Monday, November 12, 2012

Cecconi's - London

London. Glorious, stimulating, delightful, exciting, cool; the coolest place in the world and the city about which the 18th century essayist Samuel Johnson wrote; “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” This he said 250 years ago, I believe it is still true. Everything about this city is fantastic. The contrast with Dubai could not have been starker. We are here for a short 3 day stay before a week in France and back for a longer stay.

We had enough of MENA food, there is just so much roast aubergine and chickpea paste that a man can eat. Coming to think about it, most MENA food except a Tagine or a Kebab is almost always cold or not really hot. I was craving steam rising from my food.

Dinner was booked at Cecconi’s, a very popular upmarket Italian restaurant. This place was opened by Enzo Cecconi, a deserter from Cipriani in Venice. There have been some changes in ownership over the years. In its heyday the restaurant was a Mecca for the Rich and Famous from Royal Family to pop stars and footballers. The restaurant remains very popular. It is located in the heart of Mayfair, one of London’s most expensive areas. We had a 7.30 table on a Saturday night and we told that we would have to give the table back by 9.30. We gladly accepted this condition.

On entering, the restaurant was absolutely flying. It was full, the bar was full and people were waiting for 5.30 pm tables to be surrendered at 7.30. It was a buzzy happy vibe. We checked in our coats and were seated at a window table. The only brown faces in the restaurant. We started with a glass of Prosecco each while we decided on what we would eat. This is a standard upmarket fine dining Italian restaurant by European standards. No Pizza and Lasagne here unlike in India where a Pizza is the epitome of fine dining and no self respecting Jain, Khandelwal or Shah will visit a restaurant if it does not serve Pizza preferably with a `Papad’ like base and lots of chilly on top – think Arabiata, Harrisa, Jalapeno.      

To accompany our drinks we ordered from the `Cichetti’ section of the menu. Cichetti [pronounced Chi Ketti] is an Italian word that means little bites or small snacks. This concept originated from Venice, which is where Mr. Enzo Cecconi came from. Breaded Baby Mozzarella was the choice. Just right. Delicious.

Breaded Baby Mozzarella

To start HRH The Queen of Kutch ordered Vitello Tonnato, while I was less adventurous and order the Beef Carpaccio.  Vitello Tonnato is something Senior Stoenthrower often speaks about. It’s veal that is boiled, thinly sliced and dressed with a mayonnaise based sauce with Tuna in it, Beef Carpaccio was standard. There are normally two ways this is served. With or without sauce. This was plain with a simple Rocket leaf salad.


Vitello Tonnato

For our mains I ordered a Risotto with Tuscan sausage, Girolles, Robiola [a type of cheese] & Chianti. The waiter told us there was a special on the menu; it was a Fettuccini with either Black or White Truffles. Aaah!! It’s Autumn and therefore Truffles season. Who can resist Truffle? HRH the Queen ordered a small portion of Fettuccini with Black Truffles. The Fettuccini arrived and the restaurant Manager came across with the shaver and the black Truffle and proceeded to shave some on the Fettuccini. As the Truffle hit the hot Fettuccini the aroma of the Truffle wafted across. It was intoxicating. A simple dish, Fettuccini with a sauce made of butter and chicken stock on with the Truffle was shaved. No cheese no `tikha’ nothing. Simple and delicious. The Fettuccini was homemade i.e. made fresh in the restaurant.

Fettuccini with Black Truffle

Risotto, Tuscan sausage, Girolles, Robiola & Chianti
For dessert we shared a Lemon Tart with Mascarpone Ice Cream and a Glass of Marsala Wine. Nice.

When getting the bill we asked the waiter how many covers the restaurant had, 125 was the answer. This place is open from breakfast. They turn tables 5-6 times a day, that is 525 -650 people served every day. That is a huge number. Hard work for all the staff.

Service was brisk, pleasant and efficient and our evening ended at 8.45, well before the cut of time of 9.30. As we collected our coats, people were still streaming in. It was going to be a long night. The walk back to our apartment in the cool bracing London autumn evening was wonderfully refreshing.

A good evening. A good restaurant.

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