monorail. But security is tight and it’s difficult to wander around the resort. Therefore other than the exterior structure and the restaurant area there is little for non-hotel guests to see.

There are a number of dining options in Atlantis The Palm, one of which is Ronda Locatelli, the Dubai outpost of the famous London-based Michelin-starred Italian chef, Giorgio Locatelli. Unlike Locanda Locatelli, Ronda Locatelli steers away from the high-end fine-dining side of things to focus on something more casual. The centrepiece of the restaurant is a large round wood-fired brick pizza oven. It’s an arresting focal point for the restaurant that ensures a relaxed and uncontrived atmosphere, perfect for the many families which no doubt stay at the hotel. The Italian menu is traditional and rustic, with a strong emphasis on pizzas and pastas. But there’s also a good selection of starters, salads and mains with monthly promotional offers thrown in.

Ronda Locatelli

Ronda Locatelli

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Il Teatro and Al Mourjan, Doha, Qatar

On top of my meals at Opal by Gordon Ramsay at The St Regis Hotel and Blue at the Grand Heritage Hotel, I also managed to squeeze in some Italian and some Lebanese food whilst in Doha – all in the space of some 52 hours. Yes it was an extraordinary amount of eating, but I assure you that I did try and work this off with walks along the Corniche and around Doha’s main market, Souq Waqif!!

IL TEATRO

My Italian experience was at Il Teatro Restaurant which is part of the 5-Star Four Seasons Hotel. We went for Sunday lunch which proved to be a very quiet experience as Sunday is the start of the working week in Doha. Il Teatro serves upscale contemporary Italian food in a classically decorated dining room that can only be described as sumptuous. The restaurant backs onto the pristine gardens of the hotel and there is also some outdoor seating.

For lunch, the prices are based on the number of dishes and type of courses you order from the a la carte menu and are as follows:

Starter and dessert – QAR119 (about £22)
Main and dessert – QAR139 (about £25)
Starter and main – QAR159 (about £29)
Starter, main and dessert – QAR199 (about £36)
Starter, soup, main and dessert – QAR239 (£43)

From the starters, the baby octopus in a panzanella salad with focaccia croutons, fennel, tomato and onion was tender and tasty. The leaves were fresh and nicely dressed but were quite cold from having come straight from the fridge. The croutons detracted from this salad as they had not been freshly prepared and were unfortunately stale.

Panzanella salad

Panzanella salad

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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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Pendolino – Sydney, Australia

Pendolino is a refined upmarket Italian situated in the heart of Sydney’s Central Business District. It’s an elegant looking restaurant – very dark, very intimate – the perfect type of restaurant for date night. Be that as it may, it has a welcoming attitude towards children as there were a few dining at the restaurant during our visit. This was nice to see as it’s so rare for such a swish looking venue to be so relaxed about child diners.

Pendolino holds a ‘One-Hat’ (out of a maximum three) from the influential Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide’s restaurant rating system. The menu makes for a wonderful read, the type that could easily tempt you to over order. There are a range of starters, pastas and risotto that come in both starter and main sizes, mains, and of course dessert. All the pastas are hand-made daily on the premises.

I went to Pendolino with FoodPornNation who has eaten there before and absolutely loves the food. She strongly advocated that we try a starter of Alba style free-range beef carpaccio with truffled white walnut puree, testun di barolo cheese, rocket cress, wild baby olives and handmade rosemary grissini
($24.90, about £16) which was a knockout. The way in which the paper-thin carpaccio melted on the tongue was sheer magic, and the aromatic hints of the truffle were a pure delight. This was a glorious dish that one could easily eat over and over again.

Alba style beef carpaccio

Alba style beef carpaccio

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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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La Pergola – Three-Star Michelin in Rome, Italy

La Pergola is the only restaurant in Rome to hold three Michelin stars and is probably the most famous restaurant in the eternal city. The restaurant is located on the top floor of the Cavalieri Hotel, which is part of the Waldorf Astoria Group. Perched on a hilltop in the Montemario area, the restaurant affords gorgeous views of Rome and the Vatican.

Executive Chef is German-born Heinz Beck who has been at the helm of La Pergola for the last 18 years. One of the most respected chefs in the world, there have often been attempts to persuade Chef Beck to export his La Pergola brand to cities such as New York and Tokyo in the same way that other famous chefs such as Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon have done. Thus far, Chef Beck has resisted all calls with the exception of London. Apsley’s at The Lanesborough Hotel is his only subsidiary restaurant.

La Pergola is a magnet for the rich and famous. It famously hosted Michele Obama and Sarah Brown during the G8 summit in 2009, and it was reported that the First Lady claimed that her meal at La Pergola was the best of her life.

Prices are not cheap however, with a six-course and nine-course tasting menu priced at €190 and €210, respectively. Where relevant, the a ala carte prices have been listed in brackets below. Going for the nine-course menu, we started with an amuse bouche of beef carpaccio which was tender and tasty. It came with a hint of coffee powder and a deliciously light cappuccino cream.

Beef carpaccio

Beef carpaccio

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Il Pagliaccio – Two-Star Michelin in Rome, Italy

Anthony Genovese is Chef and part owner of Il Pagliaccio, a two-star Michelin restaurant considered to be one of the best in Rome. Born to Italian parents in France, Genovese began his career on the Cote D’Azur, after which came travels in Asia where he honed his skills before returning to Italy to deliver an eclectic menu at Il Pagliaccio.

Situated in the historical centre of Rome, the restaurant is elegant but feels quite stiff and formal. The doors to the restaurant are kept locked throughout the service, and one must be let out when leaving. There are only about 25 covers and the dining area is quite small.

Il Pagliaccio

Il Pagliaccio

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