Following an extensive design overhaul, the Sheraton Park Lane relaunched earlier this month under the group’s premium Sheraton Grand brand (see our story on the launch of the brand here).
In a nod to the hotel’s 90-year history, the 303-room hotel has been restored with redesigned guest rooms, art deco furnishings throughout and a new Italian restaurant, Mercante.
The restaurant has the look and feel that an Italian diner in the 1920s might have done, though perhaps slightly less chaotic and with a few more modern design features. Light spills into the restaurant’s front dining room from French doors at the entrance, illuminating the room well and giving the impression that the space is larger than it is.
There are brightly coloured dining booths, armchairs and wooden tables, and on the walls, strands of dried chillies hang alongside black and white framed photographs of Italian street scenes. Large cured hams hang from a metal rod next to the bar, and a wall at the back is plastered with vintage map wallpaper emphasising Italy and its surrounding islands.
It was extremely quiet when we visited, at 1pm on a Thursday, with only one other table apart from us dining.
We were here to try the restaurant’s “Menu Veloce” business lunch, which has just been launched offering the option of two courses for £15 or three for £19.
The menu changes often, sometimes daily, offering “a taste of the Italian market” with well-known and more obscure specialties from across Italy’s regions. It is split into three parts: spuntini or small plates, fish and meat mains, and dessert, with three to four options within each category.
The à la carte menu is more extensive with seven sections, offering small plates, cold cuts and cheese, fried and baked dishes, wheat and pasta, meat and fish, side dishes and desserts, all available in small, medium and large sizes. If you have more than an hour for lunch, there are a number of unusual dishes which I thought might be interesting to try, such as ox tongue, parmesan and pine nuts, rabbit cacciatora and yellow heritage carrots, and roast pigeon risotto.
We didn’t have the luxury of time, so we ordered a few spuntini and our mains from the “menu veloce”. I went for the baccala mantecato (whipped cod) with polenta chips and pumpkin seeds, and my companions opted for the friggitelli, an Italian version of Spanish padron peppers. The polenta chips were tasty, though I couldn’t detect the cod, and the friggitelli were sizeable, and charred nicely.
For main course, I went for the chicken, peppers, wild mushroom and tarragon, and my companions tried the other two dishes on the menu: grilled monkfish, potato, capers, black olives with cherry tomato oregano sauce; and oven roasted aubergine and cherry tomato. I enjoyed the chicken, – the tarragon was noticeable and the gravy and vegetables flavoursome, though I thought the portion was quite small.
We also had two side dishes from the main menu – the courgette caponata, (£5 for a large portion) which had an interesting range of flavours and the sprout broccoli, garlic and scamorza (£7 for a large portion) which was pleasant with the broccoli, but very salty on its own.
For dessert, I tried the Amalfi lemon pot della Nonna, and my companions went for the Tiramisu and Caprese cake with ricotta ice cream. Served in a water glass, the lemon pot was delicious and tangy, with rich layers of lemon curd, stewed raspberries and ice cream.
We chose a Pecorino Abbruzo with our starters, which was light and enjoyable with the dishes we’d chosen. The drinks menu is quite restrictive, offering Italian libations only. As a result, the menu has only three beers (Peroni, Peroni Doppio Malto ‘Gran Riserva and Collesi Bionda artisan beer), a few sparkling wines and rosés and a small selection of cocktails, including Aperol Spritz, Sbagliato and Negroni, all priced at £9. The red and white wine selection is more extensive, however.
The staff were very friendly and engaging; our waiter was Italian and keen to explain the origin of the dishes and offer recommendations. Our water glasses were regularly topped up and we were offered more wine when running low.
A lovely lunch spot with an authentic menu of Italian favourites and some less familiar dishes for the adventurous.
- Opening hours – 12pm to 10pm every day
- Prices – The Menu Veloce starts at £15 for two courses and £19 for three.
- Contact – Picadilly, London W1J 7BX; tel +44207499632; mercanterestaurant.com