There’s nothing I hate more than when a restaurant makes you feel like you should thank them for letting you eat there. It should always be the other way around. At Cecconi’s, I imagine that even if you are one of the wealthy regulars who swans down from their Mayfair pad for a casual lunch and catch up about the latest shop window displays on Bond St, then maybe, just maybe the staff will care about who you are. But for the rest of us though, it is tough luck.
It really is a place-to-be seen and everybody here is dressed for the occasion. It’s one of the only restaurants where you type its name into Instagram and get more photos of people posing there, than actual photos of the food, which just about sums it up. It’s an incredibly good looking restaurant, and has the feel of a younger and more casual Scott’s. Prices are high, but given the location I don’t mind parting with the money, and there are many restaurants neraby that are more overpriced than this.
But beneath the glamorous surface, things began to fall apart. My parents were down for the weekend and so I booked it for a Saturday lunchtime. After two incessant voicemails telling me to confirm my reservation I rang them only to be on hold for 7 minutes. I hung up. On Saturday morning I rang them to tell them that my parents’ train was delayed, and asked if they had anything later. No of course not. So we changed the table to a 2. When my parents train made up time, meaning they could then join us, I immediately asked if we could up the size of the table again. No, the table had gone. This may have been the case, but what was frustrating was that three tables around us sat empty for the duration of the meal.
So after the whole fuss with the table we were seated by the window and given a menu and some good bread and olive oil. We ordered two glasses of wine which we then had to remind our waiter twenty minutes later to bring (no apology of course). Rather than chatting to us, or even welcoming us, his first line was to reel off the specials. He then promptly left. He was like this for the whole meal, and literally couldn’t have been less helpful. He was so aloof that it felt like I should have swapped places with him and then paid for his meal.
So to the food. Not learning our lesson from Cafe Murano where we ordered just about everything, we again failed to grasp the Italian style of dining and ordered too much food. From the cicchetti we had Aubergine parmigiana (£8) which really was tasty, and much better than the one we had at Zucca a few weeks back, and even though it was only a little slice it was so rich that it was sufficient.
We also went for a small porion of the crab ravioli (£15). Again for this price portions were a little small, as it was only four pieces of ravioli. But each one was filled with crab meat and the pasta had a lovely bite to it.
We also had the meatballs (£7) after we were told they were out of porky belly. The meatballs were tender but the sauce was boring. It basically tasted of the tomato passata you’d buy in a supermarket.
Next up was the Calamari fritti (£12) which were about as good as calamari can get (although not quite as good as the squid I got a few weeks ago in José). A good squeeze of lemon and dollop of fresh mayonnaise with a hint of garlic is all they needed.
Judging by the starters, I wasn’t then expecting the size of the main courses that turned up. The lamb shoulder with potato and artichokes (£22) was a huge portion, so big that I couldn’t finish it all. Maybe the style is to share? The lamb was tender from the slow cooking but overall the dish was just a little boring and needed a hit flavour from somewhere. Maybe even just some garlic. It was solid homecooking, the type you can’t always be bothered to labour over on a Sunday, but for a restaurant of this standard they could have added another dimension.
My girlfriend chose the lobster pasta (£29) and again it was a huge portion, although admittedly there was a lot more pasta than lobster. Again it was a fine dish without doing anything to overly excite. Really all there was to the dish was a basic tomato sauce and (presumably) homemade pasta. It was only the addition of lobster that meant the price shot up. All I was thinking was just how good value Burger & Lobster is when compared to this dish.
We passed on desserts and with three glasses of wine lunch came to just over £140 for the two of us. We did order too much food and this could easily have been dinner, so the bill could have been less. Overall the restaurant has a great feel to it with a constant buzz and it’s easy to see the appeal. It isn’t about the food here, so if you want top Italian dining then go elsewhere, instead this is about getting a taste of that scene, which will keep bringing people back. What puts me off rushing back to join them though is the service, which was really poor.
5A Burlington Gardens, W1S 3EP