Tried & Tested

Restaurant review: Veneta

15 May 2017 by Jenny Southan
Veneta Restaurant, London, UK

BACKGROUND

Veneta is part of the Salt Yard Group, which also has Salt Yard, Dehesa, Opera Tavern and Ember Yard. All the restaurants specialise in Italian and Spanish tapas of different types but Veneta, which opened in in autumn 2016, has turned its gaze to Venetian small plates.

WHERE IS IT?

In the new St James’s Market development just off Leicester Square in London’s the West End. It is opposite Aquavit and at the base of a cluster of shiny new office blocks.

THE RESTAURANT

The street-level restaurant has wrap-around glass windows allowing views on to the piazza of St James’s Market. In summer there is also outdoor seating. Inside there is a long, curved marble bar where diners can sit and eat oysters. The interior design is brasserie-style with turquoise banquette booths, hardwood tables, and contemporary free-hanging light installations. It doesn’t quite have the atmosphere and glamour of, say, Balthazar or one of the Ivy Cafes, but it’s a smart environment for a business lunch.

THE FOOD

The good thing about Veneta is that being a sharing plate concept you can sample lots of different dishes, which turned out to be fortunate as not all of them were as good as I’d hoped. That’s the problem with being inventive – the flavours and textures don’t always work, and for a place that is focusing on Venetian food, I’d expected a more traditional approach.

The Burrata and sheep’s ricotta ravioli with porcini sauce, for example, tasted quite “farmyardy”, the brown sauce looked unappetising and was a little jellylike, which didn’t make for an enjoyable mouth feel (£8).

The spiced Romanesco with raisins, pine nuts and Riesling wine vinegar (£7) was pricey for what it was, and the combination of the cauliflower, sharp vinegar and sweet fruit clashed in an undesirable way. The gelato is also pretty outré – it comes in flavours such as saffron, bay leaf and pink peppercorn.

More successful dishes were the pan-roasted bream, the spinach and Parmesan gnudi, the triple-cooked chips with spiced salt, aioli and salsa verde, and the warm chocolate ganache with milk sorbet and hazelnut brittle. The white polenta with girolles and Parmesan cream is pictured below.

Polenta at Veneta restaurant

Other creations on the menu included Prosecco-cured river trout with beetroot dressing, and red tuna with cumin and apple vinegar from the raw bar.

There was kid goat ragu with fresh pappardelle, Cornish mussels steamed with vermouth, giner, cinnamon and celery, and charcoal-grilled pork rib-eye with occhiato bean puree, grilled courgettes and fig cremosa. You will need to order at least three dishes per person, more if you are hungry, so it can get expensive.

Kid Pappardelle, Veneta

THE DRINKS

It seems appropriate to begin a meal in an Italian restaurant such as this with a glass of prosecco – in this case the house sparkling is Prosecco Breganze, Beato Bartolomero, Glera, Veneto, which is £7.50 a glass or £32 for the bottle. It’s described as “light with a soft mousse showing ripe peach and pear flavours”.

In terms of champagne by the glass, there is Ruinart “R” de Ruinart Brut, £13 a glass with “excellent floral notes, white peach and acacia”. Apart from Ruinart (£95), in terms of bottles, the only ones listed are Krug, Dom Perignon and Cristal (£230-£650 a bottle) but I didn’t feel this was quite the kind of restaurant that would elicit big spending in this fashion.

The restaurant has created four signature aperitifs (£9-£12), which sound refreshing and unusual. These include the rose and pink peppercorn spritz with rose, rose gin, pink peppercorn syrup and tonic, and the cucumber and sage Collins with gin, sage syrup and cucumber soda. There are also five gin and tonic recipes – the most striking being the one made from charred juniper berries that give it a smoky flavour. The trend for enjoying vermouth unmixed sees five listed in their own section.

The wine is presented in a user-friendly way, under sub-sections such as “light and crisp”, “medium to full bodied” and “full bodied” to make it each to choose in terms of flavour profile. Staff can also provide guidance. Premium reds are highlighted under categories “The King: Barolo”, “The Queen: Barbaresco” and “The Lords”. Everything on the menu is Italian. Prices range from £20 to £850 a bottle, which seems steep for a relaxed style of eating. (Wine at the Salt Yard Group’s other restaurants don’t surpass £125 a bottle.)

THE SERVICE

The staff are delightful – we were very well looked after.

VERDICT Veneta is in a prime location but I wasn’t convinced by the food and would hesitate to recommend a sharing concept to business people meeting clients as it can be a little too intimate. This would be a great place for an after work glass of wine, though, and some charcuterie and chicchetti (olives, truffled nuts, homemade focaccia and the like).

OPENING HOURS Monday-Saturday 12pm-11pm.

PRICES Small plates £4-£50 (average £9)

CONTACT Veneta, 3 Norris Street, London; tel +44 (0)203 874 9100; saltyardgroup.co.uk/veneta

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