"..the food deserved an 8 but the service only a 2 out of 10"Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
I’ve always been impressed watching all the business men have breakfast here as I walked past to visit a client in Burlington Street and had read numerous reports about its celebrity clientele (including Madonna) so I was delighted when one of my property clients suggested that we meet here for a reunion dinner with a former colleague who is now a senior figure in the media world.
We had agreed to meet at 6pm for cocktails but the place was so busy that we couldn’t get to the green stools at the bar so we sat at our table instead. The lighting was romantically low – not ideal for those not in couples – and the majority of people around us were either small groups or business folk. We could hardly see each other and it was so noisy we could barely hear each other either. Not the most conducive of places for an evening of happy catch up chatter – but I guess that if you wanted to spend the evening people watching and celebrity spotting then it was ideal.
My colleague had managed to get a Vodka Tonic at the bar but our waiter didn’t seem too concerned that two of us hadn’t been offered aperitifs. Our waiter proved himself difficult from the outset as we ordered – he refused to allow me a starter size portion for my main course choice. Then he took away the menus before we had a chance to order any wine – although we did manage to later discover that the Orvieto San Giovanni della Sala (£38.50) was excellent.
One of my colleagues selected the calamari fritti (£12) for his starter – this was beautifully cooked, with a light batter and tender flesh. My other colleague and I choose Buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and basil (£8) – and there’s not much you can do wrong with that. The mozzarella was suitably light and creamy and the tomatoes small, fresh and sweet, the dressing was light too.
The special for the day was white or black truffles on a cross between spaghetti and tagliatelle – and although the prices were scary (starting from £25 for a starter and £45 for a main course) my colleague couldn’t resist the temptation. I must say that the waitress who grated the truffle at the table was utterly charming and she was more than generous with the mountain of shavings he received. He was clearly in his element as he ate and I savoured the aroma the entire time he was eating - fantastic. Although we were all a bit surprised that two side salads (at £4 each) arrived which we didn’t think we ordered.
My other colleague ordered the crab ravioli (£19) and whilst the portion looked alarmingly small, she stated that it was delicious and that she couldn’t finish it as it was so filling. My risotto, girolles and pecorino ( £20) arrived and I was condescendingly told that as there was pecorino in my risotto then perhaps I didn’t want any parmesan – no, I didn’t. The girolles were a little drier and chewier than I had expected and – as I had envisaged – the portion was far too much for me, so I had to leave half of it.
This is an iconic venue. The restaurant itself was marvellous and the food was pretty good. However, the snotty attitude of our waiter ruined the evening for us – I wasn’t impressed with him but my colleagues (who are both used to eating in some of the best restaurants in the world) were appalled. If he hadn’t left such a sour taste for the evening then I would have been tempted to give the place a 9 rating. My colleagues felt that the food deserved an 8 but the service only a 2 out of 10.
Frankly, there are plenty of other top restaurants in London where I would rather go than subject myself to the risk of a snotty waiter whose behaviour is more in line with a leading formal French restaurant rather than a relaxed Italian. My colleague informs me that the place is a bit cliquey but that if you are a regular you receive a fantastic service. I wonder whether things would have been different if I had revealed that I was reviewing them that evening. I felt really sorry for the group of four women sitting near us – clearly on a special night out – who were also subjected to the same rather dismissive attitude of our waiter.
Cecconi’s originated in Venice and has branches in Hollywood and Miami and is highly regarded by a number of my most wealthy friends and colleagues. Enzo Cecconi, who worked at Cipriani, opened the restaurant in 1978 but it closed in 1999 and was then taken over and refurbished with Nick Jones of Soho House as a partner – it later took full ownership and was refurbished again in 2005 to take it back to its Venetian roots. Simone Serafini is head chef and Giacomo Maccioni, who has been at Cecconi’s since 1990, continues to look after the restaurant as manager.
KimT reviewed Cecconi's on Tue 01 Nov 2011