Restaurant Review: Venetia van Kuffeler reviews Aqua Shard
Venetia van Kuffeler reviews Babbo Restaurant
Found in the heart of Mayfair on Albemarle Street, Babbo Restaurant offers traditional Italian cuisine within an elegant yet intimate setting. Talented young head chef Carlo Scotto joined Babbo in late 2012. Aged just 27, Carlo boasts a wealth of experience including training under Angela Hartnett at Murano and with the Galvin brothers at Galvin La Chapelle.
Babbo’s interior combines an elegant Mayfair charm with the traditional warmth and old-fashioned appeal expected from a family-run Italian restaurant. Clusters of framed family photos cover the walls alongside vintage wines showcased next to the wooden staircase. The bar at the front of the restaurant adds some local neighbourhood flavour to the setting – a great place to grab a quick drink and a bite to eat. For those looking for a more intimate environment, upstairs there is a private dining room that can seat up to 14 guests.
Since opening, Babbo has been lauded with critical acclaim, with Fay Maschler naming it one of her top new restaurants of 2009. Tatler Restaurant Guide 2012 hailed Babbo as ‘one of the top Italians in town.’ We were anticipating good things.
Scotto has created an authentic taste of regional Italy, with imaginative starters such as sliced seared tuna, fregola and Sicilian aubergines, and blended saffron risotto served with goat’s cheese snow, pea shoots, amaretto and pistachio powder. We started with the more traditional Babbo salad with avocado, handpicked crabmeat and croutons along with beef carpaccio, parmesan cheese, Pantelleria Island capers and mustard sauce. We declared each dish to be an absolute triumph. Rich and creamy crabmeat was a perfect fit for the delicate avocado salad, and the carpaccio was cut thinner and looked more beautiful than I’d ever seen. We concluded that we would order both of these choices again in a heartbeat.
Main courses include a variety of homemade pasta dishes such as lasagne of Chianina beef, created from a recipe over 100 years old. Other highlights include dishes for two for those in a romantic mood: a whole wild sea bass in salt crust or grilled Chianina T-Bone steak at 950g.
My husband however, chose Scotto’s famous braised beef cheek with turnip tops and black truffle mash potato. This dish that we had read so much about lived up to all expectations! I had the traditionally cooked veal Milanese with a rocket and cherry tomato salad that was cooked to perfection.
Out of pure greed, we topped this off with a heavenly chocolate tronchetto with espresso ice cream. Outstanding, if a little indulgent.
So if you’re looking for magnificent seasonal Italian food but in a cosy neighbourhood restaurant, Babbo is the place for you.
I’ve also since learnt that Scotto has introduced an exclusive burrata menu dedicated to the restaurant’s hero ingredient. Flown in from Puglia twice a week, he only uses the finest quality burrata cheese. I know what I’ll be eating next time…
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