Liking Locanda Locatelli.

The unexpected death of Central London during the Olympics meant I could get in on an hour’s notice. That never usually happens here, where visits have to be planned weeks in advance.

It was, allegedly, a favoured Madonna hangout, but don’t let that little factlet put you off.   From the slightly worrying fibreglass bulbous reception desk, to the warm and expensive leather seating,  this is a restaurant which knows its place.

Cheap it ain’t. Resigned to the fact that I was going to demolish the bread basket, I ordered a seasonal salad. To me, that’s a non-course. Something to do whilst other people eat real food.  And as a non-course, it was perfect. But it was also £9.50 before service. Meaning that it was really in the region of £10. 50-£11, depending on your tipping policy. And breathe.

Oh, the bread. First off, oversized parmesan sticks. Then a basket of olive bread, garlic/onion bread, rosemary focaccia, a sesame roll stuffed with mozzarella and ham and, just for good measure, a white crusty roll. It would be rude not to, so I did.  Anyone who knows me will know that I like to commit carbicide on a regular basis and here they lay out the tools.

And then:  oven roasted black sea bream, wild chicory with garlic, chili and bagna cauda.  Save for the almost-crisps, thinly cut potatoes which tasted semi -sweet and didn’t quite work, the dish was spot on. It was a proper piece of fish.  A whole fish. Not some little part of it,  offered up on a mound of vegetables. I hate that. And the skin was crispy, well salted and the flesh fresh and firm. We liked.

C, a creature of habit if ever there was, ordered linguine al scampi. Scampi. There’s a word ruined forever by Blackpool. But here it means langoustines, with tomatoes,  garlic and chilli.

Given that he must have ordered this dish nigh on a thousand times,  he does have a reference point and was very happy with what he described as the “real taste of the sea” in the sauce.

To accompany and because I have never knowingly under-ordered,  the zucchine fritte. I think C managed to sneak one strand past me. I’m slipping. Really,  I would order them regardless of what else I was eating. I’d be happy to have them on their own. A huge mound of them.  In case it isn’t clear, I recommend that you order them.

I don’t normally have dessert, well, not every day, but it has been a difficult week and I needed. So instead of the degustazione di cioccolato Amadei,  (no, you really don’t need a translation) I had tart of the day. A light pastry, lined in a dark chocolate, with a layer of chocolate sponge at the bottom, a layer of pistachio cream and then another (possibly unnecessary?) layer of chocolate cream on top. With strawberries. Dotted with crystallised pistachios.  And topped by chocolate ice cream. And in case there wasn’t enough chocolate for you, a chocolate spoon, melted onto the plate. Fortunately, I like chocolate. And pistachios. It all worked.

Having only ordered it about three thousand times and with spectacular lack of imagination, C ordered tiramisu. I despair at times. Of course it was fine. Bit small, mind. Two big mouthfuls and it’s gone.

Other than the somewhat ambitious pricing, this is a great high-end Italian. There  is plenty of choice without it being overwhelming. You can have a plate of pasta or four courses.  It’s great for carnivores, pescavores and vegetarians.   The wine list is good, the decor is elegant and the staff are all enthusiastic as well as rather beautiful.  The food is interesting and varied,  without being pretentious and the cooking is consistent and the portions (mostly) generous.  I had forgotten how much I like it. And did I mention the zucchine?

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