This landmark corner plot was long the home of another Italian restaurant, Sardo (which briefly enjoyed a spin-off in Primrose Hill too), whose owners recently retired. So it makes sense that the site has been taken over by Spitalfields restaurateurs Carlo Palumbo and Lorenzo Boldi, who met as investment bankers, before opening their first dining room in 2014. Together with Head Chef Antonio Tonelli, their thing is Tuscan beef.
The interior is discreet, very Mayfair, all subtle lighting, banquette seating and slightly formal, restrained service. A signature cocktail, the white negroni – made with Bergamotto, VII Hills Italian dry gin and Vermouth Bianco del Professore – proves a little too sweet for our tastes, but a bottle of Sicilian Etna Rosso is a delight, its ripe, red fruit cosying up with both fish and meat dishes.
Linguine with bottarga (£15)
This umami-rich dish is an Italian classic – and one that I order whenever I see it on the menu. Bottarga is the name for salted, cured roe of grey mullet (in Sardinian cooking), or bluefin tuna (in Sicilian). Here the chef sticks to the template of just half a dozen key ingredients, the accompanying artichokes, capers, anchovies and chilli adding texture, saltiness and heat accordingly.
La Sublime (£28)
Tagliata means ‘cut’ and can refer to any plate of sliced meat (or fish). The signature dish is a board of rosy 28-day dry-aged British sirloin. We order it rare – although, when it arrives, its vivid hue is such that we wonder if we should have opted for medium-rare instead. Yet any fears that it may not be tender enough are soon dispelled: it’s pillowy, meltingly soft, even its marbled fat. A subtle truffle salt, rosemary and balsamic sauce ups the thwack of flavour.
La Tagliata di Tonno (£23)
Wow: this outstanding item is one to cross the city for. A marinated hunk of tuna is grilled, its crust charred, and sliced rosily, then festooned with sweet leeks and pink peppercorns. Pleasingly bitter radicchio and Belgian endive, stickily blackened at the tips, add contrast (not to mention some all-important winter vits).
So often a bland stew in an average trattoria, we order this side dish to see if it passes muster. And sure enough it does, the zingy mix of sweet, earthy and sharp flavours – you know, aubergines, red peppers, courgettes, celery, tomatoes – paired with delicately crunchy pine nuts and aromatic basil. A winner with the tuna.
Il Tortino (£7)
While our tiramisu isn’t exactly a disappointment, just a little predictable – with not quite the hit of espresso we anticipate – the other dessert excels: a warm chocolate cake oozes molten black stuff, while smashed pistachios add colour and bite. The only unnecessary touch? A fan of sliced strawberries (no doubt in keeping with the ‘tagliata’ theme). And yes, that really is about as constructively critical as we can get: this is utterly memorable cooking.