"Warm and discrete staff, stunning décor and well prepared classic Italian food "Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
To be honest, having met my friend at Victoria station we were on our way to explore a couple of other restaurants when we came across this one. It sits demurely on the corner of Ebury Street and Lower Belgrave Street although I admit that the twinkling lights in the bay trees and the abandoned (for the winter weather) outside terrace areas attracted my eye.
There are a few restaurant recommendations on the door so we thought we’d try our luck and I was amazed that on a Friday evening at about 8pm they managed to find us a table. While they were checking, we were taking in the delightfully serene small bar area that serves as a reception area – that amazing Italian design which says so much with so little. It was tasteful, modern but relaxing. It sort of whispered “style” and “elegance”.
The genuinely friendly hostess showed us to a table – the dining area we were in had only a few tables but looked much bigger thanks to the large mirror wall on one side of the room. The gleaming tiles on the other walls made it feel fresh and clean although the gently flickering candle light gave the whole place a romantic and warm feel.
There were a couple at a nearby table, a family group of wealthy Italians at another and a fairly large group at the rear. I could hear another area towards the back of the restaurant – I have no idea how many they can seat there. I took in a rather beautiful side table – stressed wood that had been stained that pale, sage green and topped with some artful but not too Christmassy flower arrangements,
While munching our way through a basket of assorted bread dipped in a piquant olive oil, the menu presented me with a dilemma – there were way too many things that I wanted to try!
On the starters I was tempted by the bresaola (£11), carpaccio di tonno (£16), carpaccio (£19) and the fiori di zucchini ripienei (lightly fried zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and herbs - £16). However, I resorted to one of my favourites – tricolore (£12). I admit that I was a little disappointed – but I don’t know why – the cherry tomatoes on the vine were sweet and firm, the balls of mozzarella were chilled and the avocado sliced nicely next to some salad leaves. Maybe I expected a little more bearing in mind the fabulous décor? My colleague opted for one of the specials – a goat’s cheese roundel (crisp on the outside, melty smooth on the inside) with a warm, salty olive tapenade - £15.
As we were celebrating, we washed this down with ample tap water and a rather pleasant bottle of Prosecco Rose (£40).
It was just as hard to make a choice on the main courses – all manner of pastas (from £11 to £26) as well as fish dishes (e.g. smoked haddock fish cakes £20, poached sea bass £24 and grilled Dover sole £35) and meat (e.g. grilled baby chicken £20, lamb chops with white wine, rosemary and grapes £24 and veal Milanese ‘Santini’ £30). I stuck to one of my “test” dishes – spaghetti alle vongole (£20). Now, it was a good sauce with garlic and chillis (and no tomatoes thank goodness) but there was something not quite right and there were not many clams. My colleague’s calves liver with baby spinach and crisp pancetta (£22) was more of a success – I admit that I tried the liver and it was thin and light and delicious. We had a side of roast potatoes (£4) and – the highlight of my meal as it was marvellous – zucchini fritte (£5) – perfect juliennes of zucchini in an almost not-there light tempura batter.
We had eaten more than enough but as we celebrating ordered the chocolate plate (£6) (and our new Italian word for the evening was Golosita which means either greed, gluttony or delicacy!) and some coffees (£3.50). The bill – including 12.5% service – came to £150 which might appear pricey but I thought good value in view of the high quality of the venue and the excellent, attentive and plentiful staff.
The web site says that it is a known haunt for celebrities – and I have to say that the warmth and discretion of the staff, the stunning décor and well prepared classic Italian food means that I probably wouldn’t have noticed even if there were any there. If my dishes had been a little better this place would have received my first ever 10 score – although I imagine that it will still become one of my favourites in the West End. A tranquil, tasteful oasis in the bustle of Victoria – with fantastic service.
And there are sister restaurants in Edinburgh and Milan…
KimT reviewed Santini on Tue 29 Nov 2011