Archive for the 'Zafferano (2)' Category

Zafferano, London (The Return)

This is the last meal W and I shall share before she jets off home, so in a final attempt to have London impress her with its edible offerings and also simultaneously sate her all-consuming appetite for Italian food, she decides on Zafferano.

I should have paid more attention to the omens; first, W was over thirty minutes late for lunch (traffic), then once actually at the restaurant, my lunch reservation had apparently disappeared, even though I had confirmed it the evening before (I had even been assigned a window table, or so I was told); fortunately, they still managed to accommodate us. Things brightened up a little when I was greeted by the now ever-smiling Constantino who showed us to our table and took our orders. Alas, the menu had hardly changed since my previous meal, so I let W steer today’s selection.

 

Stuzzichino: Parmegiani e focaccia. These were the same hors d’oeuvres as on my last visit; creamy chunks of parmesan cheese and soft cherry tomato-topped focaccia. What had changed however was that I learnt (at the end of the meal though and thus too late…) that this petite platter of cheese and bread was costing me £15. Rarely do I mention prices, let alone complain about them, but I felt especially aggrieved by this. First, these items come without requesting them; secondly, at no point and by no means is one made aware of their cost; thirdly and more importantly, I am not able to eat pork, but still paying full price; and fourthly and most importantly, it is simply not worth £15 – after all, a four course lunch is £39.50. Pour l’amour du ciel!

Il Pane: Grissini, ciabatta, olive bread and brown bread. The bread selection now differed; the white bread with tomato or mushroom filling had been replaced by ciabatta and olive bread. Unfortunately, this ciabatta was more like plain white loaf in masquerade; it had neither the requisite crisp crust nor porous middle to call itself anything else. The olive bread was decent, but the olives were simply sprinkled on, rather than infused into the bread.

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Zafferano, London

No prizes for guessing where I dined next. After feasting at Locanda Locatelli only days before and the River Café still closed for refurbishment, this week I was faced with a veritable Hobson’s choice of haute Italian restaurants: where else then, but Zafferano? Plus, having previously picked LL over Zafferano rather capriciously, I felt, deep down, it was only fair to give the later its chance this time round. It would be the right thing to do…

Zafferano first opened at its Belgravia home in 1995 and soon enough, Head Chef Giorgio Locatelli established it as one of the capital’s finest dining spots, earning critical success and awards, including a magical Michelin star, along the way. In 1999 however, Giorgio left, eventually settling in at the Churchill Intercontinental in Marble Arch with his independent and eponymous Locanda Locatelli. Here he recreated the success he first achieved at Zafferano, earning himself another star. So what of Zafferano? Like a ship without a rudder, a restaurant without its iconic head chef, is bound to flounder, is it not? Not at all. After Giorgio’s departure, his former number two, Andrew Needham, took the reins and not a beat was missed. Andy quickly steadied the ship, not only saving Zafferano’s star and stewarding a successful era of expansion, but also building a name for himself as an authority on cucina nuova.

Andy, who started his career aged seventeen at the Savoy prior to working at Paris’ Le Pre Catalan (3* Michelin), then Giorgio’s uncle’s La Cinzianella in Northern Italy and finally Zafferano as Giorgio’s sous chef, has a style that is more conservative than creative; his dishes are straightforward and traditional, but with occasional subtle, modern twists. The focal point of Andy’s approach is his uncompromising attitude towards raw materials: he regularly tours London’s specialist markets – Borough, Billingsgate, New Covent Garden and Notting Hill Farmers’ – himself, as well as having personal contacts abroad armed with digital cameras who email him photographs of the produce in the markets of Paris, Milan, Bologna or elsewhere, thus allowing him to personally pick only the freshest, finest supplies. The rather reasonably priced menu (note bene: watch out for all the supplements) is the embodiment of these principles; the kitchen, drawing on classic, honest Italian cooking methods, creates simple dishes crafted to showcase these superior ingredients. There is indeed a dynamic choice offered with dishes regularly changing every few weeks as food comes in and out of season, whilst specials are dictated by the market so can vary from day to day.

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