Restaurant check: Ristorante Frescobaldi

Frescobaldi, London

BACKGROUND

This London restaurant is the first outside of Italy from the famous Frescobaldi winemaking family. The Tuscan dynasty has been producing wine since 1308 (they are said to have supplied wine to Michelangelo, King Henry VIII and Pope Leo X) but, until recently, have only been operating restaurants and bars in Florence and at Rome’s Fiumicino airport.

After partnering with restaurateurs Sanjay Nandi and Levent Buyukugur from London-based hospitality group the Good Food Society, Ristorante Frescobaldi in Mayfair arrived in November 2014. The Frescobaldi family supply the wines, while the Good Food Society co-own and run it.

Buyukugur says: “Ristorante Frescobaldi brings together over 700 years of Italian winemaking history from the Frescobaldi family with the investment and restaurant development experience of the Good Food Society.

“Together, we have combined all the expertise to bring the taste of true Tuscan food and drink to London. Our restaurant shares the same philosophy and principles that the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi have been following for seven centuries and 30 generations.”

Another ten restaurants under the Frescobaldi brand, again in partnership with the Good Food Society, are planned for cities including New York, Milan, Dubai and Tokyo from next year onwards.

THE RESTAURANT

Located on a peaceful courtyard just off Regent Street, Frescobaldi is fronted by floor-to-ceiling windows and a pavement terrace for al fresco dining. The street doesn’t have much in the way of traffic (either pedestrian or vehicular) but the modern office blocks around it mean it isn’t the prettiest of streets. When the sun isn’t shining it can look a bit grey, although the restaurant has attempted to soften the effect with a couple of potted trees, which help.

The ground-floor restaurant is spacious, high-ceilinged and golden hued, with an arbour of artificial vines and glinting fairy lights above tables draped in starched white cloths. To the right of the entrance is an illuminated wine room, while downstairs is an oak-panelled dining venue and cocktail bar. Sections of white tiled walls have murals upon them. The main restaurant can seat up to 60 people, while private dining downstairs is up to 27 (or 40 guests standing).

Frescobaldi restaurant, London

When I visited on a Thursday evening it was quiet, but was a little busier by about 9pm. I had an aperitif outside while I waited for my companion (you can order a cigar to smoke out here if you so desire), and then moved to a table inside by the window. Staff were welcoming and attentive, swiftly bringing menus and offering water.

THE DRINKS

I started the meal with a Frescobaldi martini made with gin, Pinot Grigio Ramato, a dash of orange bitters, grapefruit zest and a black olive (£11). Other cocktails include classics such as the Aperol spritz and Negroni, as well as slightly more exotic concoctions such as the Gold Star (essentially a vanilla daiquiri with fresh pineapple) and the Light Blue Fizz (vodka, violet liqueur, apricot brandy, egg white, fresh lemon and soda).

Wine, of course, takes centre stage at Ristorante Frescobaldi. The noble Florentine family has ten estates mainly in the hills around Florence and Siena, and produces seven million bottles a year from 1,100 hectares of vineyards. Here in London, you can sample many of Frescobaldi’s 150 bins by the glass, as well as partaking in flight tastings from £16 for three glasses.

Frescobaldi restaurant, London

Our waiter recommended a bottle of the 2013 La Vite Lucente from Montalcino (£60). According to the informative notes in the wine menu, the Luca della Vite estate was founded in 1995 by Vittorio Frescobaldi and Robert Mondavi, from the US. They then “combined their cultures and passions to create a distinctive and unprecendented wine in Montalcino”.

Since 2004, this organic wine has been owned entirely by Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi. The most expensive Luce vintage (the 1995) listed here costs £265. The Masseto, meanwhile, sells for around £1,000 a bottle (the 2006 costs £1,350).

Frescobaldi, London

THE FOOD

Under the watch of head chef Roberto Reatini, the team in the kitchen pride themselves on making all bread and pasta on-site. The Laudemio olive oil drizzled on salads is produced by the Frescobaldi estate in Tuscany. Dishes are modern interpretations of dishes from both the northern and southern regions of Italy, and work with seasonal ingredients. I liked the fresh simplicity of many of the dishes, as well as the presentation, on hand-painted crockery.

The menu is quite extensive, with antipasti ranging from crab cake with avocado, lemon dressing and pink pepper (£16), to grilled calamari with chorizo and potato puree (£15). We went for the spring salad with truffle and cheese (£15), and the creamy DOP buffalo mozzarella from Campana with Datterini tomatoes and basil (£15).

Ristorante Frescobaldi

We didn’t feel we could manage the carpaccio (tuna, octopus, sea bass or beef fillet), so moved straight on to primi piatti, which we counted as our main. The Italian way, is of course, to follow pasta with meat or fish, and there are a generous array of secondi piatti – Dover sole, veal chop, T-bone steak, ossobuco and so on. Our appetites forced us to stick to tagliolini with back summer truffle (I am a fiend for truffle) and paccheri pasta with rabbit ragu, olives and thyme.

I was less impressed with the dessert of caramelised pear with meringue and Mascarpone ice cream – for a start it was not pear but peach, with no explanation by the waiter for the substitution, but also because it just wasn’t cooked very well.

Funnily enough I’d eaten grilled peaches at a friend’s house two nights before and he’d prepared it far better– warm, sticky and juicy, and charred just the right amount. These were a bit unripe and boring.

The tiramisu was unrecognisable as such – a strange little igloo of cream filled with espresso sponge surrounded by a moat of syrupy chocolate. When going to an Italian restaurant, I really just want a traditional pudding to be the way nonna would make it.

THE SERVICE

The restaurant was quiet for most of the evening so staff weren’t over-stretched. We were well looked after and, on the whole, the menu was explained proficiently. Service is formal but chatty.

VERDICT

Ristorante Frescobaldi is a little off the beaten track so there is a lack of passing trade. Being almost empty, it didn’t have much ambience when I visited but the interior was warmly lit, which made up for this a little. I enjoyed the food but with so many excellent Italian restaurants in London to choose from, I am not sure I would rush back to this place. I would recommend it for business lunches, which are good value, or to wine lovers.

  • OPENING HOURS Open daily 12pm-1am (last food orders at 11pm).
  • PRICES Antipasti £9-£26, carpacci £15-£19, primi piatti £8-£29, secondi piatti £22-£65. Set lunch menu £25 for two courses, £29 for three courses.
  • CONTACT Ristorante Frescobaldi London, 15 New Burlington Place; tel +44 (0)20 3693 3435; frescobaldi.london

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