Something very, very Ducasse-ian
Knightsbridge has recently seen erected another luxury hotel Bvlgari (nearly opposite the pomp that is One Hyde Park) within which an Italian restaurant is contained. Its name “Il Ristorante” couldn’t have been simpler and more Italian. Its gastronomic offerings, interestingly enough, couldn’t have been more Ducasse-ian. First, the dining room is very ornate but sombre. The demure shade of black contrasting with all the silvery trimmings and the dark mahogany floor makes the space rather cold and steel-y. The service was pleasant and did help lift the mood up a little. Second and the most obvious is the head chef Robbie Peppin, an ex-Ducasse from La Trattoria in Monaco, who has not only brought over the sun-kissed, Mediterranean cooking and ingredients but also Ducasse’s iconic dishes, from baba, to vegetable “cookpot” and gnocchi. Then, there is the price. The Monaco high cost seems to have swollen into Knightsbridge ££££ (and as one would expect from the Bvlgari brand). The price for starters fluctuates between £9-24, for pasta £14-24, for mains £26-38 and for desserts £7-14. It is also noteworthy that a few *light* dishes on the menu are marked as “recommended by Bodyism, our resident personal trainers”. And I refrain from making any judgment….
All was fine with my nibble selection. This was interesting. I was given a brief menu listing small-portioned dishes with boxes to tick. (Think Chinese dim-sum order list). So.. 3 small things for £16, 5 for £23 and 7 for £28. My threesome was mostly good. Bresaola by Salumificio Penneigotti was expertly cured. Meltingly delicious and not too salty. (I would pay for this again). Sea Bass Carpaccio, Andolio Olive Oil and Lemon was delicate but marginally drown in oil. Aubergine Caviar boast some exuberant smoky-ness. (But with that price a few would surely be fuming if it didn’t). Courgette Cream Soup (£9) underwent a facelift from humbleness. The fine velvety soup was made from courgette of Val Di Gorbio (in Menton, France). Its sun-ripen sweetness, however, was tainted by over-salting. This soup was, then, to be poured on top of a burrata-layered dish of ricotta ravioli, shaved courgette and crispy bread. I did not dislike it (nor was my dining companion). The cheesy layers mediated the salt content alright, but I found the texture contrast – soft cheese, silky soup, gummy (but tasty) ravioli – to be underwhelming. The crispy bread did not provide a textural breakthrough. Gnocchi with ‘di Manzara del Vallo’ Gamberoni, Coco Beans and Chanterelle Mushrooms had enough excitement to match £24. The light and pillowy gnocchi in particular lived up to the Ducasse lineage; the big and juicy gamberoni was outrageously fresh (the freshest I ever came across in London restaurants) intensely sweet and oozed sea salt aroma, undercut by the wood-y mushrooms. A successful dish based on first rate ingredients. “Cookpot” (£16) was served in the same and unique porcelain bowl used in any Ducasse restaurant in this world. Inside the pot was a melange of summer vegetables – Swiss chards, green basil, lettuce and coco beans – which was nice but a little too cooked and had mellowness that would stand better for a transition into autumn. Chicken Breast (£28) was garnished with sauteed spring vegetables (not your usual “spring” vegetables as it featured rare-ish star of Bethlehem). The breast was succulent and tender. I liked the citric aroma from the confit lemon used for the chicken stuffing. The richness from the jus used to sautee the vegetables completed the dish nicely. The dessert section also featured something positively Ducasse. Wild Strawberries and Mascarpone Sorbet (£14) rocked. Luscious pearls of fraises des bois had their natural moreish sweetness enhanced by the creamy and acidic, milk-scented sorbet. The syrup made from the strawberry’s natural juice tripled the fruity intensity of the dish. Baba (£10) was served with limoncello instead of rum. Not near the life-changing state of weightlessness as Louis XV or Plaza Athenee would pride themselves to do. It was, still, a high standard baba. The limoncelli twist brought out the sweeter and more girly side of the dish. The meal concluded with a macadamia biscuit to crack and a goody bag for the lady to take away. (Not me. I need to return with a man next time. *sob*).
Like it. Yes.
Love it. No.
Go back? Yes.
The Bvlgari Hotel & Residence
Tel. 020 7151 1025